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Limiting Ads Helps Sprout to Grow

Apr 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Every weekday morning, “The Sunny Side Up Show” on PBS Kids Sprout greets preschool-age children and their parents as they face the day. The three-hour programming block features a rotating cast of human hosts, a sidekick puppet and a playful, spontaneous approach to interactive learning for the very young audience.
The channel launched in September 2005 and is a joint venture of Comcast Corp., HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop, the production company behind “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company.”
Not to be confused with PBS, which holds to a strict advertising/sponsorship model, Sprout is partially advertiser-supported. But like its public broadcasting partner, its commercial messages come between programming blocks—not within them.
The Federal Communications Commission caps advertising in children’s programming at 10 to 12 minutes per hour. Sprout carries only 3 to 4 minutes of ads per hour—with messages aimed at the adult audience, not the children—and that makes it attractive to advertisers including Kimberly Clark, Geico, Sony Home Video and Honda.
“When the partnership was formed, there was a lot of discussion about creating an economically viable model,” said Sprout President and General Manager Sandy Wax, who oversees all strategy and operations for the Philadelphia-based network and has been on board since the beginning. “The business requires affiliate and ad revenue, but they didn’t want to it to be from sugary cereal and candy. We wanted to be responsible to the audience and to convey that this is a safe and responsible place. From a parent perspective, knowing the ads are not kid-directed and that they are limited is a very positive thing.”
Advertisers—in categories including automotive, baby care, educational toys, family theatrical films, healthy food and beverages, home entertainment, household products, insurance, learning centers, music, retail and travel destinations—also have responded to the young network’s mission of fostering family togetherness.
“From the advertiser perspective, the benefit is low clutter,” Ms. Wax said. “You’re not competing in an ad break with six others, which means the message is much more visible. The effect of having the product association in this environment is much stronger.”
Sprout reaches 37 million households via Comcast digital cable and DirecTV. It also encompasses a video-on-demand channel, which has registered about 380 million orders to date, making it the top children’s VOD service. It offers more than 60 hours of programming monthly, including “Barney & Friends,” “Sesame Street” and “Bob the Builder.” The on-demand service also includes 10 hours of Spanish-language programming.
Advertisers like video-on-demand because it provides a purposeful, opt-in audience. “We are ahead of our goals in reaching ad targets,” said Ms. Wax. “We find a lot of receptivity in the advertising community. We can be creative with advertisers in what we do with them.” She pointed to a new relationship with Sea World, which will be sponsoring a three-hour block of daytime programming with maritime and animal themes.
The network’s Web site, SproutOnline.com, is the third point of its multiplatform offering. Like the linear network, the site mixes old standards with original programming for the 2- to 5-year-old audience.
Aside from its limited advertising, what makes the Sprout strategy unique in the children’s programming universe is that no matter what the time of day, the offerings never shift to an older audience. It’s all preschool, all the time.
“When you get feedback like, ‘This thing changed my life,’ you know you’ve got something. Parents say Sprout makes their lives easier,” Ms. Wax said. “We have the opportunity to be focused on this audience, a clear developmental stage. Although everyone, like Disney and Nickelodeon, had blocks of preschool programming, we were the first network to make the commitment to always be there.”
Because the audience is known to favor repetition, that means parents and caregivers can acquiesce at any time to their young charges’ programming demands.
And because of its viewers’ limited attention span, many of the digital network’s shows are in 5-minute to 7-minute segments.
The programming tracks a preschooler’s day from morning until bedtime.
Mornings begin at 6 a.m. and continue until 9 a.m. with “Musical Mornings” featuring Coo, an animated cuckoo bird produced by the Jim Henson Co. The bird introduces musically themed elements and live-action segments showing real kids waking up, getting dressed and eating breakfast.
Next up is “The Sunny Side Up Show” with weekly rotating hosts Kelly, Kevin and Sean—and their sidekick Chica, a chicken puppet who injects humor and surprise eggs that are cracked open to reveal clues, games and jokes. Each week focuses on a new learning theme, such as good manners, gardening or vegetables.
“The Let’s Go Show” with host Miles airs from 3-6 p.m. It encourages kids to be curious about the world and participate in a daily musical adventure with co-host Banjo, a spirited puppet who plays, what else, a banjo, as Miles sings.
“The Good Night Show” with host Nina airs every night from 6-9 p.m., during the all-important bedtime hours.
And if and when children wake up in the middle of the night, Sprout is there for them, and their parents.

106 Comments

  1. HELP ME! My three autistic children love Nina falling asleep. they fall asleep with her. It was on PBS on Demand on Time Warner Cable. It ended today, May 8th. Where do I find it again Claudine

  2. My 7 month old daughter loves pbs sunnyside up and chica. any place i could get chica?,ive looked everywhere and have come up with nothing.

  3. My nieces love chica from the sprout channel. We’ve all looked everywhere for a chica doll and can’t find it either. Please help me!!!!!

  4. My daughter loves Chica the chicken and if you guys aren’t making and selling this doll, you are crazy. You should have a regular chica and then have some that you can play dress chica with. What ever you do though make sure the chicken make the talking sound like on the t.v..
    Please let me know if you do sell them I would luv to purchase one.
    Thank you
    Dave

  5. I am also looking/waiting for a Chica doll. My baby daughter loves Chica. Is there going to be one available? We are eagerly anticipating this toy.

  6. My 8 month old loves Chica and I am going crazy trying to find her a Chica Doll. Can’t wait for it to be available. Please Hurry!!!!!!

  7. My 6.5 month old loves loves loves chica as well and Ive been looking everywhere. Is there anywhere i can go to purchase one i would love to have a few around Christmas time… anxiously waiting

  8. My 6.5 month old loves loves loves chica as well and Ive been looking everywhere. Is there anywhere i can go to purchase one i would love to have a few around Christmas time… anxiously waiting

  9. I’m very surprised. I logged on in search of a Chica doll for my 19 month old. He is a huge fan. He sees Chica every morning and he still gets super excited each time. I really did not think it would be so difficult to find a doll. I was hoping it could be a gift from Santa this year.

  10. NEED CHICA THE CHICKEN!!!!!!!!!!! Please make it!

  11. My 7 month old LOVES CHICA!! I have been looking everywhere and I would love to know when they are going to have one out!! I am in serious need! LOL She loves this show!!

  12. my 5 month old daughter loves chica and everytime chica is on the tv she gets so excited. I am also looking for a place to buy chica. if anyone knows where to buy chica,please let me know.

  13. I am with everyone else why do you not sell Chica the chicken.My 20 month old LOVES her!!

  14. Chica, Chica, Chica! We all want the toy! I agree with all you other parents! This is the only “gift” that I know will bring that warm, loving and excited smile to my 8 month old daughters’ eyes this Christmas! I was so devistated to find out that Chica is not produced as a doll. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE bring Chica to life for our Children and make this the greatest of holiday seasons for them!

  15. My Son LOVES Chica!!!! We need this doll!! Maybe we should all get together and through a chica rally!! Out with elmo in with chica!!

  16. Please I need to know where to buy Chica, my 8 month old love her so much

  17. I as well was surfing the web frantically trying to find a chica for my 18 month old who has been a loyal chica fan since 6 mos. Very disappointed to find that there was no such thing.

  18. This is to Claudine,
    Perhaps you’ve found help by now. However, if not we get Nina sleeping in our “On Demand” cable package under “Kids”. My 17 month old twins love Nina Sleeping as well.
    Hope this helps.

  19. I went on to the Sprout Online website and you can write an e-mail to the folks at Sprout. I suggest that we all do that to see if we can get some toys, dvds, anything of Chica and the Sunny Side Up Show! Here is the e-mail address:
    info@sproutonline.com
    Please write a quick e-mail and maybe we can do something about it! Thanks!

  20. I am amazed to see these comments… I too am in desperate search of CHICA My 8month old can’t get enough…. We have dress up Chica printouts wallpapering the door of our fridge!!!! If you haven’t already written to sprout, please join the crusade. WE WANT CHICA!!!

  21. My 7 month old daughter loves Chica…I see we are not alone. Does anyone know if there is by any chance a doll in the making yet?

  22. omg… my twins need the chica!! I’m thinking of going to the studio to kidnap her, anybody in?

  23. ya im in but it would be you and me over that chicken puppet…

  24. my son loves chica so much!! even when he’s passed out asleep and chica comes on he immediatly wakes up to watch her talk. please please tell me where i can get him a chica doll. he would really love it. i’m desperatly looking! help me buy a chica doll!

  25. We NEED a Chica toy – PLEASE!!! Why does it not exist yet???

  26. I am having a Sprout gift basket giveaway on my blog….looks like there is a Chica/Banjo plush and a Star plush and other Sesame Street items too. Come take a look……
    http://afrugalfriend.blogspot.com/2009/03/im-on-sproutonlinecom-sprout-giveaway.html

  27. Please say you will have a Chica toy soon. My son is just the happiest child on earth when he see’s his beloved Chica on tv.

  28. Check out oddolls.com “chicken puppet” under kids portion 🙂 Mine is on it’s way! Happy one year old in CO!

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