With Disney Junior set to debut early next year as a 24/7 preschool network, replacing SOAPnet, we spoke with Kanter about the long-anticipated launch. (On Fri, Disney announced Daytime pres Brian Frons will depart when his contract expires in Jan and "try something new." He also oversees SOAPnet.) Why did you decide to launch the network now? Do you stand by your decision to not have done so earlier? About 8 or 9 years ago there was some talk about launching a separate 24-hour channel, but at the time there wasn’t an enormous amount of content that we had created specifically for the preschool audience. At that moment in time, looking at what the cost was for actually launching a brand new channel and given that we really didn’t have the depth of content that we have now, it just didn’t seem to be a wise decision to make. The decision was made to just maintain and hopefully grow the preschool block on Disney Channel, which is what we’ve done in the last 9 or 10 years. The landscape has obviously changed a lot in those 10 years. How has your success with intl preschool networks influenced the launch? We started doing that internationally (where the cost to launching those channels was less) quite a number of years ago. And we’ve seen tremendous success with those 24-hour channels around the world… You’ve seen the choices for kids’ television growing by leaps and bounds—and the viewing patterns. The viewing levels are highest in parts of the day that aren’t traditionally thought of as children’s television—or at least preschool television hours—which are 5-9 pm…. [Parents say] that’s a time when I can use television in a way that fits our family life, and kids are very much expecting to find content there at those hours—which we didn’t have when we were just an early morning, afternoon block on Disney Channel in the US. With Disney Junior replacing SOAPnet, are you making new deals? It’s going to be a strategy where as deals expire, and we start to renegotiate deals with the cable operators, we’ll slowly build distribution through the deals that are being renewed. For some period of time, there will be SOAPnet as well as Disney Junior available on some cable operators. Were you influenced by programming research or the market—currently served by your competitors? Some of both. We definitely did a lot of research with moms and really tried to figure out what their viewing preferences were… We heard loud and clear that yes, there were choices already out there for a full 24-hour service, but that they really thought Disney was a missing a piece of that. They loved the content available in the early part of the day and [said] ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had this all day long?’ What are your plans to engage preschoolers on the digital front? If you ever come across a 2- or 5-year-old with an iPad, they are as proficient with it as anybody. They are some of the most successful apps out there because this has become sort of a must-have for parents. We’re looking at digital across the board… You just can’t afford to be only looking at it from a television broadcast perspective anymore. More from the Q&A at cablefax.com.

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