×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBCU’s Sprout Grows Up: Universal Kids to Debut in September

Chica, the anthropomorphic chicken who has delighted children on NBCUniversal’s kiddie-cable network Sprout for the past few years, is getting a refurbished coop.

The Comcast-owned media conglomerate said Monday it would in September rechristen the network as Universal Kids, and work to make the network home to a range of content from Dreamworks Animation, which it acquired last  August for approximately $3.8 billion. The company said the network would continue to utilize the Sprout name and work toward reaching a preschool audience, even as it broadened its programming to lure kids between 2 and 11 as well as their parents.

“We see enormous potential to grow our audience in this space and create the Universal Kids platform for families to experience together,” said Frances Berwick, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Lifestyle Networks President, in a prepared statement. “NBCUniversal is invested in the kids and family business, and the company believes in working together – we will benefit from promotion across our portfolio of networks and across the company through support that is unparalleled in the industry.”

NBCUniversal no doubt sees the opportunity to be a bigger player in the kids’ TV market. The purchase of DreamWorks Animation, which controls rights to everything from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Gerald McBoing Boing gave the company more traction in competing with other big media companies that cater to kids, namely Viacom, Walt Disney and Time Warner – and use animated characters and films to feed its TV networks, theme parks and consumer-product operations as well as its movie business.

Already, the company said that Universal Kids, which will launch officially September 9, will feature two series based on DreamWorks franchises:  “All Hail King Julien” and “DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk,” based on the popular “How To Train Your Dragon” franchise. The network will also be the site of the debut of “Top Chef Junior,” produced by Magical Elves, the production team behind Bravo’s “Top Chef.” The series  will launch in October 2017.

Sprout is expected to continue, with 15 hours airing live each day between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., while Universal Kids will be featured after 6 p.m. Devoted Sprout viewers might have seen the move coming. “The Good Night Show,” a three-hour programming block meant to soothe youngsters before bedtime with storytelling, sand art and cartoons, was phased out several months ago. NBCUniversal said it would continue to add new, original programming aimed at the pre-schooler set, including new series like “Kody Kapow.”

NBCUniversal has no guarantee its ambitions will be achieved. The kids’ market is tough to crack. Hasbro and Discovery Communications tried it out in 2010 with the launch of The Hub, a family programming cable network that was formed as a joint venture. Discovery took control of the outlet in 2014 and renamed it Discovery Family.

One of the chief challenges in the field are the viewers themselves. Kids have been among the first to gravitate to new viewing venues, such as streaming video and mobile devices. Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, Disney and Cartoon Network have all unveiled robust digital initiatives, such as a streaming service for Boomerang, the Time Warner kids-and-family animation outlet. PBS Kids has a subscription video on demand deal with Amazon and Disney backs its Disney LOL app aimed at getting kids to interact with short-form content. Over time, Universal Kids will have to show it can play in those fields as well.

 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple’s “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES The “Cash Cab” revival will come to Bravo on Oct. 7. The game show takes place inside a New York cab, where unsuspecting passengers become contestants in a game of trivia for [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Will Gluck

    Will Gluck Sets TV Overall Deal at eOne (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Gluck has signed a two-year overall television deal with Entertainment One (eOne), Variety has learned exclusively. Under the deal, Richard Schwartz will continue to oversee all television projects for Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment, with eOne set to serve as studio on all projects under the partnership. “The choice for us was clear given their impeccable [...]

  • Katie Hockmeyer

    NBC Entertainment Names Katie Hockmeyer Exec VP of Late Night Programming

    Katie Hockmeyer has been named executive vice president of late night programming at NBC Entertainment She will report to NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy, where she will work on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live” and newly launched late-night addition, “A Little Late with [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content