‘Kid Nation’ Fuss Isn’t Child’s Play

NEW YORK If there’s no such thing as bad press, then the child labor law scuttlebutt surrounding CBS’ Kid Nation couldn’t have come at a better time for the network.

Advertisers are already skittish about the show, premiering Sept.19, so the only chance CBS may have to change buyers’ minds is to draw eyeballs. And causing a stir almost always piques viewer interest.

On Sept. 5, Yahoo listed Kid Nation as the most-searched show among new fall series. As of Sept. 4, Kid Nation had the highest level of awareness among Internet bloggers, garnering 36.4 percent of blog postings related to CBS’ five new series, according to Nielsen’s Blogpulse.com.

“Clearly, the interest among bloggers to write about the show has not only increased, but eclipsed interest in writing about any other CBS show,” said Stacey Lynn Schulman, CEO of Human Insight, a TV research firm.

But CBS may be drawing more heat than it bargained for. The series, in which 40 kids fend for themselves in a New Mexico ghost town, has forced the network to defend itself against allegations of child abuse and child labor law violations.

“In order for a reality show … to really get out there and change the landscape of television, you have to sort of stir public debate,” CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler told reporters during the annual TV Critics Association convention in July.

Stirring this particular debate may turn out to have been a mistake for CBS. It wasn’t the only one related to Kid Nation. Like reporters, most advertisers have viewed only a short presentation of the show.

“It’s hard to recommend something to a client when you haven’t seen it,” said Shari Anne Brill, svp, director of programming at Carat.

Although CBS recently began screening full episodes for some major buyers and clients, Brill said that strategy should have been employed earlier to win over advertisers. “Plans are being approved, buys are being approved,” she added. “It just may be too late now.”