The Hub Gets Ready to Roll Into Kids’ Market

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Margaret Loesch and
other executives spent seven
hours engaged in “a dress rehearsal”
last week, watching
what will amount to the first
two days of programming on
The Hub, the joint venture
kids’ network from Discovery
and Hasbro.

“We liked about 99% of what we
saw,” Loesch, the venture’s CEO
and a veteran programmer, said.
“We identified a few glitches, but
we have time to change.”

Actually, there isn’t all that
much time. Announced in April
2009, The Hub, relaunching on
the backbone of Discovery Kids,
will begin reaching 60 million
homes on Oct. 10. It will start with
a preview, before settling into
regular schedule the next day.

Hasbro, the No. 2 toymaker,
paid $300 million for a 50% stake
in the joint venture. Hasbro studios
will be a significant supplier.

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
(Twisted Whiskers) and
vintage series (Fraggle Rock,
The Wonder Years
), as well as
movies.

The 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 boysfocused
sibling, Disney XD.

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.”

The Hub has established dayparts
and time periods geared for
such occurrences, with the “Hub-
Bub” 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.

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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