Thursday, October 7, 2010

Discovery Kids becomes The Hub.

New York viewers will have another children's programming option starting Sunday when Discovery Kids becomes The Hub.

The new network, a partnership between Discovery and Hasbro, will launch Sunday at 10 a.m. It will feature a mix of new and old animated and live-action shows.

"There's a lot of competition, more than I've ever confronted in my career, more than I've ever experienced," says Hub president Margaret Loesch.

Indeed, Loesch has been around kids shows for years, and was head of Fox Broadcasting's kids programming when it had "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and "Bobby's World."

The Hub, which will be carried on Time Warner Cable's Ch. 22, Cablevision's Ch. 120 and Verizon FiOs' Ch. 259, enters a market already dominated by Nickelodeon, which has fierce competition from the Disney Channel. Each of those networks, as well as the Cartoon Network, has offshoots. There's also PBS Kids.

"Kids are loyal, but they're quick to try other things," Loesch says.

Sunday's lineup will be a Hub sampler. Among the new series will be "Family Game Night," a game show airing at 7 p.m. hosted by Todd Newton that incorporates contests built around familiar board games, and "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic," a new animated series based on that toy line. There also will be reruns of shows such as "Men in Black" and "Strawberry Shortcake."

Down the road, the network will add original shows, such as "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series"; "Transformers Prime," a new series in the "Transformers" family, and "Dan Vs.," an animated show about a guy who thinks the world is out to get him.

"It's going to be very nostalgic for those helicopter parents who hover over their kids and monitor what they're watching," says audience guru Brad Adgate, senior vice president at Horizon Media. "To kids, it's new programming, and to parents, it's nostalgic. That's a very, very savvy move."

Loesch says the network is not "one giant commercial for Hasbro" and that the programming slate is broad. The network will not air Hasbro commercials during or around Hasbro-related programming.

Loesch noted that most successful kids shows these days have merchandise in the marketplace. "Despite what everybody says, this isn't about selling toys," she says. "It's about building a multibillion-dollar asset. Hasbro's vision is about becoming a multimedia company. They know they can't succeed, and we can't succeed, if all we do is set out to promote toy shows."

The Hub is launching with modest audience expectations. The last time Discovery Kids was rated, an average of 240,000 homes tuned in.

"It's going to take a while. It's not going to happen overnight, but down the road, there's a place for them," Adgate says.

"I have no expectation that we're going to be beating the competition," Loesch says. "But we don't have to be beating them to be successful."

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