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Viacom to bring video-streaming subscriptions to Nickelodeon fans

As more viewers shift away from traditional cable TV, the kids television network sets its sights on the fast-growing mobile market.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
2 min read

Popular shows like SpongeBob Squarepants may be available on demand for the first time since a Netflix-Viacom relationship soured in May 2013. Nickelodeon

SpongeBob Squarepants may soon move from his pineapple under the sea to an app on your smartphone.

Nickelodeon is planning a standalone video service with a focus on mobile viewers, Philippe Dauman, chief executive of the entertainment channel's parent company Viacom, said on a call with investors Thursday. Nickelodeon will unveil the service next month, possibly under a separate name, Dauman added.

"We believe this innovative service, which will have a distinct brand and will target the fast-growing mobile market, will be very attractive for parents and children," Dauman said, according to Reuters.

While older audiences may find themselves nostalgic for 90s-era Nickelodeon programming, like "Hey Arnold" and "Rocko's Modern Life," the channel remains a powerful force in modern children's TV, frequently capturing the top cable spot for kids ages 2 to 11. Yet Viacom's ad revenue has declined steadily due to low ratings. The cause? Habits are shifting -- away from cable and toward streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

In May 2013, Viacom decided not to renew its contract with Netflix, shutting off access to popular children's series like "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Dora the Explorer." Netflix, alongside Amazon and Hulu, have responded by creating kids shows of their own.

Wall Street analysts have voiced interest in the growing market for off-cable entertainment for younger audiences. They see a booming business for whichever company can capture kids' attention and potentially spawn the next generation of billion-dollar franchises that can move into film, apparel and toys.

Nickelodeon joins other media companies, including HBO parent company Time Warner and CBS (parent company of CNET), with straight-to-consumer video services.

A Nickelodeon representative confirmed the plans, but said the company could not elaborate at this time. Executives plan on meeting with advertising and detailing more about the service on February 25.

Update at 12:03 p.m. PT: Added comment from Nickelodeon.