New York -- Looking to maintain its audience share in a
world of fragmentation, Fox Family Channel is marching into the digital arena by creating
two new networks -- one for boys, and the other for girls -- which will launch next year
and eventually be ad-supported, officials said last week.
The Boyz Channel and The Girlz Channel will be offered to
both cable operators and direct-broadcast satellite providers, and each will have its own
companion Web site, Fox Family president and CEO Rich Cronin said. The channels will
launch as digital services, but they will also be available for analog carriage, he added.
Fox Family's strategy of individually targeting each
gender with different networks raised some eyebrows last week, especially from its
competitors in the kids' market.
"Philosophically, it couldn't be further from
what we do," said Cyma Zarghami, general manager of Nickelodeon. "We target both
demos I hope that when these two channels get on the air, they don't diminish
the progress that's been made on behalf of gender differences."
Both networks are targeting kids two to 14 years old. The
daytime lineups will be aimed at children, but at 9 p.m., the programming will switch to
shows aimed at parents. The Boyz Channel will have a marquee original show on parenting
issues related to boys in the evenings, while The Girlz Channel will have its own
counterpart to that show, on child-rearing issues related to girls.
During a press conference here last Tuesday -- during which
students from P.S. 101 in East Harlem ran in on cue to cheer on the announcement -- Cronin
said Fox Family has to create multiple channels in order to grab self space and to keep
its audience share in this age of fractionalization.
"The reality of the world is that more and more
networks are going to be launched," he said. "Our strategy is to have a number
of networks out there so that our combined audience stays solid."
Most of the major programmers have launched digital
networks or plan to roll some out shortly. For example, during a panel discussion last
week, Dawn Tarnofsky, Lifetime Television's senior vice president of programming,
referred to its digital offering, Lifetime Movie Network.
"We have other networks on the drawing board,"
A spokesman later said Lifetime has no firm plans or
announcements yet about additional digital channels.
With its two digital networks, Fox Family -- a joint
venture between Saban Entertainment and News Corp. -- is adding more competition to a
kids' TV arena that's already grown increasingly crowded.
This past spring, Disney Channel spun off Toon Disney. Fox
Family relaunched Aug. 15 as a children's network by day. And next year, Nick will
roll out several digital channels -- Nick Sports & Games and Nick Too, as well as an
educational service, Noggin.
At least one operator doesn't think that there's
a glut of kids' fare, believing that children's networks can help to spur
subscribers to buy digital packages.
"I welcome more children's programming into the
digital arena," said Linda Stuchell, vice president of programming for Harron
Communications Corp. "We are going through the budget process and formulating our
digital-rollout plans for next year, and we're looking for all ways to drive folks to
that digital tier."
Cronin said he expects operators to take both channels, and
not just one or the other, adding that there is no rate card yet. There aren't any
carriage deals yet, either, but Cronin expects to have wall-to-wall talks with operators
about the two new channels at the Western Show in December.
He defended Fox Family's decision to create different
channels for both genders, saying that research shows that boys' TV-viewing patterns
and tastes are different from those of girls.
"We are not stereotyping the two," said Cronin,
who has two sons and two daughters. "The reality is that boys and girls are different
...There are some things that boys love and some things that girls love."
Programming for the new networks will come from the Fox
Family Worldwide library, as well as some acquisitions and some original fare, according
He added that Fox Family plans to name two different
advisory boards, with child-care experts as members, to guide the direction that both
Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks,
questioned how well the Fox library could support two new networks.
"We launched Toon Disney from a very strong Disney
Channel," she said. "Consumers wanted a cartoon network comprised of all-Disney
product My question is: Are they launching from strength? Can the library support
two 'digi-nets?' That library was produced a while ago."
As for separate boys' and girls' channels,
Zarghami noted that a longtime TV-programming philosophy had been that boys wouldn't
watch shows with girls in the lead. But she added that Nick has cast strong girl leads in
series that attract kids of both sexes fairly equally.
"This really is about good characters, not
gender," she said. "It's possible to be successful with girls as leads and
boys as leads."
For total day, Nick's demographics are split about
50-50 girls and boys, she added.