BRANDING: Nicktoons to target younger audience

Nickelodeon is to position its new Nicktoons channel as the only UK cartoon channel aimed specifically at four- to nine-year-olds, as it squares up to increased competition in the kids' TV market.

Nicktoons launches on July 22 and will run from 6am to 7pm seven days a week, screening a selection of Nickelodeon's most popular cartoons, including Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Catdog, and As Told By Ginger.

Channel branding, which is being developed in-house, will emphasise the close-to-life nature of its cartoons, based around the theme of 'Toons like you'. According to Nickelodeon its cartoons feature more human-based characters than those created by Hanna Barbera or Disney.

The launch of Nicktoons will allow the broadcaster to show its cartoons at more appropriate times for their target audience. At present, younger cartoons take second place to higher-rating programmes for older children.

"Rugrats is one of the BBC's best-performing shows, but it doesn't do as well on Nickelodeon, said managing director Nicky Parkinson. "This move will enhance the performance of our toons by giving them more of a chance."

She said Nickelodeon believes the children's television market divides into three age categories; up to four, four to nine, and nine to 15, rather than just two as other kids' broadcasters such as the BBC and Disney decree.