PBS Sprout Grows Into Afternoon Slot

May 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

PBS Kids Sprout, which has been saying “Good Night” to kids in the evenings, is looking to get them going in the afternoons.

Preschooler network Sprout, a partnership of Comcast, PBS, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment, is planning to launch a three-hour afternoon block called “The Let’s Go Show” June 25.

The block features a live host who appears in between the channel’s programs, many of which are relatively short. He takes young viewers on a trip each day, singing songs, making snacks and doing science experiments along the way.

The new show is part of an effort by the network, launched as a video-on-demand service, to generate awareness and viewership for the linear channel, which is designed to follow the day of a child, full of activity in the morning and soothing at night with its signature “The Good Night Show.”

“I think from a business standpoint, it drives viewing to linear,” said Sandy Wax, president and general manager of Sprout. Sprout’s on-demand offering is the third-most-watched service on cable, following HBO and Music Choice. It generated 14 million views in March. The linear channel, launched in September 2005, is in 20 million homes. It is not tracked by Nielsen Media Research.

If the afternoon block is successful, Sprout will consider packaging the morning, when it runs more active shows like “Barney.” “That’s a natural evolution of the strategy,” Ms. Wax said.

The new block, like the rest of the channel, will be ad-supported. Sprout carries a low commercial load, suited to preschoolers, of two to three minutes per hour. The low-clutter environment is “important for this audience and for our brand, and it actually is a great environment for advertisers. They really stand out,” Ms. Wax said.

Sprout launched with charter advertiser Kimberly-Clark for on-demand and online. Since then the channel has added sponsors in the entertainment business, such as Buena Vista Home Video, Paramount and Sony; learning and educational toy-makers Fisher Price and Playskool; and other companies with learning-related products.

The network also got its first automotive client, the Honda Odyssey, in the fourth quarter and added Geico and other insurance companies. In the first quarter, the network also got travel ads from destinations such as Sea World.

“The Let’s Go Show” host Miles will be played by actor Milton Barnes.

“There’s nothing like the connection that real people and live-action hosts have with an audience, both in the TV viewing experience as well as in taking them out and doing local events and promotions,” Ms. Wax said.

Sprout discovered Mr. Barnes after a multi-city search. He had been the host of a kids show in Ontario, Canada. “He’s got all the qualities we were looking for: energy, humor and a fantastic singing voice,”

Mr. Barnes said he was looking forward to entertaining preschoolers. “I’ve found in my past experience that kids are fairly honest and they’ll tell you fairly quickly if they’re bored or they don’t like what you’re doing,” he said. “I think preschoolers will be the same way.”


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