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Disney gains on Nickelodeon, which points finger at Nielsen

November 11, 2011 | 12:35 pm


It's the middle of the afternoon, do you know where your children are?

That's what Viacom Inc. wants Nielsen to find out. The parent company of No. 1 kids cable network Nickelodeon is grumbling about a recent decline in its ratings and thinks it is Nielsen's fault.

On an earnings call with analysts Thursday, Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman called a September ratings drop at Nickelodeon -- home to "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Dora the Explorer," "i Carly" and "Victorious" -- "inexplicable."

"We have had extensive discussions with Nielsen to determine the causes of this anomaly and we have been working side-by-side with them to understand and rectify the situation," Dauman said. Some analysts have expressed concern with the numbers.

For the month of September, Nickelodeon averaged about 1.8 million viewers a day and 951,000 children in the 2-11 category. Among the 6-11 crowd, the channel averaged 501,000 youngsters. In the 9-14 group, Nickelodeon averaged 373,000 eyeballs, a loss of 13%. Compared with September 2010, that's a drop of almost 15% in total viewers, 16% in the 2-11 arena and almost 17% with kids 6-11.

Those sharp drops were not matched by similar drops at Disney Channel, Nickelodeon's chief rival. For September 2011, Disney had an average audience of 1.63 million, up 2.6% from the same month a year ago. With kids 2-11, Disney had 921,000 viewers for the month, an increase of 8.8%. In the 6-11 category, Disney averaged 605,000 viewers, a jump of 11.6%, and with the 9-14 group, the channel had 488,000 viewers, a 5% jump.

Disney is not publicly complaining about Nielsen and if it can sustain its pace, it may topple Nickelodeon among kids 6-11 for the season. It would be the first time in almost 20 years that Nickelodeon wasn't No. 1 with that demographic. Disney has had particular success with “Phineas and Ferb,” and the live action shows “Good Luck Charlie,” “Shake It Up,” “A.N.T. Farm” and “Jessie.”

While Nielsen is looking into Viacom's concerns, so far the ratings company says it has found nothing to suggest that its numbers are off. No other kids cable channels have expressed concern to Nielsen about the numbers.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "Phineas and Ferb." Credit: Disney Channel.