Monday, October 12, 2009

Cannon Suits Up, Focuses On New Role

Source: Omaha World Record via NYT

NEW YORK — The first thing Nick Cannon does every morning is kiss his wife, Mariah Carey. Then comes meditation and prayer, maybe a workout. After that, it's the suit.

These days you'd be hard-pressed to catch Cannon, erstwhile teenage comedy star and current would-be media mogul, wearing anything but, though sometimes he'll take the jacket off.

It was a three-piece number on a recent episode of the MTV Jams game show “Hood Fab,” on which he answered hip-hop trivia questions outside the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. In a shaky hand-held clip recently uploaded to his YouTube channel, he struts into a Best Buy, in suspenders, to buy 10 copies of his wife's new album, “one for every room in the house.”

And of course, he wore one to work on a Monday late last month when he met with executives at Nickelodeon, where he recently took on the position of chairman of the network's TeenNick division.

Over the last decade, Cannon has been a stand-up comic, a rapper, an actor, a DJ, a screenwriter and a television host. For a stretch early this decade he was a Nickelodeon mainstay, one of the most recognizable personalities in teen media. And he's still a popular one: He has 1.2 million followers on Twitter, placing him in the Top 100 of all users.

But currently most of Cannon's energies are focused behind the scenes — he runs a movie and television production company, a record label and a clothing line. And now, at 29, he's returned to the Nickelodeon fold.

Late last month Nickelodeon rebranded its teenage-oriented channel, the N, as TeenNick. Cannon is both a celebrity engine and a hands-on executive with responsibilities in front of the camera and behind a desk. He has an office, an assistant, a business card and a marketing pitch on how best to reach young people: “Instead of trying to create something, it's about being involved in something they're already doing. They create their own media channel among themselves.”

In TeenNick, Cannon has, effectively, a blank slate upon which to test his ideas about what kids want. At the moment TeenNick is more of an idea than a fully formed channel; like the N, it has an emphasis on second-run programming. It's best known for “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” the Canadian import.

A decade ago, when Cannon was a gawky teenager plucked out of Hollywood comedy clubs to be a staff writer for Nickelodeon shows like “Kenan & Kel,” teen media wasn't as culturally prominent as it is today. Now entrepreneurs are entranced by the demographic's allure and cash.

That's something Cannon has been aware of for years. He began earning audiences' trust at a young age, when he turned to performing as a refuge from a difficult, scattered upbringing.

Cannon was shuttled between North Carolina and Southern California as a child. In North Carolina, where he stayed with his father, a television minister, he would work the camera, interview ministers and record rap songs in the studio. In California he was raised largely by his grandmother. “Section 8 homes,” he recalled. “I wanted to be part of the gang life, tried it. Entertainment saved me from that world.”

He graduated from high school early so that he could pursue his career full time. He wrote for Nickelodeon shows and sold a pilot to WB that was never broadcast. Later came “The Nick Cannon Show,” which ran for two seasons on Nickelodeon. He had star turns in the films “Drumline” and “Love Don't Cost a Thing,” but more substantive roles eluded him. A 2003 hip-hop album was coolly received.

Learning how to translate his experience for a mainstream boardroom didn't come easily to Cannon.

But after trial by fire on comedy club stages and in writers' rooms, he eased into the gift for slick talk. “I'm the nonthreatening guy,” he said. “I'm the safe guy.”

DJ AM Offered Help To Teens, But Couldn't Save Himself

Source: The Toronto Star

After Adam Goldstein (a.k.a. DJ AM) was found dead of a drug overdose in August, was there really ever any doubt that his recently shot reality series, Gone Too Far, would be broadcast?

It's like questioning why there are so many posthumous Tupac Shakur albums. The heady mixture of death, art and commerce is just too intoxicating for the companies involved in making the decisions to pass up.

In this case, after a moment of concerned hand-wringing, MTV moved back the premiere of the eight-episode series – in which the former addict counsels teenage users and their families and offers them a stint in rehab – from its original start date of Oct.5 until tonight, an entire week later. The press release touted that it had the "consent and support" of Goldstein's family, but the broadcaster did not send out screeners for review, so like many people out there, I'll be watching out of morbid curiosity. After all, it's not like AM was an artist of any real note.

Really, the club owner and mash-up deejay was famous for his liaisons and celebrity friends as opposed to his musical impact. He started out as a member of Crazy Town and co-owned the nightclub LAX. His initial fame came from dating people like Mandy Moore and Nicole Richie, alongside whom he appeared on The Simple Life. He also did an Entourage cameo.

He was likely best known for surviving a plane crash last year along with his friend and collaborator, Travis Barker from Blink 182. He's a very "now" celebrity, in that his fame was fuelled by the tabloid and paparazzi culture that had him as the go-to celebrity party deejay. Even his Wikipedia page states that "DJ AM had evolved into a prominent brand ..."

I saw and heard DJ AM play at Toronto's Ultra a few years ago and, fittingly, Paris Hilton was in the house. The snob in me is glad to say I was there on assignment, as opposed to desire. He did know what he was doing, rocking the club and getting the crowd into it, although I'd say he didn't sound all that different or all that much better than what you'd hear in almost any club in town.

But then, people were there for the scene, and they enjoyed basking in the refracted glow of dubious L.A. celebrity.

If you can get past the sordid details of AM's death, what I find interesting is the seemingly dichotomous nature of drug-related shows on television. They are either high-end cable series like Weeds, Breaking Bad and (to a lesser extent) Bored to Death, or they're brutal reality series like A&E's Intervention.

The former provide a supposedly sophisticated area of distinction from network shows (which generally avoid drugs as a plot device other than in sanitized addiction storylines) and, despite showing some consequences, they can't help but glamorize aspects of the drug life.

Gone Too Far falls into the rehab show category, but what I am curious about is how much of AM's jet-set deejay life will get into the series, which, more than being a recovering addict, is what might make kids pay attention.

Come to think of it, perhaps TV is not doing such a bad job of conveying the reality of drugs. The two messages seemingly getting through with both types of shows are that drugs can be fun and amusing or they can destroy your life. That may be simplistic, but it's hard to argue with.

The irony here, of course, is that the host of a drug-intervention television series died of an overdose shortly after the series wrapped. Goldstein was an admitted crack cocaine addict who kicked the habit before he became famous. He was sober for 11 years, which is impressive considering his life in and out of clubs and parties. He credited his cleaning up to a friend, another recovering addict, which likely served as the inspiration for the series.

Here's how he described Gone Too Far to the Associated Press: "Basically, it is pretty much like teen Intervention. I do an intervention for the MTV generation. A sibling reaches out to me, asks for help. Or a parent reaches out, asks for help. I show up, I offer them help. I'm a recovering addict so, to me, that's the one bond that we have. I can tell them what I did. I offer them 90 days in treatment. I follow up with them and help them get sober."

It's a noble goal. If anyone watches this show, and is motivated to get help, then it's absolutely worth it.

In interviews, Goldstein talked about the show as his "second chance" and his redemption.

Too bad he won't see if it has any effect, or whether the object lesson of his life – and death – may overshadow the desired message.

Gone Too Far airs tonight on MTV at 10 p.m.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Report: Habbo Parent Sulake Lays Off 40

Source: Gamasutra

Finnish developer Sulake, creator of popular social virtual world Habbo, will lay off about 40 staffers, according to media reports.

The company will engage in redundancy negotiations with the affected workers, who represent about 20 percent of its global staff, reports PaidContent, citing Finnish media and Twitter users claiming the reductions are centered in Helsinki.

Sulake, which employs about 300 staff across 13 countries, claims about 12 million monthly uniques worldwide for the 'tween-friendly Habbo. In 2008, it reported €50 million ($73.6 million) in revenue for the year, but profits of €1 million ($1.5 million).

The company also operates Finnish social networking company IRC-Galleria, and recently launched Bobba, a virtual world for smartphones, a version of which it hopes to bring to PC, aimed at an older demographic than Habbo.

Gamasutra has contacted Sulake for comment and will update with any details we receive.

Zac Efron Is Bored By Most Of The Movies He Makes

By Nicole Carter; Source NY Daily News

Get this: Zac Efron admits that he is bored by most of his own movies.


The 21-year-old "High School Musical" star tells the November issue of Nylon Guys that he was absolutely thrilled with his performance in his latest film, "Me and Orson Wells." But not so much his other work.

"It's the first time I've ever watched a movie [that I'm in] and in the end I'm like 'OK! I didn't check my watch once!' " he tells the mag.

He also says he's trying to ignore much of the fame brought on by starring in tween pop movies.

"I try not to look at all of it. You can't enjoy or celebrate it; it's not a real thing. The face on the lunchbox and s*** - you can't share that with your friends," he says.

There are at least two people who will keep Efron's ego in check: his parents. He recalls their reaction to his childhood gift of song.

"My parents were like 'Shut up. Please stop singing. It's annoying.'

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Miley, Tweens and Twitter

By DC Tweens Examiner
Ms Twixt;
Source: The Examiner

The top trending topic on Twitter this morning is “#mileycomeback”. For all the non-tweeters out there, that translates to this: the number one most popular/messaged topic by all of Twitter’s approximately 7 million members (stat from Nielsen Wire) is that tween pop idol Miley Cyrus announced last night that she has deleted her Twitter account (and as of this afternoon, the account was still deleted despite reports to the contrary on some blogs).

Most people are still trying to figure out what Twitter is, how it works, and does it matter. Few if any tweens Tweet (recent studies show that less than 16% of all Twitter users are under the age of 25) – but moms do tweet – and this trend is rising. A DC Metro area church youth group pastor uses Twitter to give parents updates on his youth group’s outings. Parents seem to appreciate the immediate updates and sometimes receiving pictures via Twitter links – it gives new meaning to staying in touch. One parent interviewed shared that she loves knowing where her kids are when they are on field trips, and Twitter updates provides an easy way for the pastor to broadcast updates with a single click to his group’s parents.
Celebs love to tweet – it has changed the nature of publicity by giving stars a direct communication channel with their fans. Ms. Cyrus’ 1 million plus followers on Twitter were quick to voice their opinions on her leaving the community with many bemoaning the lack of updates on her status. Notably, Ms. Cyrus tweeted about a recent publicity photo taken of her in which her legs were re-touched. She posted the photo to Twitter and told fans that “This is NOT how my legs look in real life. Just wanted you to know.” It was refreshing to hear a star speak out about the publicity machine and demonstrate to her fans that even she is not as perfect as Hollywood would have her appear.

OMG! AOL Launches New Teen Site

By Emily Steel; Source: Wall Street Journal

Cupcakes! Twitter! Twilight! Selena Gomez!

AOL is plunging into the world of all things tween with the launch of new pop culture blog JSYK.

Text-speak for “just so you know,” JSYK features the latest on celebrities, technology and general news for the 9- to 15-year-old set. Recent posts — punctuated with plenty of exclamation points!!! — include stories about a record-breaking 1,316-pound chocolate cupcake and “breaking news” updates on Miley Cyrus’s visit to the emergency room. Visitors can see indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie’s new video, “Meet Me on the Equinox,” and take a quiz about whether 21-year-old “Harry Potter” star Rupert Grint is a “real estate wizard.”

Two AOL staffers are writing for the site, which also includes contributions from tweens themselves. Five girls are blogging from the first Tween Girl Summit in Washington this weekend, as part of AOL’s sponsorship of the event. JSYK also features submissions from Teen Ink, a national magazine featuring poetry, fiction and nonfiction written by 13- to 19-year-olds.

JSYK adds to AOL’s growing stable of content targeted at kids and parents, including and In July, AOL announced a partnership with children’s media company A Squared Entertainment to publish Web cartoons, featuring Warren Buffett, Martha Stewart, Giselle Bündchen and Carl Sagan.

AOL has been ramping up its production of original content in the past year as part of a broader strategy under CEO Tim Armstrong. It is in the midst of its transition from a subscription-based ISP to an advertising-based digital-media company and is preparing to separate from media giant Time Warner later this year.

At this time last year, about 70% of the content on AOL’s sites came from outside publishers. Today, that ratio has flipped, with AOL creating about 70% of the content on its sites, said Bill Wilson, president of AOL Media. AOL has focused most of its publishing efforts on text-based content and now is boosting its production of videos, mobile and other interactive content.

“We think there’s a big opportunity. Traditional media has obviously had difficulties there with its cost structures. For us, we can leverage the size of our audience and our technology,” he said.

AOL is hoping to replicate the success of its gadget site Engadget and entertainment joint-venture TMZ with a flurry of new ones, such as Politics Daily and DailyFinance. But its previous efforts in the teen area have flopped.

It has seen steep declines in traffic to its teen-focused site, which will be folded into JSYK. The site attracted 371,000 unique U.S. visitors in August, down 68% from the 1.2 million it attracted during the same period last year, according to comScore. Mr. Wilson said that primarily aggregated content from other publishers, and that JSYK will feature more original content.

“This audience is akin to any audience we are targeting. You have to be pretty authentic,” he said.

JYSK faces steep competition. Alloy Media + Marketing, the New York company behind the “Gossip Girl” book-turned-TV series, as well as the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” book-to movie series, is becoming a major force on the Web. It operates the largest teen network on the Web, attracting 11.3 million unique U.S. visitors in August, more than double its audience in the same period last year, according to comScore.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Report: Habbo Parent Sulake Lays Off 40

Source: Gamasutra

Finnish developer Sulake, creator of popular social virtual world Habbo, will lay off about 40 staffers, according to media reports.

The company will engage in redundancy negotiations with the affected workers, who represent about 20 percent of its global staff, reports PaidContent, citing Finnish media and Twitter users claiming the reductions are centered in Helsinki.

Sulake, which employs about 300 staff across 13 countries, claims about 12 million monthly uniques worldwide for the 'tween-friendly Habbo. In 2008, it reported €50 million ($73.6 million) in revenue for the year, but profits of €1 million ($1.5 million).

The company also operates Finnish social networking company IRC-Galleria, and recently launched Bobba, a virtual world for smartphones, a version of which it hopes to bring to PC, aimed at an older demographic than Habbo.

Gamasutra has contacted Sulake for comment and will update with any details we receive.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tween Pop Stars Inspire A Younger, Greener Generation


As I write these words, there are a zillion empty toilet paper rolls in our garage. I use the qualifier "as I write these words" because the number may reach 8 kazillion by the end of this column.

They are stuffed in shoeboxes and lurking in all corners of the garage. They mingle with empty plastic bottles, egg cartons and bottle caps.

Now and then, when the Mighty Junk Collector is asleep, my wife and I will try to thin the ranks, quietly putting trash in trash cans and burying recyclables deep under old newspapers.

This requires precise strategy. Throw away too much, and the Mighty Junk Collector immediately senses an atmospheric imbalance and bellows with indignation; throw away too little, and the effort doesn't make a dent.

You see, our garage is a shelter for abandoned trash rescued from the landfill. My 10-year-old daughter, Katie, is the shelter's executive director.

She is the Fred Sanford of Chalet Schlenker, and I have the Jonas Brothers to thank.

Yet while my wife and I bemoan the collections, we know her efforts are admirable. Thanks in large part to PSAs from her favorite Disney Channel stars, Katie has gone green in a major way.

This means our daughter - whose disposable diapers we once changed - is now picking through our trash and condemning our waste selections. Cardboard and cartons are extricated from trash cans and relocated.

They will be used for crafts and new inventions, such as the lava lamp-baton thing (very cool, actually) and the always-useful bottle-cap tower. Katie discussed another pending invention with me, although I do not understand her blueprints.

We are exceptionally proud of her. Prior to Katie going green, my wife and I considered ourselves proper stewards of the environment. We recycle, taking the goods to the recycling center after we can no longer find the van in our garage. We unplug appliances, and no longer burn tires and paint thinner in our backyard.

However, we never have put buckets in a shower and water the plants after they are full.

Katie takes this very seriously.

And say what you will about Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and Disney Channel's other cash cows who absorb 75 percent of my annual income, but they are the ones who prompted Katie to reduce our landfill contributions. The pop stars anchor the Friends for Change movement, which is powered by the anthem/music video "Send It On" starring Cyrus, the JoBros and Selena Gomez,

As many parents know, these stars performing together is the equivalent of a Tween Live Aid. Disney's marketing machine is a powerful force in the marketplace, but this effort truly is making a difference. The song is a hot seller, with sales benefitting environmental associations.

It has changed the way we do things, with Katie leading the charge. This is significant; my wife and I can't get Katie out of bed in the morning, yet the Jonas Brothers can get her to save the world.

I can live with that.

If only the Jonas Brothers would clean our garage.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

EA's New CHARM GIRLS CLUB Website Provides Tween Girls With the Ultimate Online Experience

(October 01, 2009) LOS ANGELES, BUSINESS WIRE --Source: Hollywood Industry

The Play Label of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced the launch of the CHARM GIRLS CLUB' website, an online destination specially designed for girls, where they can play games, design fashions, socialize, collect charms, and immerse themselves into the world of EA's Charm Girls. Live today, the site is the first of its kind and will be fully integrated with EA's CHARM GIRLS CLUB video games for Wii' and Nintendo DS' when the games become available in the US on October 20, 2009.

'We are excited to provide tween girls with a safe, engaging online experience that truly extends the Charm Girls Club video games and appeals to girls' interests,' said Sarah Handley, Senior Marketing Director, EA Play Label. 'Through the unique, connected console and online game play, girls' experiences will be enriched the more they play with Charm Girls Club.'

The CHARM GIRLS CLUB website provides a safe place for tween girls to create and share cool fashions and connect with friends in a social online environment. On the site, girls can choose from thousands of combinations to create their personalized Charm Girl that reflects their head-to-toe style including hair, facial features, makeup, fashions and accessories. They can design a virtual charm bracelet with hundreds of shimmering charms that are earned by playing games. Girls can also create their personal profile page, update their status, see what's going on with their friends in the news feed, take fun polls and learn about the Charm Girls and the associated video games.

Girls who visit the site will find a multitude of totally girl appealing activities that they can participate in for free. They can play mini-games like 'Mall Mania' and 'Accessorize It' to earn virtual charms and Charm Coins, the website's virtual currency. Earning Charm Coins allows girls to purchase more outfits and accessories for their Charm Girl in the online Shopping Mall. The Design Studio fashion tool allows girls to design their own fabric patterns, choose silhouettes, and create their own unique fashions. These elite user generated designs can be submitted to the Design Gallery for other girls in the Charm Girls Club community to vote on.

Girls who purchase CHARM GIRLS CLUB games when they become available in October will have access to even more content on the website. As girls play through the video games, they will earn Charm Codes that can be used online. By entering Charm Codes online, girls can unlock hundreds of super cool fashions, virtual charms and Charm Coins that will enhance the online Charm Girls Club experience. The more girls play with Charm Girls Club games and the website, the more access they will have in the Charm Girls Club games and website.

CHARM GIRLS CLUB is EA's new, original property for tween girls. Through the games and the website, tween girls are immersed into the world of the Charm Girls where they will show off their unique style, meet friends and complete games and activities to see who can collect the most charms. EA will release four CHARM GIRLS CLUB video games in the US on October 20th including CHARM GIRLS CLUB Pajama Party for the Wii, and three titles for the Nintendo DS: CHARM GIRLS CLUB My Fashion Mall, CHARM GIRLS CLUB My Perfect Prom and CHARM GIRLS CLUB My Fashion Show. All four CHARM GIRLS CLUB video games are rated 'E' for 'Everyone.'

To see what CHARM GIRLS CLUB is all about, visit


Lilit Baron,
PR Manager
Brooke Bauguess,
Senior PR Manager

Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Twilight's' Taylor Lautner and Selena Gomez hit Teen Vogue bash! R they or RNT they?


There have been ongoing rumors about "Twilight" hunk Taylor Lautner dating "Wizards of Waverly Place" cutie Selena Gomez for weeks and weeks.


But Taylor was flying solo Friday night at the seventh annual Teen Vogue Young Hollywood bash. Kind of.

Selena was also there. And talked to her about Taylor's arrival, whether he was nervous and about his Teen Vogue cover. All things a girlfriend would definitely know.

She says she saw the photos from the shoot and thought they rocked. Surely he only showed his girlfriend?

Check out Taylor's Teen Vogue photos here!

When pressed, Selena admits she would prefer to be a vampire, not a werewolf.

Taylor has to have a talk with that girl and get her on his team.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does 'Wizards of Waverly Place' Have The Magic Emmy Touch?

Gold Derby by Tom O'Neil (LA Times)

In past years there wasn't much hope for traditional drama and comedy series to win the Emmy Award for best children's program. Sometimes shows like "Hannah Montana" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" — even mega-hot movie "High School Musical 2" — got nominated, but they usually lost to high-minded, real-life fare like "Nick News with Linda Ellerbee."

This year, however — presto, change-o — "Nick News" has been zapped off into a newly created category for nonfiction children's shows, leaving the main slot to nominees "The Wizards of Waverly Place," "iCarly" and Miley Cyrus' "Hannah Montana."

"Wizards of Waverly Place" is a popular new show about a magical family that includes one smart-cookie girl and her two brothers (one bright, one dimwitted). It was created by Todd J. Greenwald, who once wrote for "Hannah Montana" and other tween hits like "Saved by the Bell."

Greenwald is happy about the new Emmy rule change. "The fact that they split the categories makes it a fun and level playing field now," he says in our podcast. Click the arrow below to listen to our chat.

In our dishfest, we cover what makes shows like "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "Hannah Montana" such hits: They give frustrated tweens the feeling of secret empowerment.

"'Hannah Montana' is a genius formula," Greenwald says. "Kids love music and they love being popular. Imagine being popular in your own school, but nobody knows about it. It's a fantasy for every kid to have.

"As far as wizards go, you can do whatever you want whenever you want, but if it's against the rules, that makes it more exciting for the audience. There's a little rebel in every kid."

Photo: Disney Channel

Disney's Effort To Draw Male Audience Wins Over Girls

By Ryan Nakashima; Source: Associated Press

In this undated promotional photo released by Disney, actors Adam hicks, left, and Hutch Dano are shown in a scene from "Zeke and Luther." Disney recently revamped its Toon Disney network with an array of programs to cater to tween boys, a largely untapped demographic for them, and rebranded the channel Disney XD. (AP Photo/Disney XD, Jaimie Trueblood)

BURBANK, Calif. -- A funny thing happened on the way to remaking the Toon Disney channel into one that catered to "tween" boys: It got a lot more popular with girls.

Perhaps it's because teenagers Hutch Dano and Adam Hicks, the stars of the channel's most popular new show, "Zeke and Luther," exude a goofy innocence in a scrubbed-clean environment.

Whatever the reason, the slightly off-kilter rebranding effort at the channel now called Disney XD highlights a larger problem at The Walt Disney Co.: It has had difficulty winning over young male audiences.

Disney recently announced part of the solution, agreeing to buy comic book giant Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion, bringing characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man into the house of Hannah Montana, Cinderella and Pocahontas.

A closer look at Disney's ongoing efforts with the XD channel - where prime-time ratings this summer nearly doubled among boys aged 9 to 14 but tripled among girls the same age - helps explain why the company wanted Marvel's outside firepower in its quest for boy-focused content.

While there's no harm in attracting more girls to the channel, Disney also wants to draw more advertising for boy-focused products like video games and action figure toys.

That might have taken years on its own. Now Marvel is expected to bring more superhero power to Disney XD, adding to the 20 hours per week that Marvel content already runs on the network.

But going after a more male audience is a tough slog. Boys are fickle. They demand authenticity and appreciate a snarky sense of humor, while at other times, they just want to immerse themselves in fantasy worlds and animation.

Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, said the goal of rebranding Toon Disney as Disney XD was always "to create this destination for boys that is still inclusive of girls."

And the shift has already helped bring in some new ads.

Electronic Arts Inc. boosted its advertising spending about 30 percent this year on Disney XD after its switch, mainly to advertise kid-friendly video games such as "MySims Racing" and "Madden NFL 10."

One big challenge for Disney is that the boys market is well served.

More 'Star Wars'

Time Warner Inc.'s Cartoon Network, whose audience is more than 70 percent boys, plans to roll out the second season of George Lucas' popular "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" series this fall.

Cartoon Network is also branching into live-action and reality TV shows that leave little doubt about their target audience. "Dude, What Would Happen" features a group of teenage boys who try stunts like installing a lemonade tank into the hood of a car. "My Dad's a Pro" follows the Boston Celtics' Eddie House through the eyes of his 8-year-old son, Jaelen.

Ron Geraci, a senior vice president of research for the Nickelodeon kids and family group, questioned Disney's focus on boys.

Nickelodeon's tween audience draws almost equally between boys and girls on such shows as "SpongeBob Squarepants," "iCarly," and "Penguins of Madagascar."

"One of the fallacies in the kids marketplace has been that you can't program to both boys and girls," Geraci said. "We think the commonality among boys and girls is comedy and we've proved it time and again."

Small Firms, Like Disney, Can Sell to Tweens

By Elizabeth Blackwell; Source: TheStreet

No longer children but not yet teenagers, "tweens" are now considered a powerful consumer demographic in their own right. Between the ages of 8 to 12, kids begin to develop into independent consumers: spending their own allowance money and showing specific brand preferences when shopping with Mom or Dad.

Walt Disney(DIS Quote) has been especially successful appealing to tween girls. The company helped launch the careers of actress Miley Cyrus and pop stars the Jonas Brothers, turning them into international brands available on everything from backpacks to snacks.

But Burbank, Calif.-based Disney hasn't had a comparable hit with tween boys, which might help explain this week's announcement that it will buy Marvel Entertainment(MVL Quote), home of iconic male-oriented characters such as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. The Disney marketing machine has convinced tween girls to spend millions on merchandise from Cyrus's show, Hannah Montana; it can probably spin superheroes into a massive new revenue stream.

But there's no reason small companies can't get into the boy business, too. Tween boys have been somewhat overlooked compared to girls. Companies that understand how to appeal to their interests have the advantage of relatively few competitors.

According to youth marketing company Alloy Media + Marketing, tweens spend $51 billion each year, with their families kicking in an additional $170 billion.

To get in on that market, you must understand how tween boys think, says Adriann Fonstein, consumer strategist for AMP Agency, a unit of Alloy. "For them, life is about play. They like silly, physical humor. You have to make them feel like they're in on the joke."

Retailers Banking on Star Power to Sell Styles

By BETSY TAYLOR; Associated Press

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. — Summer Johnson’s back-to-school wardrobe includes shiny wet-looking leggings, a tie-dye camisole and basic tees — all part of a new collection by Miley Cyrus and designer Max Azria at Wal-Mart.

Stores are hoping a touch of star quality will inspire back-to-school shoppers — and their parents — to look beyond basics and seek out clothing lines with ties to celebrity actors and singers, from clean-cut Disney shows to the racier Gossip Girl.

Johnson, a 22-year-old college student from suburban St. Louis, was drawn to the Cyrus collection’s rock-star edge and under $20 prices, but the star power didn’t hurt.

“Celebrities are great, but I go toward a celebrity line because they’re reading up on fashion, teaming up with a good designer,” she said. “They know a thing or two about fashion. They’re our fashion template.”

And the templates abound. A “JONAS” line, inspired by the television show featuring the Jonas Brothers, mixes prep school styles with a rocker twist. A second Disney line based on the show Wizards of Waverly Place is being billed as a “boho chic” collection including tunic-length tops with print scarves and miniskirts that draw inspiration from the show’s Alex Russo character, who happens to be played by Selena Gomez, the newly named Teen Choice red-carpet fashion icon. They’re selling at JC Penney, Kmart, Sears, Wal-Mart and Target.

Star power alone won’t sustain a successful clothing line.

“I’ve seen the peaks and valleys of it,” said Tina Knowles, the mother of singer and actress Beyoncé. Tina Knowles serves as creative director for Dereon, a clothing line that draws from her famous daughter’s style. “The celebrity being attached is a plus, but the clothes have to be good quality,” she said.

Customers respond to Beyoncé, but they come back when they like the fit, style and value, Knowles said.

This fall, the Dereon line includes a Sasha Fierce collection with some back-to-school looks inspired by Beyoncé’s tougher, alter-ego character.

Not all of it screams classroom, but pieces that would make a splash at school include skinny jeans, a houndstooth-print jacket and a lightweight leather jacket that Knowles calls one of her favorites. Sasha Fierce items sell for $25 to $125, and are currently available at some specialty retailers and about 100 Macy’s stores.

Another line that’s new for back-to-school is “Mad Style for True Jackson,” designed by Jane Siskin, perhaps best known for her work on 7 for All Mankind’s famously fitting jeans. The “Mad Style” clothes at Wal-Mart draw from Nickelodeon’s popular tween show, True Jackson, VP, which stars young actress Keke Palmer, whose character lands a dream job as a vice president at a fashion company.

“The thing that excited me was to bring fashion to a tween customer in a collection and in a way that’s already styled,” Siskin said. A gray V-neck dress, for instance, includes a built-in plaid shirt underneath and a black-patent belt with silver charms hanging from it for $12.

Palmer, the tween star of True Jackson, says she’s thrilled about the line. “Wow, words cannot express how exciting it is to know that little girls will be wearing clothes that originated from the show, amazing!” she said by e-mail.

Celebrity clothing lines don’t capture all shoppers’ interest in the same way.

With clothes selling, in some cases, for just a few dollars, industry watchers say it’s safe to say a lot of celebrity lines were manufactured to catch a right-now trend and not intended to last forever.

And if people don’t like a star, they’re probably not going to like the clothes.

An older back-to-school shopper like Johnson says she gets interested based on a designer’s reputation — she knew of Azria, for instance, from his stylish BCBG clothes. She’s not a huge Cyrus fan, but assumes she’ll get trendy looks at good prices when a star works with a designer and a mass retailer.

A high schooler might follow a celebrity’s look in magazines and on the Internet and then shop for a similar style. And young tweens respond to a show, its storyline and its fictional characters, not so much the real-life performers.

“As long as the shows are relevant, the products are relevant,” said Disney Consumer Products’ vice president for global fashion and home, Pamela Lifford.

Target plans to unveil a line by designer Anna Sui inspired by the Gossip Girl television show from Sept. 13-Oct. 17 in more than 600 stores. And in October, Nordstrom will offer Twilight: New Moon-inspired apparel.

Disney in Deal For Gamers

BOB IGER Disney boss.

BOB IGER Disney boss.

By PETER LAURIA; Source: NY Post

Disney is in a buying mood.

Less than a week after stunning the entertainment industry with its $4 billion deal to buy Marvel Comics, the Mouse house yesterday said it agreed to buy edgy videogame developer Wideload Games.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

As part of the deal, Wideload Games founder and CEO Alexander Seropian will join Disney's Interactive Studios unit in the newly created role of vice president of creative.

Seropian is considered a videogame visionary, who helped create the successful "Halo" franchise for Microsoft's Xbox after selling his former company, Bungie Software, to the software giant in 2000.

With the two purchases, Disney is attempting to make inroads into what has been an elusive demographic: 'tween males. Though it has a hold on 'tween girls with Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers and other properties, appealing to boys has been a bigger challenge for the company.

The purchases underscore Disney's perception that videogames are the way to bring young men back into the fold.

Indeed, the Marvel deal was done not just because of the movie potential of comic book characters like Spider-Man and Iron-Man, but also because of the videogame franchises that can be developed.

In buying Wideload Games, Disney is betting that Seropian -- like a successful movie producer -- can develop another hit on the order of "Halo."

Wideload's Games include "Stubbs the Zombie," in which gamers take the role of a "rebel without a pulse," "Hail to the Chimp" and "Texas Cheat' Em."