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Nickelodeon's Red Rocket doesn't take off

The prime foray into e-commerce from the children's network quietly closes shop because of difficulties in sustaining its business.

Red Rocket, Nickelodeon's prime foray into e-commerce, has quietly closed shop because of difficulties in sustaining its business.

A message posted on the Red Rocket Web site said that operations have been closed since Friday. All orders placed before then "will be fulfilled by Wednesday, May 10, 2000," according to the Web site.

"It's no secret that e-tailing is a tough business that increasingly demands size and scale to be successful," a Nickelodeon Online representative said. "We felt that Red Rocket on a standalone basis did not have size and scale to be successful."

The closure of Red Rocket is significant given its role in Nickelodeon parent Viacom's high-profile online strategy.

Red Rocket was originally an e-commerce site run by Viacom's Simon & Schuster publishing unit. Viacom acquired the site from Simon & Schuster in February 1999 as part of its concerted push into the online arena.

Viacom also unveiled plans to launch an online destination for children dubbed "Project Nozzle" and a music destination called the "Buggles Project." The objective for both initiatives was to integrate Viacom's array of Web properties into two popular categories. MTV Networks Online, also owned by Viacom, would produce both initiatives.

In October 1999, the media giant formally unveiled an Internet-only company called Nickelodeon Online--a Web network for children. Nickelodeon Online folded an array of Web sites, including Red Rocket,,,, and, into one company.

At the time of the announcement, executives said Red Rocket would contribute to Nickelodeon's e-commerce revenues.

As part of Viacom's two-pronged effort, the company in August 1999 formed MTV Interactive (MTVi). Headed by former SonicNet president Nicholas Butterworth, the company oversees music sites, and SonicNet and incorporates technology from Imagine Radio. MTVi filed for its initial public offering in February.

The closure of Red Rocket comes just days after Viacom closed its $44 billion acquisition of CBS.

The Nickelodeon Online representative added that the company will be "making an announcement shortly about Nickelodeon's new e-commerce initiatives."