Following swiftly on the heels of Target’s move into television with a holiday special called Snowden on Ice, The Home Depot is bringing a children’s television series to NATPE this month.
The Home Depot Presents Homer’s Workshop is a half-hour program that features a live-action host named Homer, based on the animated character in The Home Depot’s logo, and animated sidekicks Hammer, Screwdriver and Pliers. The show will consist of 26 original episodes per year for two years. Episodes will include do-it-yourself projects appropriate for a target audience of kids age six to 12 and field trips to companies that manufacture products. The show’s instructional content meets the FCC guidelines for educational programming.
Jeff Hoops and Brian Levine, executive producers of the series at Thousand Oaks, California-based Big Kid Productions, believe that Homer’s Workshop is the first how-to, project-centered program available for kids on broadcast television. With schools concentrating on high-tech applications, there’s a need for programming that teaches hands-on, everyday skills, says Hoops.
The idea for Homer’s Workshop came from real-life workshops for children and their parents that have been running informally for several years in many of the nearly 600 The Home Depot stores in Canada and the U.S. ‘The response [has been] unbelievable,’ says Dick Hammill, senior vice president of marketing at Atlanta, Georgia-based The Home Depot. So many kids and parents had been signing up for these workshops that the company decided to formally introduce them in all stores last September.
After seeing such positive results at the store level, a television series that brings this kid-parent interaction to a larger audience seemed like a good idea. ‘We know there’s a need for instructional, positive programming,’ says Hammill. ‘We know we’ve got a winner with kids workshops. And stations are looking for programming to fill those kinds of needs. It all just naturally fits.’
The Home Depot also sees the television series as a way to reach out to the communities it serves. ‘It extends our community involvement and extends our franchise to the family,’ says Hammill. The Home Depot is already active locally in such ways as sponsoring Olympic teams and charities including Habitat for Humanity. A share of the proceeds from Homer’s Workshop will go toward the local organizations with which The Home Depot works.
This is the first time that Big Kid Productions is teaming up with a retailer as a production partner. Hoops believes that more retailers will branch into other areas of the kids business, such as developing television series and licensed properties. In November, Target Stores launched a Christmas special on CBS titled Snowden on Ice, which featured a snowman character that the retailer plans to make a perennial property (see KidScreen’s November 1997 issue, ‘Target launches proprietary character,’ page R1). But Hoops emphasizes that Homer’s Workshop has been created with the desire to provide educational programming for kids, not to sell licensed merchandise. The only spinoff products planned to date are a home page on the Internet that will include tips about projects shown on the program and a home video line packaging episodes of the show.
Homer’s Workshop is being offered through syndication on a barter basis, with 2.5 national ad minutes and 2.5 local ad minutes per episode. Stations are required to pick up the show for two years. MG/Perin of New York is handling the distribution to broadcasters, and Big Kid Productions anticipates that the series will have cleared 71 percent of the U.S. by early first quarter.
Big Kid and The Home Depot had considered cable, network and syndication venues. ‘Broadcast syndication gave us the most upside potential for this program regarding local promotion with the TV stations in each city,’ says Hoops. The Home Depot will highlight the show in all print advertising and local stations will be mentioned on the home videos. Stations will also participate in yet-to-be-determined cross-promotions in stores.
The show is planned to begin airing in September. Commercials and trailers to introduce the program will roll out next month.