5:30am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
Sprout Ramps Up Original Programming With New Series 'Kody Kapow,' Three Holiday Specials, 'Ruff-Ruff' Renewal (Exclusive)
Sprout, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment's 24-hour preschool network, has greenlighted a new animated series, plus three holiday specials based on original series, as part of its effort to ramp up original programming. In addition, the cable network has renewed Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave for a second season.
New series Kody Kapow centers on a Chinese-American boy named Kody who spends the summer with his grandparents in a small village in China. His grandfather, a martial arts master, teaches Kody ancient lessons of mindfulness, which Kody employs as he and his cousin Hana set off on adventures in the village on a quest to solve problems and help their neighbors.
The series is created by Alexander Bar and developed for television by Robin Stein and Dan Franklin. Eryk Casemiro is executive producing for Zodiak Kids Studios, with the animation to be produced by Canadian studio Arc Productions.
The show, set to debut on Sprout in early 2017, is part of the network's emphasis on content that families can watch together.
Meanwhile, Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave will return with new episodes in fall 2016. The network says the show is one of its highest-reaching shows among women 18-49, with more than 2 million viewers in the demo last quarter.
"Parents tells us they feel perfectly safe leaving their kids in front of Sprout, and they love watching the shows with them, too; that's half the battle with kids programming," says Frances Berwick, president of lifestyle networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, who added oversight of Sprout last month.
In addition, the network has slated a Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave Christmas special to debut in the fall, as well as a Hanukkah special for Nina's World, Sprout's original animated series starring Rita Moreno. Also on tap is a Terrific Trucks Christmas movie based on the new original live-action series set to premiere on Sprout in June.
Kody Kapow joins other new series including recent entries Floogals and Little People and the upcoming Dot., based on the book by Randi Zuckerberg, on Sprout's original programming slate. The network is aiming to have 50 percent of its schedule comprise originals by year's end, up from 38 percent as of now.
"In the last year and a half, we really started investing in originals," Berwick says. "There is so much love for this brand. When we look at social media, the audience is so engaged with the brand and are so supportive. They understand what it is, that it's a safe environment and is differentiated from other children's TV offerings out there. The fact that the audience already perceives this and loves this, and the fact that NBCUniversal really believes in this brand and is investing in originals, is great. We're really ramping up in a dramatic way."
Berwick adds that she's aiming to announce a new head of programming soon, following the departure of Sprout president Sandy Wax last month.
"That person will be tasked with driving our incredibly rapid growth and ramping up our accelerated development," she says. "We feel good about where this brand is going."