Discovery shuttles into NBC kids slot

Mar 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

It was a no-brainer for both sides: NBC shed the responsibility for its Saturday morning kids time slot for $8 million a year while Discovery Kids gained the chance to market its brand to 100 million households.
The three-year deal should yield dividends for both players when the Discovery Kids-produced and branded block of programming debuts this fall on NBC.
All four major networks have now exited the business of producing their own kids shows. CBS and ABC have already leased their Saturday morning real estate to sister companies Nickelodeon and Disney, respectively, while Fox sold its Saturday morning time period to 4Kids Entertainment early this year.
While Discovery Kids has yet to announce specific new shows, Marjorie Kaplan, the general manager of Discovery Kids and the creative force behind the move, said kids can expect content similar to what they have become accustomed to on the Discovery Kids digital channel. That means lots of dinosaurs and crocodiles as well as real-world fiction shows.
NBC’s target with the time period has been the 12 to 17 crowd, but Discovery Kids will redirect the programming to meet a broader audience, including the 6 to 11 and 9 to 14, or tween, demographics.
Discovery Kids will handle ad sales for the time period and will sell the block in conjunction with its Discovery Kids cable channel. The digital network currently reaches 15 million homes.
For NBC, the finances of continuing to program and sell the block internally no longer made sense, said Lee Gaither, VP of Saturday morning programs for NBC Entertainment, who will continue to oversee that time period and will take on responsibilities in other areas. Unlike its broadcast competitors, NBC is not vertically integrated with a larger entertainment conglomerate. That made it difficult to amortize the cost of kids programming into other areas such as video, cable and international channels, Mr. Gaither said.
Competing against the 24-hour kids cable networks has become increasingly difficult in the past few years as networks such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have grown, matured and established themselves as mainstays, he added. Also, Fox shifted to six days a week of kids programming in the mid-’90s, a move that gave it an advantage with advertisers.
“It became a tougher marketplace. Whoever had the most time to brand to kids had the edge,” Mr. Gaither said. “Having a partner come in and run the daypart for us seemed a very easy way to solve our problem.”