New children's TV channel debuts


The Hub debuts Sunday at 10 a.m. ET, and will give viewers a sampling that day of some of the programming it will be rolling out over the next six months.

"This is the last great opportunity to launch a great kids' business," said Margaret Loesch, the network's CEO. The veteran television executive helped start up Fox's children's business.

Discovery Kids is seen in about 60 million U.S. homes with cable and satellite, slightly more than half the homes with TV. Unhappy with the ratings, Discovery Communications accepted $300 million from Hasbro Inc. last year to start over in a joint venture. It's virtually impossible these days for any new network to start with that many homes unless it is taking the space of an old one.

Hasbro will contribute "Transformers Prime" and "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," programs based on characters that are also Hasbro toys.

Other shows include Jim Henson's "Fraggle Rock," "Meerkat Manor," "Men in Black," "Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Adventures," "The Twisted Whiskers Show" and "Batman Beyond." Early testing showed enthusiasm for "Family Game Night," a prime-time show designed to bring youngsters and their parents together to watch competition in games such as "Sorry" and "Operation."

Loesch said she believed popular children's' networks Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel are starting to offer more programming aimed at a teen and tween audience, leaving a chance to gain a foothold among younger viewers.

"I think they'll be successful," said Derek Baine, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan, who focuses on cable network businesses. "They have a lot of money behind them and a lot of powerful brand names in Hasbro to leverage."

The Hub can't pay as much in licensing fees to producers of children's series, but will compete by allowing the creators to maintain ownership of their shows, Loesch said. That's often a sticking point in deals with the larger children's' networks, she said.

Baine said he saw that less as a strategy and more a cost-saving effort; Discovery has found that launching Oprah Winfrey's new network was more expensive than originally planned.

Hasbro's involvement has raised concerns about exposing the young audience to too much commercialism. Loesch said it's the same issue at Nick and Disney.

"When you see what we're doing, we will pass any smell test," she said.

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