Pasadena, Calif. -- In a surprise move, the Public
Broadcasting Service will launch a digital kids' channel this summer that's very
similar to what Nickelodeon and Children's Television Workshop are attempting to do
with Noggin, the educational children's network that they are rolling out Feb. 2.
At the Television Critics Association winter session here,
PBS officials outlined their plans for PBS Kids Channel, a 24-hour commercial-free
interactive network meant to be carried by PBS stations as a digital service.
The network -- part of a larger, sweeping PBS Kids
initiative -- will air shows such as Teletubbies, Barney & Friends,
Wishbone and Zoboomafoo, PBS president Ervin Duggan said.
Noggin officials last week played down the potential
competition from PBS Kids, which will have very limited distribution when it debuts in
July and during its first few years.
Seven PBS member stations launched digital services in
November. And Duggan said he expects PBS stations reaching one-third of the nation to be
capable of multicasting PBS Kids by the end of the year.
The catch is that only homes with digital-TV sets -- very
few households, at this point -- can get the signals.