Nickelodeon is going back to the well (er, Bottom). Struggling to maintain viewers in an era when even toddlers are cord-cutters, the network announced spinoffs of its beloved, 20-years-running SpongeBob SquarePants.
In a talk with Variety, the recently minted president of Nickelodeon, Brian Robbins, said he hopes to create offshoots that dive deeper into the beloved characters who have fleshed out SpongeBob's world since it launched in mid-1999. “That’s our Marvel Universe,” Robbins said. “You have this amazing show that’s run for almost 20 years.”
What those spinoffs will entail is yet to be seen. Robbins has a few ideas about who might be first up to get the spotlight. He said he's looking to “tell an original story about SpongeBob and Patrick, or maybe tell a Sandy Cheeks stand-alone story, or can Plankton have his own?”
Robbins noted the enduring popularity of SpongeBob, who recently made a cameo during the Super Bowl halftime show after fans asked for it in an online petition. He's ready to supply that diehard fanbase with fresh tales. “I think the fans are clamoring for it,” he said.
Robbins knows that the challenge ahead of him at Nickelodeon is a tough one. The network thrived for years on a few key properties, playing and replaying old episodes throughout the day. He said kids have moved on to binge-watching in a manner similar to their parents, watching a series all the way through and then moving on. This necessitates a steady stream of new shows.
”The cable model was a rinse-and-repeat model. Today we live in a binge-viewing world. Give me a fresh show. Give me another fresh show. I want to watch it, eat it up and go on to the next show,” Robbins said. “What used to be OK was having one or two hits, then making a zillion episodes of them, and then repeating them. That was enough to satisfy the kid audience because they didn’t have choice. I think today we need to make a volume of quality franchises, but not necessarily feed a million episodes of those shows. We need to keep a constant number of new shows coming, and not necessarily make one show with 80 episodes.”
SpongeBob isn't the only legacy show coming down the pipeline with new episodes. The network is also relaunching All That with some of the original cast members alongside new faces. Standout former cast member and current Saturday Night Live glue guy Kenan Thompson will executive produce the relaunch.
Also among those new shows are one based around top YouTuber Ryan ToysReview, a reboot of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? hosted by John Cena, comedies based in the worlds of the Lego and Paddington Bear movies, two musical series (one a family singing competition and the other an original featuring music from OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder) and a new animated project called The Casagrandes. Unlike former Nick viewers, today's kids will have options.