A TV playdate for Discovery, Hasbro

Companies combine to relaunch kids network

Discovery Communications is rebranding another of its channels, partnering with toy giant Hasbro in a 50-50 venture to relaunch Discovery Kids Network.

As part of the deal, in which Discovery will receive $300 million, the venture will take a minority interest in the U.S. version of Hasbro.com, which will expand to offer video, games and other digital content.

The rebranded channel's name has not been finalized but won't include Hasbro. A search is under way for a CEO to head the network, eyed for a late-2010 debut, with content aimed at boys and girls 14 and under.

Last year, Discovery Communications — which owns seven U.S. channels, led by flagship Discovery Channel and TLC — formed a 50-50 partnership with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo to relauch Discovery Health as the Oprah Winfrey Network. Additionally, Discovery Home Channel was rebranded with the eco-moniker Planet Green and Discovery Times as Investigation Discovery.

"Discovery Kids is unusual as it's not squarely in our wheelhouse of nonfiction programming, and we felt we needed a great partner to take it to the next level as a brand that enlightens, empowers, educates and entertains," Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said.

Hasbro, flying high on the success of Paramount's partnership with its Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises and on a six-year deal with Universal, was seeking to similarly leverage some of its brands in television.

The company previously worked with Disney Channel on a "My Little Pony" animated series and has a "Transformers" series on Cartoon Network.

Looking into the three leaders in the kids TV space — Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon — Hasbro realized "it is very difficult to get a third party into their system and get into the proper (programming) real estate," said WMA's John Fogelman, who brokered the deal for Hasbro. "We couldn't do it without an ownership stake."

Hasbro approached Discovery in June.

The company's brands that will be developed as TV series for the new channel include Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Romper Room, Cranium, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, Game of Life, Tonka and Transformers.

Hasbro was advised by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch & Co. Discovery was advised by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Nellie Andreeva reported from Los Angeles; Georg Szalai reported from New York.
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