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NEW YORK — The Hub, the kid-targeted joint venture of Discovery Communications and toy-giant Hasbro. Inc., announced nine new programs for the 2011-12 season including a music competition show, multiple series based on Hasbro games and a series of animated specials called the Secret Millionaire’s Club that feature Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett teaching kids about business.
The network launched last October into the teeth of an increasingly crowded kids market, taking over Discovery Kids 60 million homes and hiring veteran children’s television executive Margaret Loesch as president and CEO. Targeting children K-11 as well as their parents – The Hub is averaging just 62,000 viewers (total day), a drop of 23 percent since its launch, and 107,000 total viewers in primetime, a decline of 18 percent.
Loesch admits that the network “has a ways to go” in building up its ratings.
“Would I like to have bigger ratings, you bet,” she says. “But it just takes time. It’s a process.”
The partnership with Hasbro gives the network access to the toy maker’s popular brands including My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, Strawberry Shortcake and The Transformers. And shows featuring all of those characters are among The Hub’s ten returning series. Meanwhile, the net will launch new series based on Hasbro games Clue, Life, Scrabble and Kaijudo as well as a second Transformers series.
Clue is a live-action miniseries featuring six teens brought together after witnessing a crime. The Game of Life and Scrabble Showdown are game shows. Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters is an animated spinoff of the Hasbro trading card game. And Rescue Bots is an animated half-hour inspired by The Transformers. All five projects are from Hasbro Studios.
Loesch has no qualms about putting so much Hasbro-branded programming on the network and indeed the bread and butter of kids television is not ad revenue but merchandizing. Because the company has a stake in the network, The Hub does not pay full license fees for programming from Hasbro Studios.
“It’s challenging as a new startup to get producers who can co-finance their shows,” says Loesch, adding that she’s fine with the ratio of Hasbro and independently produced programs on the network’s schedule.
“We still have a lot of balance. When you’re the new kid on the block and the underdog you need to have marquis value properties that will attract an audience before you can build a lot of original programming.”
The net is also beefing up primetime offerings, acquiring more than 300 episodes of the popular Mark Burnett game show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, which airs in first run on Fox.
There is also a primetime singing competition series from songwriter Evan Bogart, who has worked with pop stars including Rihanna and Beyonce. Majors & Minors will follow 16 performers as they are mentored by recording industry stalwarts including Leona Lewis, Jordin Sparks, Sean Kingston and Ryan Tedder of One Republic. And while no one is ever voted off, the winner will receive a recording deal with RCA/Jive.
Potential contestants will be able to apply online in the coming weeks with production slated to begin this spring for a late September bow. The age range will be between 8 and 14, and The Hub is looking for contestants representing a range of ages and geographical areas.
The series is from Boardwalk Entertainment Group in partnership with Sony Music’s RCA/Jive Label Group and BMI. Tim Bogart and Gary A. Randall are the executive producers.
When Loesch presents the network’s new slate to advertisers this evening in New York, she’ll talk up The Hub’s “value” versus the larger kids networks such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which command top ad rates.
“Let’s face it, Nickelodeon is doing a great job, they can make very tough deals,” she says. “So the advertisers don’t really get many breaks. So [advertisers] are looking for where they can make more creative deals. And I don’t mean necessarily cheap. But they know that they can work with us and deliver some great value for their clients.”
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