Viacom's (VIA) betting that millions will check out the third-season premiere of Nickelodeon's quirky, anime-influenced series Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's the first fantasy action series targeted to boys at a network known for lighter fare such as SpongeBob Square Pants.
"If we do this right, it could become our Harry Potter," says Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami. "We have the opportunity to create a different kind of loyal audience that will follow Avatar here, there and everywhere."
Viacom's Paramount Pictures joined the effort this year: It signed M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) to write, produce and direct a trilogy of live-action films based on the TV series about Aang, a boy with extraordinary powers who must join his friends to save the world from the hostile Fire Nation.
The first film is due in 2009