The Nickelodeon network is giving its young viewers the chance to create cartoons, instead of just watch them.
Nick has just made available on its Web site technology that allows young fans to make cartoon compilations of different scenes from favorites like "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Avatar" and distribute them to their friends.
The technology is a nod to Web favorites like Youtube.com and a recognition that many young Nickelodeon viewers have a knowledge of computers that surpasses their parents.
"It's a natural and very organic evolution of where we've been over the last 26 years," said Cyma Zarghami, Nick president and head of MTVN Kids and Family Group. "We've always followed the audience where it is going."
On its TurboNick Web site, the network provides several scenes from its shows, including non-animated fare like "Drake & Josh," along with graphics, transitions and sounds for them to point and click their way to an entirely new creation. Participants still aren't able to put their own soundtracks to what they make.
People who play along will be able to post their creations on their own Web sites and e-mail them to friends, said Stephen Youngwood, the network's executive vice president for digital media.
"There is a big chunk of the audience that wants to delve deeper into the content and be a creator," he said.
There is already evidence that he may be right. In recent months, Nick invited viewers of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" to create their own scenes and submit them, and 10 winners were chosen to have the show's actors voice those scenes and see it played on the air. More than 150,000 scenes were submitted, the network said.
Since Sept. 20, when the mash-up technology was introduced, the TurboNick Web site has averaged 236,000 unique visitors a day, compared to 40,000 during the same period last year.
The network also used the Web to heavily promote a new cartoon, "Mr. Meaty," and offered clips online this summer in advance of its Sept. 22 premiere. The same day the show premiered, TurboNick let viewers mash it up.
The Click, a separate Web site for fans of The N, the network aimed at young teenagers, will begin offering mashups of shows like "Degrassi: The Next Generation" starting next month. Both Nickelodeon and The N are owned by Viacom Inc.
Nickelodeon executives say they have no fear that fans will spend so much time on the computer creating their own cartoons that they won't watch the original cartoons on TV. Many viewers like to multitask, they said.
Nick averages 2.1 million viewers at any given time, about the same as a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research. Its top competitors are the Disney Channel, with its 1.5 million viewers representing a 17 percent increase over last year, and the Cartoon Network, with 1.2 million viewers.