Overcrowding A Problem For Kids

Children's TV marketplace expected to be flat despite new entrants
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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 figures 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

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

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.