Even as the dial is becoming more crowded with channels targeting kids and families, HBO is confident that the strength of its brand will buttress its new family channel, HBO Family, when it officially launches in January.
‘People come to HBO for movies. They don’t go to Nick for movies, they don’t go to Disney Channel for movies. So we already have a distinct position in the marketplace,’ says Dolores Morris, vice president of original programming at HBO.
‘We can say we’re a channel about co-viewing, because everyone in the family goes to HBO, as opposed to kids going to Nick and parents going to PBS.’
The non-commercial HBO Family, which is available to subscribers free of charge, is being used to boost customer loyalty to HBO and to endear itself to potential subscribers, says Quentin Schaffer, vice president of media relations at HBO. (HBO has been testing the channel in the U.S. in a limited scope via satellite andsome cable systems since December 1996.)
HBO Family will feature a mix of animated and live-action shows and movies for preschoolers, tweens and families, as well as some interstitial programming. Initially, it will rely heavily on outside material, but Schaffer expects original programming will eventually make up 30 percent of its schedule.
According to Schaffer, HBO has started fielding proposals for shows. So far, 10 have been greenlit for production, and although the network has not released specifics, one of the programs is CrashHBOx, an animated game show aimed at the nine-to-12 demographic, which Toronto-based animation studio Cuppa Coffee is producing.
HBO unveiled its plans for the revamped channel in April, along with five other channels as part of its multiplex package, HBO The Works. Only those subscribers whose cable operators have the spectrum space, however, will be able to receive them. Morris estimates that HBO Family will reach 12 to 15 million households, or roughly half of its current subscribers.