Disney Channel, which now reaches almost 42 million homes,
has a whole slate of new original programming in the works, with plans for its first two
game shows, several made-for-TV movies and new series.
The new programming helps to fulfill two of Disney's
goals, according to Rich Ross, the network's senior vice president of programming and
production. The new series, including the game shows, are targeted to "middle-aged
kids" -- nine to 11 years old -- Ross said. And the movies are part of Disney's
plan to air 12 original movies per year, up from three or four, he added.
Disney has given the green light to its first game shows,
placing hefty orders for 65 episodes each of Mad Libs and Off the Wall. Both
will debut at the end of this month, and both will be stripped, most likely between 5 p.m.
and 7 p.m., Ross said.
Mad Libs is from Dick Clark Productions, and it is
based on the popular book series of that same name. Off the Wall, from Vin Di Bona
Productions, features in-studio kid contestants competing against a video wall of
challengers of all ages.
As part of its new original slate, Disney has also ordered
13 episodes each of two additional new series, Jett Jackson and So Weird. Jett
Jackson, debuting in October, is a coming-of-age adventure show about a 13-year-old
television star who longs to have a normal life. So Weird, produced by Henry
Winkler's Fair Dinkum Productions and starring MacKenzie Phillips, chronicles the
adventures of a traveling family, and it starts in December.
As for original movies, Disney will debut Brink!,
about the fast-paced world of in-line skating, Aug. 29. And it is also now in production
on Halloweentown, starring Debbie Reynolds, and on Zenon -- Girl of the 21st
Disney also said last week that its subscriber base stands
at 41.8 million homes, with around 38 million of those on basic and about 4 million on
pay. The network has been on a drive to convert its pay homes to basic carriage.
Disney's base has increased 56 percent from last July, officials said. The service
gained almost 1 million subscribers in June alone.
As part of its summer plans, Disney's overnight
programming block, "Vault Disney," will be airing vintage episodes of Mickey
Mouse Club from the 1970s, as well as Disney movies and specials from that era.