SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t just a popular kids cartoon, it’s the backbone of the Nickelodeon network, making up 40% of the stations airtime last year and now that foundation is showing signs of cracking, losing 29% of its 2 to 11 year old viewers in the first quarter of this year.
SpongeBob has been on the air for 13 years and its reach had been undeniable, as ratings at the show fell Nickelodeon as a whole saw a 25% dip in users.
Not only is the shows drop a bad sign for Nickelodeon, it could spell trouble for Viacom which derives 15% of its operating profit from the children’s network and the recent SpongeBob slip caused ad revenue in December to fall by 3% at Viacom.
Nickelodeon officials in the meantime are quick to point out the SpongeBob still averages two million viewers in the 2-11 age group during its top Saturday-morning showtime. SpongeBob also remains the number one animated series in all of kids TV programming.
In the meantime analysts are not quite sure what has caused the dip in viewers for SpongeBob SquarePants although given the length of the shows run many of its original fans have likely grown up and moved on while new fans have not taken to the show in large numbers needed to replace those aging fans.
A more likely scenario is that SpongeBob SquarePants has suffered from a crazy amount of over exposure which hit 40% of Nickelodeon’s schedule by the end of 2011, up from 23% in 2007.
Experts have long claimed that children don’t mind watching the same episode of a show repeatedly, it turns out that may not be the case.
The ratings dip could also be caused by a licensing deal the company struck with Netflix that put SpongeBob on the company’s streaming video service in May, later Netflix would announce its “just for kids” section which made it easier to find and watch SpongeBob SquarePants episodes alongside other children’s programming.