Hasbro touts The Hub

Toy giant talks TV, film at Toy Fair

NEW YORK -- Despite strong established competitors, Hasbro has much confidence in The Hub, its kids channel joint venture with Discovery Communications.

Hasbro president and CEO Brian Goldner and his team discussed latest plans for the network during an investor event, which was Webcast from Toy Fair on Friday.

Among other programming, Goldner for the first time publicly confirmed that red-hot Hollywood duo Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci ("Transformers 2," "Star Trek") is working on an animated "Transformers" show for the Hub (HR 2/1).

He mentioned that some of the talent behind "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" will work on a show for the channel as well.

The Hub is scheduled to launch this fall.

A core target audience for it will be children aged 6-12 and their families, while kids TV competitors often focus more on teens and tweens, Goldner said in providing more details on the Hub's strategic positioning.

He also announced that the channel will program three day parts: a pre-school morning block (for kids aged 2-5 and their parents), an afternoon block for kids aged 6-12 and a later programming block.

Programs for The Hub are expected to come from Hasbro Studios and other production firms and include animation and live action offers, game show ideas, series, specials and movies.

On the marketing front, Goldner said that Hasbro games boxes will later this year include stickers to promote The Hub.

But at least until next year, when merchandising and other benefits are expected to start materializing, Hasbro will pump a lot of start-up investment into the channel to brand, program and promote it.

The company expects its earnings per share to be diluted by 25 cents-30 cents in 2010 due to investment in the Hub and Hasbro's studio.

Hasbro COO David Hargreaves on Friday reiterated that the toy giant expects to grow revenue and earnings in 2010 despite strong sales for "Transformers" last year thanks to the franchise's movie sequel.

Despite 2009 revenue of $592 million for "Transformers" toys and $127 million for "GI Joe," the executive said he is very confident the company will grow.

He highlighted that "Transformers" sales declined less than 25% in 2008, the year after the first franchise movie.

"What kept "Transformers" strong in 2008 was the impact of strong DVD sales at end of 2007 and new television program in 2008," and the same is the case following last year's sequel, Hargreaves said.

He cited "Iron Man 2" and "Toy Story 3" as key releases of the year without Hasbro creative input, for which the firm expects strong toy sales.

For "Iron Man 2," Hasbro has "relatively high expectations," given that it is one of only two high-profile boy movies this year, said Hargreaves.

While Hollywood has focused on Hasbro's push into film and TV, the COO on Friday highlighted that a majority of the firm's revenue still comes from games without movie tie-ins. In 2009, $4.1 billion in total revenue included only about $720 million in toy sales related to major movies.

One of the continuing success stories is "Monopoly," which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Hargreaves said it expects to do so in style with a version for Apple's new iPad.
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