Once Hasbro pulled out a 10 percent stake in the Hub network, Discovery Communications quickly decided to rebrand the channel Discovery Family Channel. How will the change fare out and why did it happen?
Last week, the Hub Network announced a change in partnership between Hasbro and The Discovery Network. Hasbro sold the necessary 10 percent of the company for equal status. Speculation hit the business journals quickly.
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Why would the network be rebranded when the megahit My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic rakes in profits? Not to say My Little Ponies is the sole reason, but the marketing tools found in toy aisles definitely help to keep the Hub network continuing on. Just like the Transformers reboot with Michael Bay and the various current cartoon properties sell product.
The Wall Street Journal speculated the rise in children-focused television made sustainability difficult for a small, independent network. Just look at the most high-tiered programming blocks in cable and satellite companies. At least ten channel at last count with a consistently growing number every year. And as the WSJ noted, online viewership has made a very large impact as well.
Take Nickelodeon's tendency to switch The Legend of Korra epsiodes online at the back half of the season, which seems to bring in the needed numbers for example. Nickelodeon's looking to go against Netflix. Granted, there's a symbiotic partnership between the two companies but when selling ad space, click counts matter as much as Nielsen ratings. And Korra's viewership drives a higher profitability for the network both directly and indirectly.
WSJ reports that Hub often clashed with Hasbro's demands on marketing. This isn't entirely surprising. Hasbro keeps a firm hand on their marketing tactics. After all, the company's managed to keep Transformers in the public consciousness for over 30 years. Must rankle Hub a bit to be somewhat cut off from such an essential part of profitability.
And there's an extremely important success in managing to in featured in 70 million homes as an independent island compared to giants Disney and Nickelodeon. However, the television providers are pushing back harder as people move from monthly direct-to-television services to online streaming services.
In a conference last week, Discovery's chief financial officer Andrew Warren admitted that the market is hard to break into. And that's what caused the internal rebranding from primarily cartoons—similar to the Boomerang Network—and more family focused like Nickelodeon, where a mixture of live-action and cartoons coexist together.
And the Hub isn't the first family network to rebrand.
Once upon a time, ABC Family was known as Fox Family. And Fox didn't start the network, either. Fox Family originally went by The Family Network before Rupert Murdoch bought the channel in 1997. The channel's gone through a lot of changes and is still very successful.
So how will Hub handle being rebranded as Discovery Family Channel? How will it be different? And who will be in charge of overseeing the transition?
Broadcasting and Cable reported that Discovery Communications announced that Tom Cosgrove will be performing general manager duties on Thursday, September 25.
With Discovery taking majority shares, Hasbro essentially conceded control to the network to the communications giant. Cosgrove has most recently been in charge of 3net and 3net Studios. Yet the 3-D television joint venture between Discovery, Sony, and Imax shut down at the same time the Hub Network was rebranded. It appears as if Discovery decided to fully inspect all properties and evaluate performance.
The failure of 3net is not the first failure for the company. They were forced to bring back Discovery Health after selling the channel to Oprah Winfrey to start her OWN network. And in turn FitTV was turned into Discovery Health. There are many different pieces Discovery has moved around in recently years.
Along with rebranding other networks as cultural shifts and interests involved, including HD Theater into Velocity, a channel dedicated to supplying the male demographic 25-52 with fast cars, sports coverage, and similar programming.
Cosgrove also helmed the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel as executive VP and chief operating officer. His resume showcases executive positions at Fox Family, ABC Family and the TV Guide Network (now known as TVGN).
But what will Cosgrove be in charge of?
According to Broadcasting and Cable and the Wall Street Journal, the network will air already-created Discovery programs about natural history, natures, and science meant to entice a family during the evening hours. And from 9am until 3pm, the network will now focus on television shows meant for children. The split comes at an interesting time since the Hub network already owns quite a bit of nostalgic programming such as Family Ties, Alf, Happy Days, and more recently, Blossom.
After four years of on-air viewing, the network’s rebranding will take place on October 13. How will the audience connect?
That’s another compelling question as most Hub adult viewers seem to be millennials, the most courted of demographics. Shows like My Little Pony, Jem (which has a live-action movie coming out next year), and Transformers: Prime and Rescue Bots all feed into the nostalgic needs of the 18-34 demographic. Never mind that powerhouses like Weird Al Yankovich are looking to guest star on My Little Pony.
And as was noted in an article on Tor.com recently, the idea of how to be an adult has morphed with the generation as time to start a family, earn a decent wage, and be more ‘responsible’ moved later in life to account for student debt and lack of employment opportunities.
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If Discovery is looking to create a new foundation on the shoulders of the old Hub Network, the communications company must be prepared for a lot of hard work.