By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
Video-on-demand has proved to be a good match for family-friendly programming.
At least that’s the case with Mag Rack, a pioneering on-demand service that finds itself thriving in the area of family-friendly television.
“There’s a lot of family TV on our network,” said Daniel Ronayne, Mag Rack’s executive VP and general manager. Of all of its programming, though, Kids Club is the most successful family programming block. Among its offerings are “Paloozaville,” “New Zoo Revue,” “The Pet Shop,” “eebee’s Adventure,” “So Smart,” “Nursery Rhymes and More” and videos from Scholastic.
“When you’re talking about Kids Club, you’re talking about original programming that distinguishes us from any other on-demand network,” Mr. Ronayne said. “Mag Rack launched five years ago as the first network bringing programming specifically and exclusively to the video-on-demand platform. That’s how we built our entire programming model. Kids Club is available in almost 12 million homes nationally, so it has a lot of distribution.
“Since our launch five years ago, Kids Club as a programming block has always been in the top four or five most popular programming blocks on Mag Rack each month. We have built it in some very specific ways.”
Kids Club is unique VOD programming because it aims at the very youngest TV audience. “We made a concerted effort about two years ago to target young kids, 4 years old and younger, the idea being that when kids get to be a little bit older, they have a lot of choices in what to watch on TV,” said Mr. Ronayne. “We thought because our programming is on-demand, that what we really have are parents who are picking programming for a much younger audience.
“Pre-K is our wheelhouse, what we go for. That’s what our niche is and what we specialize in. All of our programs are very kid-friendly. It’s all wholesome in nature. There is typically some educational component involved. That goes along with all our programming, although the kids may not notice it.”
An emphasis on exclusivity and original programming is the key to Mag Rack’s business strategy. “Our brand is built on our original programming and that’s what continues to distinguish us, and it’s what makes us of such value to the cable operators,” Mr. Ronayne said. “In our Kids Club programming, `Paloozaville’ with John Lithgow and `The Pet Shop’ with Marc Morrone are two examples of original shows.”
Mr. Lithgow, the Emmy Award-winning actor, is both the star and the creator of “Paloozaville,” which launched about eight months ago.
“It’s a Mag Rack original: 20 different episodes, based on Mr. Lithgow’s book `Paloozas.’ The series takes place in the mythical town of Paloozaville and John Lithgow stars as our intrepid mayor,” Mr. Ronayne said. “In each episode, at the very beginning he is faced with a dilemma, a problem of some sort, typically involving creativity or art, in which it needs to be solved. The kids then set out to find out a solution to the mayor’s problem. What the series does is give kids and parents a chance to act in a way that builds kids’ creativity and imagination. At its very core, it is about learning, but it’s just beautifully done and very engaging and very entertaining as well.”