PBS Kids Readies Launch

Publish date:
Updated on

Set to launch today (Sept. 6), PBS Kids Channel will get some cable carriage -- on
community-access channels initially -- and it will seek more, according to PBS officials.

PBS has licensed its PBS Kids Channel -- a 24-hour
commercial-free service aimed at children -- to 32 PBS TV stations so far. Of those 32, 19
said they plan to air the new kids' service on second channels they have -- cable channels
-- in their markets.

In some of these cases, the PBS stations have been
programming PEG-access (public, educational and government) channels under their local
cable operators' franchises, and they will now use those channels for PBS Kids.

"A lot of our affiliates have several educational
channels on their cable systems as part of franchise agreements," PBS Distribution
Services vice president Gwendolyn Wood said. "Some are PEG channels. And they're
analog channels."

In addition to going to PBS stations, PBS Kids is also
seeking carriage from cable operators and direct-broadcast satellite providers. "We
are pursuing cable carriage of the channel on the national level and the local
level," Wood said.

PBS has starting talking with MSOs to try to strike
corporate-carriage deals with them just like other networks have, according to Wood. Such
affiliation deals would give local cable systems a model for their pacts to carry PBS Kids
in their markets, she added.

Of the 32 stations PBS Kids has signed up so far, nine will
broadcast it as a digital multicast channel, while others will air it part-time on their
own stations for a minimum of five hours per day.

PBS Kids will feature some of PBS' most popular preschool
series -- Arthur, Barney & Friends and Teletubbies --as
well as the debut of Dragon Tales, which is also premiering on PBS stations today.

PBS Kids will run shows such as Barney & Friends one
day after they air on regular PBS, and its lineup will include programs such as Mister
Rogers' Neighborhood
and Wishbone.

The new PBS Kids offering will compete against cable's
myriad of children's programming -- particularly networks that air preschool shows,
including Nickelodeon, Noggin (a partnership of Nick and Children's Television Workshop),
The Learning Channel, Disney Channel, Fox Family Channel and Fox Family's two upcoming
digital networks aimed at boys and girls.

One PBS station planning to debut PBS Kids from day one is
WNIN in Evansville, Ind. President and general manager David Dial said WNIN has two PEG
channels (12 and 13), as well as a channel for its core station (9), on its cable system.
The system used to be owned by Tele-Communications Inc., but Insight Communications Co.
bought it.

"We've had two separate cable channels for 10 years
under a franchise agreement," he added.

WNIN has actually been programming channel 12 as a kids'
channel with PBS programming, while it has used 13 as a generic higher-education channel.
Now, WNIN will air PBS Kids on channel 12. "Now they are packaging the kids'
programming," Dial said.

He added that he also got a channel from an overbuilder,
Sigecom, to use for PBS Kids.

PBS has 172 licensee companies that own 350 TV stations,
Wood said, adding that 61 of those licensees operate second channels -- cable channels.

Noggin general manager Tom Ascheim conceded that his
network and PBS Kids are similar in that they offer educational programming and they are
both commercial-free, but that's where he thinks the similarities end.

Noggin is focused on two- to 12-year-olds, rather than
preschoolers, and Noggin is a total 24-hour network, while PBS Kids will have some
part-time carriage, Ascheim said.