Donna Ebbs: Cooking up ‘Haunting’ ratings success

Youth Impact Report 2012: Channeling Talent

Ever since replacing Discovery Kids last October, youth-oriented cabler The Hub has been on a steady rise, in July delivering the largest audience in its short history in target demographics of kids 2-11, kids 6-11 and overall households.

Key to this growth has been a savvy mix of original content overseen by Donna Ebbs, The Hub’s senior VP of programming.

Along with fresh spins on familiar animated brands (“My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic,” “Transformers Prime”) and game shows (“Family Game Night”), The Hub has found a signature live-action series in the spooky anthology “R.L. Stine’s the Haunting Hour.” Inspired by the work of best-selling young adult and kid-lit author Stine, the “Twilight Zone”-like skein provides the chance to spotlight different young performers with every episode.

“Kids love to be scared,” says Ebbs. “There is just no other place on TV for this genre right now.”

Not surprisingly, the show has also proven popular with young actors, attracting notable guest stars, including Ariel Winter and Nolan Gould from “Modern Family” and Booboo Stewart and Mackenzie Foy from “The Twilight Saga.” “Word of mouth has started to spread,” Ebbs says. “The kids know it; they want to do it. I think they have a blast with it because they aren’t offered roles like this very often.”

That was the attraction for “The Hunger Games” co-star Willow Shields, who recently filmed an episode for the third season.

“There’s some mysterious stuff in it, and it was a fun, kid-friendly thing to work on,” Shields says.

“The Haunting Hour” landed six Daytime Emmy nominations for its second season, including one for young actor Dakota Goyo (“Real Steel”).

Impact: Net scares up a young aud with anthology horror series “R.L. Stine’s the Haunting Hour.”
Next: A series adaptation of Christopher Pike’s “Spooksville” children’s horror novels is slated for an early 2013 bow.
Causes: Generation On, the youth division of the Points of Light Institute.

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