HBO in Family way with heavy push of new fare

Cabler announces relaunch of channel

NEW YORK — HBO will relaunch its standalone 24-hour HBO Family Channel in February with a major commitment to original programming, including more than a dozen new shows, the cabler said Tuesday.

Launched in December 1996, commercial-free HBO Family largely consists of theatrical movies that are appropriate for children. The relaunched HBO Family will benefit from an $18 million investment in new programming, said a person with knowledge of HBO’s plans.

HBO’s aggressive push comes as the competition for the family audience heats up among cable networks. The Family Channel recently relaunched as the kid-oriented Fox Family Channel; the Disney Channel has increased kids production and has expanded to more than 42 million homes; and Nickelodeon, in a joint effort with Children’s Television Workshop, plans to launch a kids educational channel, Noggin, in January.

While HBO has run children’s programming over the years, the Time Warner-owned channel is better known for its edgy, adult-targeted programs, such as “Taxicab Confessions” and “Real Sex.”

HBO officials were circumspect about exactly how many homes receive HBO Family. An HBO rep said roughly 25% of HBO’s subscribers, which is about 23 million, receive HBO Family, which comes free of charge.

The service should receive additional distribution as cable systems roll out new digital set-top boxes that can transmit more than 100 channels. HBO Family is part of the multiplex package of HBO the Works, which also includes HBO, HBO Plus and HBO Signature.

Titles

HBO Family’s new shows will range from “A Little Curious” for preschoolers to the gameshow “Crashbox” for the after-school crowd to new adaptations of children’s books such as “George and Martha,” “Paddington Bear” and “Goodnight Moon.” “Anthony Ant” is also in the mix.

These shows come from top children’s producers including Nelvana, Cinar, Scholastic, Devine Entertainment, S4C, Hit Entertainment, Poseidon Pictures and Planet Grande.

HBO Family’s new weekday original series will include:

  • “A Little Curious,” an animated series that focuses on basic learning concepts by bringing to life inanimate objects such as Bob the Ball, Mr. String, Doris the Door and the Shoe Family. The show employs a new computer animation process with links to puppets.

  • “Crashbox,” an interactive show that challenges grade school kids with fast-paced games about history, math, spelling, grammar, culture and vocabulary. Jerry Stiller provides the voice of the show’s host.

  • “30×30: Kid Flicks,” a half-hour series made by kids. It will include documentaries, video diaries, narratives, small animated pieces and short films about things that are on young people’s minds. Participating filmmakers will range from 8 to 18 years old.
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