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Hub execs spin upcoming debut

Net set for 10-10-10 launchdate

The Hub is almost ready to roll. Execs from the Discovery/Hasbro joint venture held a presser Wednesday afternoon to discuss the upcoming kidnet, which plans to move in on what has traditionally been Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon advertising territory.

The presentation, though sparsely attended, felt similar to a cable upfront, with execs touting the net’s creative offerings and trumpeting profitability. Previously-announced skeins will sound familiar to those who grew up in the 80s: a new “G.I. Joe” cartoon, a new “My Little Pony” show, “Pound Puppies,” “Strawberry Shortcake,” a revived “Fraggle Rock” and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s CGI reinvention of the “Transformers” TV franchise. Many of the shows are CG and Loesch has tapped comparatively big-name kids’ show creators for others. The head creative on “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is “Powerpuff Girls” creator Lauren Faust, while the “Pound Puppies” cartoon will feature guest voices by Betty White and “Futurama” thesp John DiMaggio.

Other shows include Kiwi pickup “The WotWots” (developed by Weta) and BBC skein “In the Night Garden,” both aimed at younger kids.

But perhaps the most unorthodox upcoming skein is “Hubworld,” an entertainment newsmagazine program for kids focusing on the net’s own programming and kid-wide trends, hosted by itinerant magician Justin Willman.

The net will also house established Discovery property “Meerkat Manor” (moved from Animal Planet) and a gameshow skein based on Hasbro properties.

Execs made a point of expressing concern about the perception that the net was nothing but an excuse to advertise toys. Loesch emphasized that the net had cut its advertising minutes during pre-school targeted programming from the allowed 12 per half-hour to six, and that its content was only about 25% Hasbro-branded, despite appearances to the contrary.

Hub honcho Margaret Loesch said that she was pleasantly surprised by interest in the new network. “Advertisers have been very supportive,” she said. Hasbro remains the net’s biggest sponsor, but the toy company’s CEO Brian Goldner said that was simply because they were “big fans” of the endeavor. Goldner also said that Hasbro is under no contractual obligation to advertise on the Hub and that it advertises on the competition as well.

Toy ad dollars have far fewer places to go than, say, automotive ad dollars, which Discovery prexy David Zaslav said he believed gives a new childrens’ network a built-in advantage. “In the adult 25-54 demo, there are about 40 channels that do really well,” he observed. “In the kids’ demo, there are three.” The Hub also has some built-in branding advantages, such as the stickers that Hasbro will put on its own toys to give kids a heads-up.

The children’s cabler will take the place of Discovery Kids, putting it in 60 million homes. The net will be rated from the day it hits — Oct. 10 — and Loesch says that she and her team “have every intention to become a fully-distributed channel over time.”