You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Disney Junior acing frosh year

Variety Junior 2011

When preschool-targeted “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” premiered in February as part of the Disney Channel’s newly rebranded Disney Junior programming block, the network had only one program in the top 10 for its demo: the seventh-ranked “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” But overnight, the network’s fortunes changed.

The first night of Jake’s tanglings with Capt. Hook and Smee set ratings records for the channel among total viewers, kids 2-5 and boys 2-5. It demonstrated that what was once the Playhouse Disney block really did offer something different as the new Disney Junior, further bolstering plans to launch as a 24-hour channel in 99 million U.S. households in February 2012.

“The thing that became so clear to all of us was that storytelling with heart is just part of Disney’s DNA,” says Disney Junior Worldwide senior veep of original programming and general manager Nancy Kanter.

“How do you begin to foster a love of learning, of creative thinking, of problem solving? You do it through character and you do it through story, and that’s really what we’ve defined as our brand that’s distinct from some of the other brands,” says Kanter, who was promoted to oversee the channel’s worldwide operations in February.

Disney Junior is already seen in 136 countries and territories around the world and is available in 21 languages, but Kanter says she and her team work hard to entertain while ensuring parents across many territories can immediately recognize the value in its programming.

Country to country, there are small variations,” she says. “There are some territories where the academic learning skills are a little more important than the emotional or social skills.”

In keeping with Disney’s corporate focus on harnessing digital technology, Disney Junior is teaching on a multiplatform basis, through radio, TV and an extensive website with interactive games based on the programming. Kanter says that “social network moms” help shows find an audience much quicker than possible even five years ago.

“It’s not just the moms on their block or on the playground — they’re talking to moms across the country,” she says, pointing to the rapid social network boost that “Jake” received.

When Disney Junior launches as a 24-hour channel in the United States, the programming will be a mix of live-action, animation and movies, but Kanter says the real challenge will be in dayparting the schedule. The 24-hour schedule will allow her to experiment with programming gentler shows in the 5 to 9 p.m. timeframe that wouldn’t have been appropriate in a block on Disney Channel.

“In early morning, early afternoon, you’re looking for shows that are very energetic and get your kids up and moving,” she says. “Obviously, toward the end of the day, you’re looking to do the opposite. No more jumping on the couch.”

Kanter has been with the network since 2001, but her previous experience in children’s programming includes stints as an executive producer for Sesame Workshop — where she produced the Emmy-winning special, “Elmo Saves Christmas” — and as president of the children’s entertainment website Bluecow.com. Until “Jake” took tots by storm, Kanter’s former pint-sized hits included “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Handy Manny” and “Little Einsteins.”

While she’s looking forward to launching a host of shows for preschoolers next year, she says one lesson learned from “Jake” will stick with her. The episodes that test the best are the ones in which Jake does something nice for mean old Capt. Hook, which Kanter says shows that the audience is hearing a message of compassion.

They’re not out for revenge or one-upsmanship. They just want everyone to be happy,” she says with a laugh.

Blasts from past power int’l kids sales | Books and toys aren’t fail-safe TV fodder | Kids animation making bigger international play | Toons in transition | Pop go the platforms | Disney Junior acing frosh year | DQE seizes opportunity

in Indian animation biz | Shingle dabbles in ‘Baby’ babble | Argentina teen fare evolves in post-Cris Morena era

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • UMC-Marriage-Boot-Camp-Hip-Hop-Edition-WE-tv

    WE tv, UMC Reteam on Bonus Content for 'Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition' Season 2

    AMC Networks is touting the benefits of cross-pollinating content and promos across its TV and streaming properties. In the latest bit of synergy, the programmer’s WE tv announced the continuation of its partnership with sister company UMC (Urban Movie Channel) to produce a second season of “confessional” episodes for WE tv reality series “Marriage Boot [...]

  • Google Play Pass

    Google Launches Play Pass, Its $4.99 Apple Arcade Competitor

    Google officially launched its Play Pass game and app subscription service Monday morning. Play Pass gives users access to more than 350 premium games and apps for $4.99 per month. The launch comes just a few days after Apple unveiled it own game subscription service Apple Arcade. Apps and games included in this subscription do [...]

  • ESPN - Always Late With Katie

    ESPN Inks Facebook Deal to Bring Exclusive Shows and Content to Watch Service

    Disney’s ESPN is looking to expand digital reach across Facebook, under a new deal to distribute exclusive digital shows and content on the social giant’s Facebook Watch video platform. At launch, ESPN’s Facebook Watch lineup includes additional segments from “Always Late With Katie Nolan,” the late-night sports/comedy show premiering this week on ESPN2; exclusive versions [...]

  • David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Carolyn

    Emmys 2019: 'Game of Thrones,' Jharrel Jerome Top Social-Media Buzz

    HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Jharrel Jerome, star of Netflix’s “When They See Us,” were among the leaders of social conversation during Sunday’s 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Facebook and Twitter. “GOT” picked up 12 Emmys in total for its final season, including outstanding drama series, while series star Peter Dinklage picked up his fourth [...]

  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Sets First Book-Club Pick for New Apple TV Plus Series

    Oprah Winfrey’s interviews with authors of her book club selections will be featured exclusively on Apple’s forthcoming Apple TV Plus service, and she’s announced the first book selection for the project: “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Apple teamed with Winfrey for Apple TV Plus series “Oprah’s Book Club,” premiering Nov. 1 when the service [...]

  • NBC LX - Valari Staab

    NBCU Launches Digital News Outlet LX to Reach People Who Don't Watch Local TV (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBCUniversal’s local TV division is taking a new tack to reach younger audiences that don’t tune in to its traditional newscasts. On Monday, NBCU’s 42-station local TV group is launching LX — a digital news brand that will produce original content for online distribution and, in 2020, via a live-streaming internet network and multicast over-the-air [...]

  • 'OpenAP' CEO David Levy Sees New

    'OpenAP' CEO David Levy Charts New Course

    A consortium built by some of the nation’s biggest media outlets to win new kinds of advertising is quickly changing its course. Founded in 2017 by Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, OpenAP was initially designed to help marketers figure out ways to buy advertising based on reaching segments of audience that aren’t defined [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content