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Discovery and Hasbro's Hub kids' channel gears up for launch

August 6, 2010 |  9:57 am

The Hub, a new kids' cable channel being launched by Discovery Communications and Hasbro Inc., will spend roughly $20 million to hype its Oct. 10 launch and is setting its sights on younger viewers as other kids' channels aim for teens.

Although the Hub, which will launch in about 60 million homes, is still keeping its schedule close to its vest, the network's Chief Executive Margaret Loesch, a veteran kids' television programmer, thinks there is an opening for the channel to woo kids and the advertisers trying to reach them.

"Our competition is starting to age up," Loesch said at the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour  in Los Angeles. The Hub will focus primarily on viewers in the 6-to-12 age range.

Established networks, particularly Disney XD and Cartoon Network, have been going after slightly older teens and often focus their efforts on boys versus girls. Nickelodeon, the reigning kids' channel, and Disney Channel are also becoming more known for shows that appeal to teens and tweens.  

Even if there is an opening to snag younger viewers, the Hub will face an uphill battle. Though 60 million homes is a solid start, it will still trail other kids' channels in reach and it will take several years to find parity in reach.

With Hasbro as a partner, there has been some concern from advocacy groups that the channel will be more interested in promoting toys than enlightening and entertaining kids. Loesch said about 25% of the cable channel's programming will be tied to Hasbro, including "Transformers Prime," a series based on the company's highly successful characters, and a game show version of "Clue."

However, the Hub will also have other original and acquired content, including "Pound Puppies," a cartoon that features the voices of Betty White and Eric McCormack. It will also have a game show block on Friday nights aimed at families.

In an interview, Loesch said that so far she has not heard grumbling about the concerns of advocacy groups from the media rather than the groups themselves, but she is aware that the channel will be under a microscope when it launches later this year.

"We're being so careful about content, I'm hoping we'll side-step any brouhaha," she said.

Hoping to appeal more to parents and kids, the Hub will not carry a full advertising load in much of its programming. Although federal regulations limit the amount of advertising in programming aimed at kids to 10.5 minutes an hour on weekends and 12 minutes an hour on weekdays, shows on the Hub that are aimed at preschoolers will carry just six minutes of local and national advertising. Shows that are geared to young children will also have fewer commercials than allowed by the Federal Communications Commission.

On the advertising front, Loesch said only one major toy manufacturer has steered clear of the Hub because of its ties to Hasbro. She declined to say which advertiser, but people familiar with the situation say Hasbro rival Mattel has not exactly been rushing out to buy time on the Hub.

Interestingly, the Hub is selling advertising time to other kids' channels, but has not been able to buy commercials on its rivals. Loesch said the network will buy local commercials on cable systems carrying Nickelodeon, Cartoon and other kids' channels to promote itself.

The Hub has also bought a few reruns, including sitcoms "The Wonder Years" and "Doogie Howser, M.D." That  strategy was embraced by Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite, which in its early days featured reruns of classic sitcoms. Loesch said she is not trying to duplicate Nick at Nite but is  looking to find popular reruns that kids and parents can watch together.

-- Joe Flint
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