News

Carriage for Baby Net

5/05/2008 2:00 AM Eastern

BabyFirstTV, a toddler itself, has marked its second birthday by closing a carriage deal with Time Warner Cable.

The premium service, which launched in May 2006, recently signed an affiliation agreement with the New York-based cable operator, which has 13.3 million subscribers.

BabyFirstTV is now on the road visiting Time Warner systems to try to secure rollouts from the nation's second largest cable company, according to Glenn Kopelson, the network's executive vice president of distribution.

“We are now going out to their affiliates, and working for distribution,” Kopelson said, talking from a hotel room in Columbia, S.C.

BabyFirstTV, which offers developmental and educational programming for infants and toddlers aged 6 months to 3 years, debuted on both direct broadcast satellite services, DirecTV and Dish Network.

With the addition to Time Warner, the premium network now has carriage deals, so-called hunting licenses, with three of the top four cable operators. BabyFirstTV also has an affiliation agreement with Comcast, which is offering it in Richmond, Va., and Charter Communications, which launched it in Alabama.

The premium network, which has a $4.99 monthly subscription fee, also has a carriage deal with AT&T's U-Verse video service, although it hasn't been launched yet by the telco, Kopelson said.

He wouldn't disclose how many actual subscribers BabyFirstTV has. Globally, the commercial-free premium service, which has been dubbed in seven languages, is now being offered in more than 30 countries — by British Sky Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, for example — and is available in more than 80 million homes worldwide.

BabyFirstTV debuted amidst some controversy. For example, the American Pediatrics Association had declared that children under two should not be watching TV. Kopelson claimed that now the category “has been embraced by cable and satellite operators all over the world,” referring to the success it's seen internationally.

The premium service, guided by a panel of child-development experts, offers interactive content for tiny tots, and encourages parents to watch with their young ones.

“Parents are the ultimate experts on this, and they're also voting with their remotes, because they're watching our channel,” Kopelson said.

The premium service's lineup is 80% original programming, with the rest licensed content from DVD makers, such as Brainy Baby. The service has been adding to its schedule, with shows such as My Gym at Home, a children's fitness series being done in collaboration with the My Gym Children's Fitness Centers.

BabyFirstTV's investors are Regency Enterprises, which is part of News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group, Bellco Capital and Kardan N.V.

Kopelson maintained that BabyFirstTV's subscribers are very loyal to the service, and that loyalty benefits the distributors that carry it.

While churn for cable and satellite customers averages about 18% to 20% a year, overall churn for cable-satellite customers who subscribe to BabyFirstTV is only 1% to 2%, according to the premium service's research.

“So our churn rate is phenomenally lower than the average churn rate,” said Kopelson, adding “parents really value educational programming.”

In fact, children's educational programming was a key factor when consumers pick a satellite or cable operator, according to BabyFirstTV research.

Research also found that 85% of BabyFirstTV's subscribers watch the service every day, according to Kopelson.

The service's marketing efforts on behalf of affiliates have included giving away a college scholarship to the first baby born at the start of the year at Comcast's Richmond system, and training — and offering incentives — for customer-service reps to really sell the premium network.

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