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Comcast Corp., PBS, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment plc will team up on an ad-supported digital-cable network for preschoolers that will launch in fall 2005. A companion video-on-demand service will launch even earlier, providing 50 hours of programming starting in early 2005.

Programming, which will be drawn from the combined 4,000-episode library of the companies, will include Bob the Builder, Barney, and Thomas & Friends (all HIT shows).

The as-yet-unnamed channel will benefit from PBS's the second-run rights to all Sesame Workshop and HIT programming.

Workshop executives were not talking about which of its shows would be available because of other current licensing deals, but Sesame Street is expected to be part of the mix. Viacom (Noggin) currently has the rights to those shows through September '05, which might help explain the fall '05 launch.

Sesame Workshop's other titles include Dragon Tales, Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, 321 Contact, and Electric Company.

The channel will be primarily supported by license fees. It is expected to have some ad component, though the ads would not be in the body of the shows. That model could include traditional 30-second spots between shows, or extended sponsorship credits, or sponsorship of dayparts or programming blocks, according to one source familiars with the proposed channel.