Hub marketing chief: 'No road map' for new net

Amber Tarshis outlines challenges in launching kids channel

Amber Tarshis
Discovery-Hasbro kids net faces challenges
The Hub unveils programming schedule

The Hub, the kids network joint venture of Discovery Communications and Hasbro that replaces Discovery Kids, debuts Sunday, and chief marketing officer Amber Tarshis -- a former Warner Bros. and Victoria's Secret executive -- has been busy.

The Hollywood Reporter: You are looking to do something rare: establish a new brand in the kids TV space. How do you approach that?

Amber Tarshis: There is no road map to follow here. But we can launch a new kids and family entertainment brand with the power of Discovery Communications and Hasbro. We have really been focused on how we can harness their power. It's about building brand awareness first and foremost and a desire for folks to tune in to the shows coming to the network at launch. But I don't think there is another network, let alone in the kids space, that has launched with such powerful content that has so much brand equity and nostalgic appeal.

THR: Do you target viewers of Discovery Kids or new ones?

Tarshis: It's complicated. On the one hand, we have a whole strategy for communicating to current viewers of Discovery Kids that on 10/10/10 it will become the Hub and that some of the great Discovery Kids content is carrying over. But at the same time, there will be new content that we hope they will love. This has been active for 2 1/2 to three weeks. That included putting a countdown clock on Discovery Kids.

The real marketing challenge is getting new viewers. There are different groups that [present opportunities]. One is our core [target] audience of kids 6-12 and reaching them through TV and online advertising, print and outdoor. A complementary or secondary group are moms -- and dads -- and making sure they understand our programming will be appropriate for their children 24 hours a day. We also highlight that there are brands that mom grew up with that we are reinventing that she may want to share with her children, things like Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Fraggle Rock.

THR: What are some of the other Discovery networks doing to promote the Hub?

Tarshis: Every single network [in the Discovery family] is contributing in some way. That includes running commercials for the Hub free of charge to us and creating sponsored programming stacks. For example, the mom-targeted morning programming on TLC is sponsored by the Hub. We even have the Military Channel sponsoring a stack "brought to you by the new 'G.I. Joe Renegades.' " A full episode of "Family Game Night" will air on TLC. Two episodes of "Twisted Whiskers" run on Animal Planet. And the Science Channel is running five episodes of our new show "Cosmic Quantum Ray" at 3:30 p.m. every day this week prior to their 4 p.m. kids block.

THR: What role is Hasbro playing in the marketing plan?

Tarshis: We are stickering several million Hasbro packages this fall with a "your new TV channel" message for toys that have shows on our network. In addition, Hasbro has a robust data base of fans that they are tapping to push out e-mail blasts. We'll put a Hub television schedule [in all orders on during the holiday season].

THR: How big is your marketing budget, and how key is marketing beyond the launch?

Tarshis: We'll spend [about] $20 million in the fourth quarter. It's a slow-build strategy. It's about getting it up and running and then sustaining it for the long term as opposed to a short-term movie marketing campaign. For us, this is really measured over the long haul.

THR: Beyond digital, what are some of the nontraditional marketing approaches you have used?

Tarshis: Leveraging the power of existing fan groups and affinity communities. The first event we did was at Comic-Con. To us, it was really important to honor the fanboys of some of the shows we have coming to the network and go to them first with great new content. We are also doing a lot with mommy bloggers to get the word out.