Comcast, PBS, Sesame Workshop and London-based HIT Entertainment confirmed the widely leaked rumor (Cfax, July 2) of a 24-hr, ad-supported diginet for the 2-5 crowd; it begins next fall. A complementary VOD service will be introduced earlier, offering 50 hrs of on-demand programming beginning early ’05. The (unnamed) preschool net will feature existing content from the 3 programmers, including HIT’s "Bob the Builder" and "Barney." No word on whether eps of PBS kiddie classic "Sesame St" will appear one their 3rd net (Big Bird and his Muppety pals can be found on the Viacom-owned Noggin.) The buzz is that the partners are waiting for Sept ’05, when Viacom’s Street rights expire. HIT stands to own a 30% stake in the venture and will invest $32mln over the next 5 years. — Sound Familiar? Disney was 1st with an eye toward starting a pre-school net, although "Playhouse Disney" never materialized as a standalone diginet. In April ’03, the Mouse shelved launch plans, shifting content to VOD at the behest of MSOs (Cfax 4/30/03). ABC Cable Nets’ Patti McTeague said the post-9/11 economy made Disney "take another look at the existing business model." It turned to VOD because demand was great. (The Mouse has been aggressively deploying VOD across platforms, including its "Disney Channel on Demand" service through Cablevision, a vigorous SVOD library and the "MovieBeam" datacasting play.) — Look & Feel: When the new net launches, it will be the only channel exclusively for preschoolers and not just in dayparts. The partners are evaluating whether to produce original content exclusively for the channel. Comcast says ads will be targeted to parents and comply with the Children’s TV Act of ’90, although it’s programming may run uninterrupted, a la PBS. Other MSOs will be pitched starting next year.

The Daily


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