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Upfronts 2014: Network Seeks to Be Hub for Family Viewing


Kids channel the Hub Network plans to develop original programming for prime time designed for families to watch together.

The channel, owned by toy company Hasbro and Discovery Communications, is presenting its new focus to upfront advertisers, who are looking for family friendly content that appeals to both adults and children.

Since its launch in 2010, The Hub has successfully courted co-viewing audiences with its Family Game Night show. In September, it will be joined in prime time by a new reality show, Parents Just Dont Understand.

Hosted and executive produced by former N Sync band member Joey Fatone, Parents Just Dont Understand will give real kids and their parents a chance to swap places and see the other persons point of view, Freaky Friday style.

Margaret Loesch, CEO of Hub Network, says Parents Just Dont Understand is the first of a slate of original shows designed for family viewing.

Wed been putting on primarily acquired programming and we think now is the time to stake a bigger claim with families watching together, Loesch says. Were going to do scripted comedies, were doing this unscripted show, and well be having other shows well usher in. We really want to make prime time a robust place for families to come together and watch together and we want adults to find it as relevant as kids.

Deals for the other shows are still being finalized. One scripted sitcom is supposed to launch in the fourth quarter, another in the first quarter. A series based on what Loesch described as an Internet sensation, is schedule to launch in the summer, to build momentum for the fall. Were looking to create a diverse slate of different types of shows, she says. The company in January launched a new on-air look designed to be engaging to todays families, she added.

Other kids networks, including Viacoms Nickelodeon, Time Warners Cartoon Network and Comcasts Sprout have also been trying to appeal to advertisers looking to reach families viewing together.

Weve certainly seen a lot of comments in the press where theyre claiming families now too, Loesch says. Hopefully we present something that is differentiated and unique and well succeed. But Ive never minded competition. I think its validating and it makes us all work a little harder.

Last year, Hub Network had ad revenues of $55.8 million, according to an estimate by SNL Kagan. By comparison, Nickelodeons ad revenues were $1.04 billion and Cartoon Networks were $508.3 million.

The Hub Network conducted research to support its focus on family programming.

Nicole Cleary, Hub Networks VP of national ad sales, says one study found that 86% of parents and 84% of kids want a channel they can watch together. Only a quarter of parents are satisfied with the content out there, the study found.

To me that says more than opportunity, that says, wow, were missing something that we dont even know were missing in prime time, Cleary says. The number one goal of all parents [and children] is they want a happy family and I think were going to give them the safe seal to experience television together again.

The data won over Hubs board of directors. And the network is counting on the programs to appeal to advertisers.

Cleary says Hub began making presentations two weeks ago and that she still has about 100 meetings to go.

Consistently since weve launched, Family Game Night has been an advertiser favorite from the sponsorship perspective, only because of the content, but because of who it was reaching, she said. Reaching mom and speaking to family is becoming increasingly important for a variety of different categories, ones that you wouldnt necessarily think are endemic to a quote-unquote kids network.

Family Game Night has been sponsored by retailers, toy companies, and packaged goods makers. Because its still a kids network, Hub avoids product integrations, but it creates live action vignettes and co-branded tune in spots that makes the sponsor feel like they own the show.

Cleary expects to do the same with Parents Just Dont Understand.

What I hope this does is open us up to categories like retail and auto and wireless and travel and tourism, she said.
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