Universal Kids

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Universal Kids
Universal Kids 2019 Logo.svg
CountryUnited States
Broadcast areaNationwide
Headquarters30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, New York, U.S.
Programming
Language(s)English
Picture format1080i HDTV
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the SDTV feed)
Ownership
OwnerNBCUniversal Television and Streaming
ParentNBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group
Sister channels
History
LaunchedSeptember 26, 2005; 16 years ago (2005-09-26) (as Sprout)
September 9, 2017; 4 years ago (2017-09-09) (as Universal Kids)
Former names
  • PBS Kids Sprout (2005–09)
  • Sprout (2009–17)
Links
WebcastWatch live (subscribers only)
Websitewww.universalkids.com

Universal Kids is an American children's television channel owned by the NBCUniversal Television and Streaming unit of NBCUniversal.

The channel launched in 2005 as PBS Kids Sprout, a preschool-oriented channel jointly operated by PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop, and HIT Entertainment. After the acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast in 2011, the company began to buy out the remaining owners' shares in the network. NBCUniversal became the sole owner of the network in 2013, after which it was renamed Sprout. Under NBCUniversal ownership, the channel increased its investments into original programming.

In 2017, the network relaunched as Universal Kids, adding an evening and primetime lineup targeting a wider youth audience—including DreamWorks Animation content, non-scripted programming (including game shows, and youth spin-offs of reality series from its NBCUniversal sister networks, such as American Ninja Warrior and Top Chef), and acquired teen dramas. The channel continues to devote its daytime lineup to preschool programming.

Amid declines in viewership in comparison to Sprout, Universal Kids ended its development of new original programming in 2019, with the channel now relying primarily on acquisitions and DreamWorks Animation content (drawn primarily from the series they had originally produced for Netflix).

As of September 2018, the channel is available to about 56.240 million households in the United States.[1]

History[edit]

As Sprout (2005–2017)[edit]

Former logo used as PBS Kids Sprout from September 26, 2005 to November 12, 2013.

On October 20, 2004, PBS announced that it had entered into a partnership with cable provider Comcast and production companies HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop to launch a 24-hour cable network aimed at preschool children.[2] On April 4, 2005, Comcast announced that the network would be known as PBS Kids Sprout—a spin-off from PBS's children's programming brand PBS Kids. The service would soft launch as a branded video on-demand (VOD) service.[3] PBS Kids Sprout launched its 24-hour cable channel on September 26, 2005, with a reach of around 16 million viewers across Comcast and Insight.[3]

The multi-platform approach was designed to appeal to different viewing habits, with the on-demand services focused on instantaneous access to specific programs, and the linear service designed around dayparted programming blocks, with hosted segments such as activities, features, and promotions for supplemental content on Sprout's website.[3] To increase the variety of its schedule, Sprout did not repackage short-form series into half-hour episodes with interstitial segments, as had usually been the case for series imported for U.S. broadcast.[3] The channel only carried advertising between programs, which were aimed towards parents and caregivers.[3]

A high-definition simulcast launched in September 2010.[4]

Acquisition by Comcast/NBCUniversal[edit]

Final Sprout logo used from November 13, 2013 to September 8, 2017.

Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric (GE) in January 2011, and would assume full ownership of the company in 2013. As a result, Comcast's interest in Sprout was turned over to the company. When Apax Partners sold HIT Entertainment to Mattel on October 24, 2011, HIT's ownership interest in Sprout was never included in the deal and was retained by Apax Partners.[5]

In December 2012, Sesame Workshop sold its interest in Sprout to NBCUniversal, which in turn later acquired Apax and PBS's shares in the network on March 19, 2013 and November 13, 2013 respectively, therefore giving Comcast full ownership. Its operations were then merged into its NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group subsidiary.[6] As a result of NBCUniversal's full ownership, the network dropped the "PBS Kids" branding and was renamed Sprout, while its operations were moved from Philadelphia to NBCUniversal's facilities in New York City.[7][8][9][10]

On July 7, 2012, Sprout began to produce educational programming blocks for NBC and Telemundo, branded as "NBC Kids" and "MiTelemundo" respectively. The blocks both replaced Qubo (a previous joint venture between NBCUniversal, Ion Media, Corus Entertainment, Scholastic, and Classic Media),[11] which had been airing on NBC and Telemundo since September 2006.[12][13]

Under NBCUniversal ownership, Sprout began to increase its investments in original programming to better compete with its rivals Disney Junior and Nick Jr., with a goal to double its original series output to at least 30% of its schedule by the end of 2015, and displace older and non-exclusive library content in favor of original series and acquisitions exclusive to the channel.[14][15] Sprout programs such as The Chica Show also earned increased visibility airing on NBC as part of the NBC Kids block.[16][15]

On September 26, 2015, Sprout underwent a brand refresh to mark the 10th anniversary of its launch, with new on-air imaging inspired by modern technology and mobile devices, a new tiny house-inspired studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for its hosted morning block The Sunny Side Up Show, as well as the premiere of Nina's Worldan original animated series spun off from its evening block The Good Night Show.[14] Actress Alyssa Milano began to make appearances in interstitial segments as Sprout's "Mom-bassador", with a particular focus on the channel's public service campaign "Kindness Counts".[14]

The network's head Sandy Wax stated that Sprout also planned to experiment with more half-hour programs, and commission programming with more "complex stories" that can appeal better to older preschool audiences.[14]

As Universal Kids (2017–present)[edit]

First Universal Kids logo used from September 9, 2017 to April 11, 2019.

In August 2016, NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation.[17][18] Deirdre Brennan, formerly of Corus Entertainment, was named the new president of Sprout in January 2017, replacing the outgoing Sandy Wax.[19]

On May 1, 2017, NBCUniversal announced that it would be relaunching Sprout on September 9, 2017 as Universal Kids; the relaunched network aimed to be "an umbrella brand for [NBCUniversal's] family offerings",[20] and would include primetime programming targeting a wider youth and pre-teen audience, while still carrying preschool programming as a block under the Sprout branding from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET daily.[21][22] Brennan explained that Sprout needed to "grow up with the rest of the family", and that Universal Kids would "[offer] something to 2 to 12 year olds that has a slightly different purpose—widening their eyes, opening their minds and celebrating many aspects of being a kid."[23]

The network would launch with a slate of original non-scripted series, including Bear Grylls: Survival School and Top Chef Junior. NBCUniversal intended to make "significant" investments in original content for Universal Kids over the next three years, including original scripted programming.[23] The launch lineup included a large number of international acquisitions, particularly from the U.K., Australia, and Canada (such as The Next Step and Nowhere Boys); Brennan acknowledged that since youth audiences had become "globally aware", the network wanted to showcase foreign series that had not yet aired in the United States.[23] Universal Kids would also feature programing produced by Canadian studio DHX Media for Family Channel and its sister networks, as well as co-produce series with the company (such as the sitcom Bajillionaires);[24][25][26] DHX had recently entered into a programming agreement with DreamWorks Animation for its networks.[27]

DreamWorks would be leveraged by Universal Kids to bolster its programming, with linear television premieres of DreamWorks' Netflix series such as All Hail King Julien and Dragons: Riders of Berk as part of its launch lineup.[28][22][23] Industry observers felt that the integration of DreamWorks IP with Universal Kids would help NBCUniversal establish a viable multi-platform competitor to other major children's networks.[29][21][30][28][31] The network planned to continue investing in preschool programming for the Sprout block; Brennan stated of Sprout that "the greatest thing is, there is nothing to fix there. Sprout is a beautiful brand. If anything, we want to invest more in original production. There is more we can explore there."[23]

Universal Kids saw a significant decrease in viewership in comparison to its previous incarnation as Sprout, with IndieWire reporting a 30% decline in 2017, followed by a 73% drop in 2018.[32][33] Brennan was replaced by Frances Berwick as network president in February 2019.[34] In April of that year, Universal Kids unveiled a new logo and branding designed by the design agency Kill 2 Birds.[35] On June 19, it was reported that Universal Kids had ceased the development of original programming, and had laid off its development staff or transferred them to other NBCUniversal properties. Thereafter, the channel would rely primarily on DreamWorks content, acquisitions, and its remaining slate of original programming.[36][37] Some Universal Kids original series, such as American Ninja Warrior Junior and Where's Waldo?, moved to NBCUniversal's new streaming service Peacock.[38][39]

Based on numbers from Nielsen, Variety ranked Universal Kids as the 132nd most-watched broadcast or cable network in the United States in 2021, ranking ahead of only Discovery Familia and BabyFirst in terms of children's channels on the list.[40]

Programming[edit]

Original programs produced for the network include the Top Chef spin-off Top Chef Junior, The Goodnight Show. The Hoobs. Teletubbies. Sesame Street. Play With Me Sesame. Dragon Tales. Picme. Zoboomafoo. Angelina Ballerina. Bounce Spectrum Connections Elmo World. Thomas and Friends. the game shows Beat the Clock and The Noise, Get Out of My Room, and American Ninja Warrior Junior.[41][42] The channel also airs shows produced by DreamWorks Animation (some of which were originally produced for the streaming service Netflix) and has acquired and co-produced programs with international partners.[23]

Preschool programming[edit]

Prior to the Universal Kids launch, Sprout continued to premiere new series such as Kody Kapow, joining a slate that also included Dot, Nina's World, and DreamWorks-produced Noddy, Toyland Detective.[21][22] New acquisitions such as Masha and the Bear would premiere on the Sprout block alongside the relaunch."[23]

On August 14, 2017, Sprout replaced its long-running morning block Sunny Side Up with Sprout House (renamed Snug's House in 2018). It is presented by Carly Ciarrocchi and the new character Snug, a talking dog portrayed by puppeteer Chris Palmieri, through 90-second segments throughout the block. The program was designed to be more flexible to produce than its predecessor, with ga different "tiny house" set with additional areas and camera options. Unlike Sunny Side Up, the segments are pre-recorded instead of broadcast live; supervising producer Vinny Steves felt that the live format was too "limiting", and explained that the new format was also designed to enable the segments to be distributed on digital platforms such as social media. With the launch of Sprout House, the network began to downplay its longtime mascot, Chica, although she was featured in certain segments (such as Chica at School).[43]

Availability[edit]

As of September 2018, Universal Kids is available to about 56.240 million households in the United States.[1]

Universal Kids operates one feed nationally, and does not operate a timeshift feed for the west coast.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Nielsen coverage estimates for September see gains at ESPN networks, NBCSN, and NBA TV, drops at MLBN and NFLN". awfulannouncing.com. Archived from the original on August 19, 2019. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Comcast, HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop Announce Plans to Launch Ground-breaking 24-hour Preschool Children's Television Channel" (Press release). Arlington, VA: PBS. 2004-10-20. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Saluting Sprout's Launch: PBS Sprouts a Kids Triumph". TVWeek. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  4. ^ Goldman Getzler, Wendy (May 10, 2010). "Sprout grows with HD channel". Kidscreen. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  5. ^ Braude, Jonathan (October 24, 2011). "Apax sells Hit Entertainment to Mattel". The Deal. Archived from the original on 2011-10-28. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  6. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (November 13, 2013). "NBCUniversal Takes Full Ownership of Sprout Cable Network". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  7. ^ Cuomo, Andrew (May 5, 2014). "Governor Cuomo Announces that NBCUniversal's Sprout the First 24-Hour Preschool Network Will Relocate to New York City". New York State Government. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  8. ^ "Sprouting her wings". Philadelphia Inquirer. June 8, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  9. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly (November 13, 2013). "NBCUniversal Acquires Ownership of Kids' Channel Sprout". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  10. ^ Hagey, Keach (November 13, 2013). "NBCUniversal Buys Remainder of Sprout Network". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  11. ^ Luis Clemens (February 16, 2008). "Qubo's Rodriguez: Offering a 'Building Block' to Kids". Multichannel News. Reed Business Information. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  12. ^ "NBC Will Launch NBC Kids, a New Saturday Morning Preschool Block Programmed by Sprout®, Saturday, July 7". MarketWatch. March 28, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Rubino, Lindsay (March 28, 2012). "NBC, With Assist From Sprout, to Launch Saturday Morning Preschool Block". MultiChannel News. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d "Sprout gets a makeover, boosts original content output". Kidscreen. 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  15. ^ a b Lynch, Jason (September 15, 2015). "In Brand Refresh, Children's TV Network Drops Barney and Thomas for Original Shows". Adweek. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  16. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (November 13, 2013). "NBC Universal Takes Full Ownership of Sprout Cable Network". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Comcast Completes Its $3.8B DreamWorks Animation Purchase". Deadline Hollywood. August 22, 2016. Archived from the original on August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  18. ^ "Comcast's NBCUniversal completes purchase of DreamWorks Animation". Los Angeles Times. August 23, 2016. Archived from the original on August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  19. ^ Petski, Denise (2017-01-18). "Sprout Taps Children's Media Exec Deirdre Brennan As General Manager". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  20. ^ Barnes, Brooks (April 30, 2017). "NBCUniversal Is Building Its Own Children's Channel". The New York Times.
  21. ^ a b c Getzler, Wendy (May 1, 2017). "A new age: Sprout to become Universal Kids". Kidscreen. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  22. ^ a b c Petski, Denise (2017-05-01). "Sprout Rebranding To Universal Kids Network With 'Top Chef Junior', DreamWorks Animation Series". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g "Universal Kids Acquires Bear Grylls Series Ahead of Relaunch (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  24. ^ Pinto, Jordan (August 29, 2017). "The Next Step heads to U.S. TV". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  25. ^ Evans, Greg (April 10, 2018). "Universal Kids Sets First Original Comedy 'Greenfields' For Fall". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  26. ^ Pinto, Jordan (April 9, 2018). "Hulu commissions Holly Hobbie kids series". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  27. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (December 8, 2015). "DreamWorks Animation Signs Content Deal with DHX Media". Animation World Network. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  28. ^ a b "NBCU EVP Duccio Donati Takes on DreamWorks Channel". Animation Magazine. August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  29. ^ Steinberg, Brian (May 1, 2017). "NBCU's Sprout Grows Up: Universal Kids to Debut in September". Variety. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  30. ^ Barnes, Brooke (April 30, 2017). "NBCUniversal is Building Its Own Children's Channel". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  31. ^ "Duccio Donati tapped for new kids role at NBCUniversal". Kidscreen. August 4, 2017.
  32. ^ Schneider, Michael (December 28, 2017). "Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2017's Winners and Losers". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  33. ^ Schneider, Michael (December 27, 2018). "Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2018's Winners and Losers". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  34. ^ Dickson, Jeremy (February 15, 2019). "Brennan leaves Universal Kids in reorg". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  35. ^ "KILL 2 BIRDS - UNIVERSAL KIDS / NETWORK REBRAND". KILL 2 BIRDS. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  36. ^ Whyte, Alexandra (June 19, 2019). "Universal Kids halts original programming". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  37. ^ Steinberg, Brian (June 19, 2019). "NBCU Will Tie Universal Kids Cable More Directly to DreamWorks Animation Content". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  38. ^ White, Peter (2021-05-13). "Amy Poehler's 'Baking It', Spinoffs From 'Top Chef' & 'Below Deck' Cooked Up For Peacock". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  39. ^ Pedersen, Erik (2020-01-16). "Peacock Programming: List Of NBCUniversal Streaming Service's Series, Films, Sports, News & More". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  40. ^ "Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2021's Winners and Losers". Variety. December 30, 2021. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  41. ^ "FremantleMedia N.A. Sells Two Game Shows to Universal Kids". Broadcasting & Cable. 12 October 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  42. ^ "Universal Kids adds two FremantleMedia game shows". Kidscreen. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  43. ^ Steinberg, Brian (2017-08-10). "NBCUniversal Builds 'Sprout House,' Hopes Kids Will Visit". Variety. Retrieved 2017-08-17.

External links[edit]