In 1996, Discovery Communications, the owners of basic cable networks The Discovery Channel and TLC, launched four channels. The first, Animal Planet, was a rousing success. The second, The Science Channel, continues to this day with a decent fanbase. The third channel was called CBS Eye on People, but later shifted guises to Discovery People, Discovery Civilization, and Discovery Times, until its current incarnation, Investigation Discovery. The fourth network was Discovery Kids. Fourth is a very apt description for Discovery Kids. Despite trying their best with several original series and even a Saturday morning block on NBC (also a fourth network), the channel has always remained fourth in the third-tier children’s programming market behind Nicktoons Network and Toon Disney. Even Cartoon Network’s much-forgotten sister network Boomerang has the occasional schedule change or show addition. Eventually, Discovery Kids stopped trying altogether and just ran their current library on auto-pilot for several years.
Times change. The third-tier market, once a garbage dump used by basic cable networks for repeats and shows they didn’t want, has recently blossomed in a new renaissance. The once-aging Toon Disney has been reborn into the successful Disney 😄 last year. Nicktoons is steadily building an impressive slate of programming, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragon Ball Z, and recently Power Rangers. Along with toy company Hasbro, Discovery is giving the kids market another try with the upcoming relaunch of Discovery Kids, the Hub, slated to premiere October 10th of this year. The upcoming slate of shows look diverse and promising, but will all the effort in the world prevent the Hub from becoming an encore of Discovery Kids?
Among the various projects announced for the Hub, there are:
- New series based on Hasbro properties such as G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Transformers, and more
- Various new series from Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East
- Popular off-network shows like Fraggle Rock and Meerkat Manor
- Specialized programming blocks for all ages, from toddlers to families
- Reruns of older series and Discovery Kids programming
The full press release can be seen here.
I applaud what Discovery and Hasbro are doing. There is some great talent behind the Hub, such as Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends alum Lauren Faust on the new My Little Pony series. They’re also trying provide a great variety of programming for all audiences, a strategy that their competition has since turned their back on. I know that by October, I’ll definitely give the Hub a shot. But the real problem for the Hub is this: will everyone else give them a shot too?
Regardless of all the promising content they bring to the network, the biggest challenge for the Hub is to escape the shadow of Discovery Kids. For years, DK has been considered the “plain-bread” children’s network. Without any sort of cross-demographic appeal or new programming, Discovery Kids became forgotten to most and a laughing-stock to the remainder. The Hub has to make itself known as the anti-DK to gain the viewers’ respect. Let the viewers know that this is not what Discovery Kids was. Discovery Kids was poorly managed. Discovery Kids had a small library of programming. Discovery Kids never tried. Discovery Kids wasn’t ambitious.
The Hub is ambitious. It’ll be a darn shame if all this effort goes to waste, though. Luckily, the executives behind the Hub know this. They’re not busting out of the gate and taking on the competition, like what Disney did recently with their relaunch of Toon Disney. They’re spending their time building a network to be proud about. They’re taking the realistic view on this subject and taking things slow, instead of shortsightedly looking for tons of viewers initially and then giving up at the first sight of a slowdown, like most networks.
What is your opinion on the Hub? Let us know in the comments section below.