Nickelodeon Takes On Kids' Battle of the Bulge

Ujijji Davis, 14, left, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton at an announcement of a new partnership to fight childhood obesity.
Ujijji Davis, 14, left, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton at an announcement of a new partnership to fight childhood obesity. (By Spencer Platt -- Getty Images)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, October 21, 2005

MTV Networks' Nickelodeon is so alarmed about the country's childhood-obesity epidemic it's committing upward of $30 million over the next year to making sure our little ones live long enough to become the next generation of viewers of MTV's teen reality series espousing the joys of recreational sex and binge drinking.

Yesterday morning at a news conference in New York, Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon Networks and vice chairman of MTV Networks, announced an expansion of "Let's Just Play," Nickelodeon's "pro-social campaign" to combat the spread of childhood obesity.

The network has entered into an Alliance for a Healthier Generation with the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Nickelodeon is dedicated to serving kids, and research results suggesting this generation will be the first with a lower life expectancy than their parents are "unacceptable and frightening," Scannell told those in attendance and reporters listening in on the telephone. At Nickelodeon they "want to do more than attack" the problem and to "empower" kids to live strong and healthy lives, and Scannell wants the campaign to lead kids to think that "being healthy is cool."

"You should have the longest life expectancy of any generation of Americans ever -- the rest of us want that for you," Clinton told a group of Nickelodeon's target audience in attendance at the event, held at the Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem.

"But we know in order to get there you have to lead the way, and Nickelodeon is going to make sure you know the way how and that it's fun."

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ABC has picked up "Invasion" and "Commander in Chief" for the rest of the TV season.

"Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis as the president of the United States, is the most watched new series of this television season, averaging 16.4 million viewers. Steven Bochco recently took over as showrunner.

"Invasion," which has averaged 12.6 million viewers Wednesdays at 10 p.m., is delivering ABC's strongest performance in the hour with scripted series programming in well over five years.

One of a slew of new paranormal series packing prime time this fall -- this one about spooky things that turn up after a hurricane -- "Invasion" isn't doing such a hot job of holding on to its "Lost" lead-in audience -- it retains only about 56 percent. But, when you're talking about 22 million viewers, that's setting the bar very high, and "Invasion" holds enough "Lost" fans -- in particular its younger ones -- to beat CBS's "CSI: NY" and NBC's "Law & Order" in younger demographics in the time slot.

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