Sprout Rebranding as Universal Kids; 'Top Chef Junior' Spinoff Ordered

TOP CHEF - Padma Lakshmi Tom Colicchio - Still - H - 2016
Paul Cheney/Bravo

Another cable channel is going the rebranding route.

Sprout, NBCUniversal's kids cable channel, will become Universal Kids in September, as the network looks to expand its focus from 2- to 11-year-olds.

The Sept. 9 launch of Universal Kids will coincide with several new series and acquisitions, most notably the launch of Top Chef Junior. Coming off the heels of the success of MasterChef Junior, the spinoff of Bravo's long-running cooking competition will see 12 young chefs competing for the title when it premieres in October.

Acquisitions include Hank Zipzer, the animated series based on the best-selling children's books by actor Henry Winkler, which will make its stateside debut on the cable channel. Australian series Nowhere Boys, which hails from NBCUniversal's international production arm, and Little Lunch will also move to Universal Kids, along with Canadian dancer drama The Next Step.

Tow DreamWorks animated series, Netflix's All Hail King Julien and Cartoon Network's DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk, will also move to Universal Kids as part of an increased collaboration between Universal Kids and DreamWorks Animation Television.

Sprout is currently home to DreamWorks' Noddy Toyland Detective, as well as Floogals, Dot., Nina's World and the upcoming Kody Kapow, which will launch in July.

“We see enormous potential to grow our audience in this space and create the Universal Kids platform for families to experience together,” said NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Lifestyle Networks President Frances Berwick. “NBCUniversal is invested in the kids and family business, and the company believes in working together — we will benefit from promotion across our portfolio of networks and across the company through support that is unparalleled in the industry.”

Added Universal Kids general manager Deirdre Brennan: “The launch of a channel that represents the world of NBCUniversal family brands with great TV content at its center makes tremendous sense for our business. Just as children grow, Sprout is growing into Universal Kids — and we will reflect all that is universal about being a kid through connection, storytelling and entertainment. A place that reflects their life and passions.”

The demise of Sprout is one of several major changes on the cable lineup as the threat of skinny bundles looms large. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment shuttered its crime-focused Cloo channel and is preparing to do the same with the male-focused Esquire Network. Oxygen will undergo a rebrand this summer to focus more heavily on crime series like Snapped. Viacom is also preparing to shutter Spike Television, which will rebrand as Paramount Television in 2018.

Sprout originally launched in 2005 as a joint partnership between Comcast and PBS. However, Comcast has had full ownership since 2013.