ABOVE PHOTO: Michael Strahan (JStone / Shutterstock.com)
By David Bauder
NEW YORK — Nickelodeon is looking to slime some athletes. The network said Thursday it is starting a sports awards show modeled after its popular Kids’ Choice Awards honoring the highs and lows in entertainment.
“Kids’ Choice Sports 2014,” with former football star and daytime talk-show host Michael Strahan as executive producer and host, is planned for July 17 in Los Angeles.
Nick viewers will vote on their favorite teams, players and sports moments – some serious, some not so serious. As always, some of the stars will get “slimed,” or covered in the bright green gunk that gets a young audience laughing.
The Kids’ Choice Awards, to be held March 29 with Mark Wahlberg as host, is annually one of the network’s most popular programs. Last year’s show was seen live by just under 6 million people, with the audience totaling 12 million during a weekend’s worth of reruns.
“It galvanizes the company and galvanizes the audience,” said network President Cyma Zarghami, who was to speak about the initiative to an audience of advertisers. “The combination of Nick talent and Hollywood talent means a lot of excitement. It creates energy around our brand, and big fat ratings, too.”
That history, and the knowledge that big-event programming – particularly sports – is becoming increasingly important for television networks, made Nick’s decision easy, she said.
“We had a little bit of a `duh’ moment internally,” Zarghami said.
A Nickelodeon poll of children aged 7 to 14 taken in December found that roughly 80 percent participated in some organized sport, with girls more active than boys. Almost two-thirds of the kids said they watched sports on television.
Strahan, a former New York Giants star and host of “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” said athletes he’s talked to are enthusiastic about participating. Most have kids who watch Nick or they grew up on the network themselves, he said.
A panel of athletes including Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Lisa Leslie, Misty May-Treanor and Deion Sanders will help develop the show. One idea is to show the athletes competing in a sport or activity that is out of their comfort zone.
“One of the things that people say when we call is `can you slime me,’” Zarghami said. “I’m not sure you’d hear that at the Oscars or the ESPYs.”
Nick, in fact, planned its new awards show to be in close proximity to ESPN’s awards, to be presented July 16 in Los Angeles, because more athletes would already be in town. July is also a downtime for many pro athletes, except for those playing baseball.
Strahan has four children and expects his youngest, who are twin girls aged 9, to come to the show.
“If they can get on the air, they’ll be on the air,” he said. “I want to slime them, to be honest with you.”