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The Hub: New Kids Entry Now Playing In Some 60 Million Homes

10/10/2010 9:26 AM Eastern

A year and a half after announcing its intention to join the kids market fray, The Hub, the joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, has officially arrived as the biggest channel launch in cable history.
Following video-on-demand rollouts beginning on Sept. 30 on platforms operated by nine major providers, The Hub begins reaching 60 million homes today, Oct. 10, starting with a preview, before settling into regular schedule on Oct. 11. The launch surpasses the 50 million homes MLB Network came out of the dugout with on Jan. 1, 2009.

Relaunching on the backbone of Discovery Kids, The Hub was established as Hasbro, the No. 2 toymaker, paid $300 million for a 50% stake in the joint venture. Hasbro studios will be a significant supplier. Veteran programmer Margaret Loesch is the venture's CEO.

 

MIX OF SERIES
The Hub's lineup, a quarter of it centering around Hasbro toys, games and characters (Transformers Prime, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe), will also showcase a number of original series (R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series), remakes of older shows (Strawberry Shortcake), U.S. premieres (The Twisted Whiskers Show) and vintage series (Fraggle Rock, The Wonder Years), as well as movies.

The Hub's Twisted WhiskersThe Hub will vie for eyeballs and ad dollars against Viacom's kids kingpin, Nickelodeon, which controls upward of 50% of category ad impressions; Turner's Cartoon Network; and the highly watched but commercial-free Disney Channel and its boys-focused sibling, Disney XD.

The Hub, though, beats Disney Junior, the 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers, which will supplant SoapNet in 2012, to the rollout punch. Disney Junior, which will assume the mantle and moniker of Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney preschool block sometime next year, is expected to launch in some 75 million homes in 2012.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav "very astutely identified that kids programming wasn't one of Discovery's core competencies and sought a partner," Discovery chief operating officer Peter Liguori said. "Hasbro is a huge brand name in the toy space, equivalent to Discovery in media, and [Hasbro CEO] Brian Goldner impressed [on us] that Hasbro is a very media-esque brand."

Liguori also called Loesch "one of the best, if not the best, kids programmer in the world."

Best known for driving Fox Kids Network - and, in cable circles, for running Odyssey Network, the predecessor to Hallmark Channel, Loesch, who counts numerous TV and theatrical producer credits, is stoked by her latest challenge.

"People ask me, ‘Margaret, another kids network?' And I say, there is a great opportunity. There are 30 to 40 cable networks all going after the 18-to-49s. Here, we have three," she said.

"There is room for all of us to grow our businesses."

Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research at Horizon Media, said he believes The Hub can establish a place for itself.

"It's going to be slow building against Nickelodeon, Cartoon and Disney, but the landscape is different than a generation ago," Adgate said. "There isn't much in syndication and on the broadcast networks anymore," and Discovery has been "successful in launching and relaunching networks. And working with Hasbro will help."

He foresees a good amount of watching by parents with their kids: "[The Hub] has a great library, with a lot of shows that are familiar to parents. There will be a lot of co-viewing."

Loesch said the network's research indicates a change in the mindsets of kids over the past decade. "You asked kids then, and they didn't want to watch some shows with their brothers, and certainly not ‘their' shows with their parents," she said. "Now, kids are saying, ‘I like that and I think it would be good for my brother and I want to watch that with my parents.' I'm not sure about all the reasons why, but I think that's good overall."

 

6-12 SET IN SIGHT

The Hub has established dayparts and time periods geared for such occurrences, with the "HubBub" block aimed at preschoolers and caregivers; Family Game Night, a live-action series comprising Hasbro games like Cranium, Connect 4, Scrabble and Bop-It; and primetime movie slots on weekends.

Loesch said competitors have gravitated toward the younger and older ends of the kids market. "While some show like SpongeBob SquarePants have very wide appeal, we think there is a lot of programming aimed toward younger kids and tweens. We think there are opportunities with the 6-to-12 segment, especially seven- and eight-year-olds."

Loesch said her aim is to create and air quality shows that appeal to kids and bring more advertisers to The Hub.

With Discovery leading the efforts and the holiday selling season just a few weeks out, the channel will count more than 50 sponsors at launch, including one of the key competitors to Hasbro, which trails Mattel in the toy space, where Disney ranks third and Viacom fifth.

"CPMs are lower in the kids market. So in order to help make quality shows, you have to make that up in licensing and royalties," Loesch said. "With most successful kids' shows, you'll see toys on the shelves, even Sesame Street."

Loesch and Liguori didn't seem particularly concerned about running afoul of laws or weathering any backlash from kids' activist groups or the government. "The network is very cognizant, very mindful of legal requirements within the kids universe," Liguori said.

Added Loesch, "There might be some reaction to our ownership, but you won't see anything out of the ordinary from what already exists in this business."

 

AD LIMITATIONS
The Hub will not place commercials for Hasbro within or adjacent to shows about they toymaker's products, such as Transformers. The network will only run 10.5 minutes of advertising per hour throughout the week, below the Federal Communications Commission-mandated maximum of 12 minutes per hour from Monday through Friday. It will only run six minutes of ads in a preschool block.

According to SNL Kagan estimates, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Cartoon Network and Disney XD will garner $1 billion, $375 million and $111 million in ad sales, respectively, this year. Discovery Kids was slated to pull in some $13 million in ad sales and $49 million in affiliate fees this year, according to Kagan data.

 

VOD SERVICE
As for its VOD initiative, The Hub's offering, located in the providers' Kids VOD section in a pair of folders, HubBub Preschool and Hub Kids & Family, encompasses eight hours of programming per month. The programming, according to officials at the joint venture, will be refreshed 25% each week, resulting in a complete turnover over the course of the month.
Comcast, Bright House, Cox, Cablevision, AT&T U-verse, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Charter and Verizon FiOS are initially offering The Hub's VOD play.
Initially, there are eight installments of VOD programming available in HubBub preschool block: two episodes apiece of Animal Mechanicals, In the Night Garden, Maryoku Yummy and The WotWots.
Titles in the Hub Kids & Family offering include: Fraggle Rock (three episodes), Cosmic Quantum Ray,
Deltora Quest (two episodes), Dennis and Gnasher (two episodes), Endurance, Family Game Night, Pictureka! and The Twisted Whiskers Show (two episodes).
Relative to October/November refreshes, The Hub will proffer two episodes of The Adventures of Chuck & Friends, Atomic Betty and My Little Pony, as well as one of Pound Puppies.

In December, this fresh fare will follow: G.I. Joe Renegades, R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series and multiple installments of Transformers Prime.

 

 

THE HUB: SELECT SHOWS, DAYPARTS


HUBBUB (PRESCHOOL)

The WotWots
In the Night Garden
Animal Mechanicals
Maryoku Yummy
The Adventures of Chuck and
Friends


KIDS AFTERNOON

Strawberry Shortcake's Berry
Bitty Adventures
Fraggle Rock
My Little Pony Friendship is
Magic
Pound Puppies
Tutenstein


KIDS PRIME
Atomic Betty
The Twisted Whiskers Show
Dennis and Gnasher
Putureka!
Men in Black
Deltora Quest
Batman Beyond


KIDS AND FAMILY PRIME
Meerkat Manor
Endurance
Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
Family Ties
The Wonder Years
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Happy Days
Laverne & Shirley
Batman


OVERNIGHT
Transformers Generation 1
G.I Joe A Real American Hero
Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
Family Ties
The Wonder Years
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Happy Days
Laverne & Shirley
Batman


WEEKEND MORNINGS
My Little Pony Friendship is
Magic
Pound Puppies
Where on Earth is
Carmen San Diego?
Fraggle Rock
The Twisted Whiskers Show
Dennis and Gnasher
Cosmic Quantum Ray
Atomic Betty


WEEKEND AFTERNOONS
Deltora Quest
Men in Black
G.I. Joe Renegades
Batman Beyond
Hubworld
Hub Family Movie Night


WEEKEND PRIME
Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
Strange Days at Blake Holsey
High
Truth or Scare
Meerkat Manor
Family Game Night
Hub Family Movie Night


WEEKEND OVERNIGHT
G.I. Joe Renegades
Batman Beyond
Men in Black
Family Game Night
Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The
TV Show
Strange Days at Blake Holsey
High
Truth or Scare
The Wonder Years
Family Game Night
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Happy Days
Batman
Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls
Adventure Camp
Scout's Safari
Saddle Club
Serious
Timeblazers
Dinosapien
The Future is Wild
Time Warp Trio
Growing Up Creepie
Grossology
Kenny the Shark

 

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