August 16, 2022

Media Decoder: Nickelodeon as Provider of Homework

Steffany Rubin/NickelodeonNickelodeon is introducing a line of Team Umizoomi Preschool Math Kits based on a show of the same name.

Nickelodeon has often underpinned its preschool television shows with curriculum-based teaching, but like a parent sneaking vegetables into the pasta, it tended to hide the educational values.

Not any more. With the July 1 introduction of a line of Team Umizoomi Preschool Math Kits, produced internally and pegged to the Nick Jr. math-based show of the same name, the company said it was moving more squarely into the educational realm. “We have never been that loud and proud about it as now,” said Cyma Zarghami, Nickelodeon’s president and chief executive.

While there are other educational products tied to Nickelodeon brands, they are produced by outside companies under a licensing agreement. Many, Ms. Zarghami said in a telephone interview, are “ ‘educational lite,’ as opposed to full-on learning tools.”

The three new math kits, $20 each, focus on skills like counting, measuring and classification, and include an activity book, workbook and storybook, “Mighty Math Mission Cards” with curriculum-based games, an episode on DVD, pencils and an eraser. “It’s a true marriage of content and product that is directly about the same curriculum,” Ms. Zarghami said. Nickelodeon will sell them at Toys “R” Us and online.

The shift to a more overtly educational strategy stems from research showing that parents wanted products “to help them get their kids ready for school,” she said, and statistics revealing a strong need in the United States.

The move intensifies Nickelodeon’s rivalry with PBS, which itself last month announced its first line of PBS Kids-branded preschool toys, and an online shop, which also carries books and games tied to PBS programs.

The new wooden toys from PBS, which in the fall will be in stores including Toys “R” Us and Target, include musical instruments from around the world and block sets that require cooperation for children to assemble. They were developed because “we had parents asking us for other ways to extend the unique qualities that we bring to educational entertainment,” said Lesli Rotenberg, the senior vice president for children’s media at PBS. She said it was too early to say how much revenue PBS expected but added that the money would be reinvested in new shows.

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