The Walt Disney Co.-owned Disney Junior debuts as a 24-hour channel on Friday (March 23), joining Nickelodeon’s
Nick Jr. and NBCUniversal’s Sprout in the preschool and toddler-targeted cable space. An offshoot
of Disney Channel’s daily morning programming block, it will replace Disney-owned SoapNet on many cable,
telco-TV and satellite-TV lineups. Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead spoke with Disney
Junior Worldwide senior vice president, original programming and general manager Nancy Kanter ahead
of the launch.
MCN: What are your expectations for Disney Junior going
into this week’s launch?
Nancy Kanter: The Disney Junior block on Disney
Channel could not be in better shape. We’ve had our
biggest yearly audience in the [morning] daypart and
we have the No. 1 show with Jake and the Neverland
Pirates for boys 2 to 5. We couldn’t ask to be in a better
position to launch
the channel because
our shows are working;
our awareness of
Disney Junior is growing
as a brand for kids.
MCN: How many
of SoapNet’s 75
will you have at
NK: We’ll be in about
30 million [homes]
when we launch,
and that will be in all the major markets. We have cable
deals with Comcast, Time Warner [Cable and] Bright
House[Networks], and as the other deals with other
cable distributors come up for negotiations and renewal,
we’ll be adding subscribers to it. We always
knew it would be a slow build — it wasn’t going to be
a light-switch turnaround — so this is what we had anticipated.
MCN: Much like Disney Channel, Disney Junior will not
have traditional advertisers, but rather sponsorships.
How often will they run?
NK: Exactly. We’ve taken sponsorships within the Disney
Junior block over the past several years, so there are deals
with companies like Lego/Duplo — those kind of very
appropriate sponsors for our demo. I don’t know exactly
what the amount of airtime is, but it’s very much within
a small window of time
and very specifi cally
monitored by us so it’s
not a very overwhelming
amount of sponsorships.
It’s very much like the
MCN: You’re launching
into a field that has
competitors such Nick
Jr. and Sprout. How do
you see Disney Junior
from those other channels
in the category?
NK: I think we’ve been really clear from when we rebranded
Playhouse Disney to Disney Junior about a year or so
ago about where we wanted to differentiate ourselves and
The first thing is, our age demo is slightly broader — we
went from just the preschool demo of [ages] 2 to 5, which
is really where Sprout and Nick Jr. target, to more of a 2 to
7 network, so that we can keep kids as the bridge into that
older tween programming.
The other is really in the kind of shows that we’re making.
We said as part of our whole brand vision that we’re
really about storytelling — very Disney kind of storytelling
that touches you and makes that emotional
connection. It’s not that we’re backing off or abandoning
learning in any sense. But all of the research
and advice that we’ve had from many, many different
kinds of educational consultants and developmental
consultants for kids is that story is really the pathway
to learning for kids of this age.
MCN: Besides the animated series Doc McStuffi ns, with
which you’ll launch the network, what are some of the
new shows that will be on Disney Junior?
NK: We’ve acquired Guess How Much I Love You, which
is based on the popular children’s book, [and] Gasbar
and Lisa, which is a softer, gentler show. We’re also producing
a series of really lovely shorts that we’re calling
Quiet Is …, which are these little films about what end of
the day is like. They sort of capture the feeling of Disney
Junior — the feeling that mom and child have at the end
of the day when you just want to snuggle up and relax
and wind down.
You’ll see a new season of A Poem Is …, with a stellar
roster of talent including Viola Davis and John Leguizamo,
Owen Wilson and Jessica Alba narrating these
In the fall, we’ve got a Jake primetime special, we have
a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse special, and we have our first
princess series, Sofia the First, which will launch as a
movie and then as a series in the first part of 2013.
We’ve also created small interstitial spots that incorporate
some of the heritage characters — 101 Dalmatians
and Ms. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the
Beast — that we animated into short, interstitial videos
that just touch and remind you that you’re watching
These characters are so iconic for us that the minute
you see the undersea creatures from The Little Mermaid,
it’s clear that you are watching Disney.