The Nielsen ratings for January show that Nickelodeon now stands on the brink of losing its long-held title as "the most-watched television network among children ages 2 to 11" to the upstart Disney Channel.

"Disney Channel very nearly beat Nickelodeon among viewers ages 2 to 11, a stunning outcome in and of itself," Brooks Barnes reported Friday in the New York Times' Media Decoder blog. "In January 2011, Nickelodeon led its rival by about 34 percent, according to Nielsen data. This year? Nickelodeon, leaning harder than ever on the aging 'SpongeBob SquarePants,' was only 3 percent ahead."

Two months ago, with the release of the Nielsen ratings for November, the entertainment industry started taking note of Nickelodeon's unexpected ratings slide.

"Nickelodeon is down in the ratings, and in the dark about why," Tim Molloy wrote for The Wrap on Nov. 30. "After 16 years of dominating children's television, the network finds itself in the midst of a mysterious ratings slide serious enough to drive concerns about its parent company's stock and prompt an investigation with Nielsen. … The slide isn't a case of other networks eating Nick's lunch — not all of it, anyway."