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Overcrowding a Problem for Kids

Children’s TV marketplace expected to be fl at despite new entrants 3/16/2010 10:23:00 AM Eastern

The smackdown for the attention of young viewers will get some new heavyweights in 2010. Discovery Communications’ The Hub—its rebrand for Discovery Kids—and SyFy will look to crack open a piece of the billion- dollar-plus market.

But as the kids upfront pitches
get started on March 11 with
Nickelodeon’s presentation
in New York, the emergence
of new players doesn’t necessarily
mean there’s any more
money to go around. While
the scatter market is running
as much as 30% above upfront
levels in other sectors, in the
kids marketplace scatter is just
a tick above upfront rates. The
2009 kids upfront was pegged
at $850 million, according to
industry estimates, and few see
that—or the total ad spend figure—
increasing.

“I would say 2010 is going to
be down versus 2009 as far as
calendar-year spending,” says
Francois Lee, VP and activation
director at MediaVest USA. Lee
does note that major toy companies
reported decent fourth-quarter earnings, and the annual New York
toy fair has generated some buzz.

Kantar Media fi gures puts the overall children’s
cable TV market at $1.175 billion in
2009, down from $1.281 billion in 2008. The
company tracks Nickelodeon, Nick Tunes,
Cartoon Network and Walt Disney Co.’s Disney
Tunes/XD, but not Discovery Kids.

Discovery has said little as yet about its rebranded
kids entrant. A year ago, the factual
giant sold a half-share in Discovery Kids to
toy retailer Hasbro, and will turn the channel
into The Hub this fall under the aegis
of former Fox Kids Network chief Margaret
Loesch. Hasbro paid $300 million for its
share of the channel, but it’s unclear whether
the company, which owns properties such as
G.I. Joe and My Little Pony, will continue
to spend as widely with other services as a
result of its big media investment.

How visible Hasbro’s own brands will be
on the new channel is of keen interest to TV
buyers. “We have to see what programming
they put on and how directly or indirectly
they support it,” Lee says. “I’m sure they’ll
maintain a presence on other networks.
If there’s preferential treatment, I think it
would create issues for other advertisers.”

Also joining the fray will be NBC Universal’s
SyFy. “As of fourth quarter, 13
million 2-11-year-olds were watching,
with 25 million adults living with a child
of those ages,” says Alan Seiffert, senior
VP of SyFy Ventures. “The kids side in
many ways has not been well served, and
we’re in a unique place because our channel
is very special.”

SyFy is looking to break out of its tight
niche as a service for science-fiction aficionados
and aims to embrace the wider theme
of imagination. “What better audience to
grow that with than children,” Seiffert adds.
Kids programming will launch first online
and then is likely to appear on the channel
in the next six months.

Not all players in the space are linear networks.
Comcast, an owner of PBS Sprout,
is also out selling advertisers on its growing
video-on-demand catalog, which has gained
notable traction in the sector.

Diana Kerekes, VP of video content at
Comcast Cable, reports that customers ordered
up a monthly average of 25 million
hours of kids-themed content in 2009. In
terms of usage, customers viewed kids content
70 million times over the same period.

“On Demand is huge for kids; it is our
most-viewed area within the On Demand
system,” Kerekes says. Between 2005 and
2010, Comcast says it has experienced a
370% increase in views of kids shows.

 

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