Disney announced plans Wednesday to dump SoapNet in two years and replace the channel with the new, preschool-oriented "Disney Junior."
That's sure to rock the programming world of our household. I probably have not watched a single second of SoapNet -- no offense to the folks behind the channel, I'm just not the target demo.
I do have a 9 month old, however. And by the time Disney Junior launches in 2012, he'll be nearly 3. I get the feeling I'm going to be watching a lot of Disney Junior.
Disney Junior enters a 5-and-under field that has gotten crowded in recent years. Nickelodeon operates the 24-hour Nick Jr. preschool channel, while PBS Kids Sprout is a joint venture between Comcast Corp., HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop. The digital channel Qubo, an alliance between Scholastic, ION Media Networks, NBC Universal, and Corus Entertainment, also targets the preschool crowd. And BBC Worldwide America has been looking to distribute a U.S. version of the kiddie channel CBeebies here.
As for Discovery’s upcoming joint venture with Hasbro, dubbed “The Hub,” that channel will be geared toward a slightly older kid audience.
Disney already operates a preschool block on the Disney Channel, called “Playhouse Disney.” That brand will be renamed “Disney Junior” in early 2011. Disney plans to rename its 22 Playhouse Disney channels and blocks outside the U.S. as well, starting in 2011.
According to insiders, the name change was made in order to make it more clear to consumers that “Disney Junior” offers programming that is younger-skewing than the Disney Channel.
Disney Junior won’t run advertising, but will follow the Disney Channel model of including promotions and other programming material between programs. Rival Nick Jr. also doesn’t accept advertising, while PBS Kids Sprout does -- but only for products geared toward parents, such as diapers, household items and reading programs.
Meanwhile, you gotta hand it to those crafty folks at Disney. They buried the lede -- the press release for Disney Junior doesn't mention the demise of SoapNet UNTIL THE SIXTH PARAGRAPH! That led many of us to believe this was simply a channel launch announcement at first -- until, holy crap, there's more to the story! A reminder to always listen to your third grade teacher and read things through!