In preparation for the launch of a 24-hour Discovery Kids digital channel in the U.S. next fall, Marjorie Kaplan, senior VP of Discovery Kids programming and products, is looking to fill in the gaps of the existing programming lineup. The DK block, which ran on Discovery Channel Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon, has already been discontinued to allow for full-time tinkering.
The organizational plan for the new channel remains somewhat ephemeral, but Kaplan is firm that there will be a preschool block, an older-skewing block and an after-school block, and some of the fare will likely loop to make up the full 24 hours. The lineup will also house a fair bit of promotionally driven stunt blocks, including a Saturday Night Sleepover block during Halloween.
At MIPCOM, Kaplan will be on the hunt for character-based series for kids of all ages, although preschool will be an initial focus since DK programming for this age group already reaches 79 million homes worldwide on the The Learning Channel. Kaplan plans to air TLC fare like NiNi’s Treehouse and Pappyland on the new digital channel, and will add to it with new co-pros and pick-ups. A relaunch of the Ready, Set, Learn! block is also on the drawing board, with Animal Jam (The Jim Henson Company), Doodle Zoo (Coffey-Ballantine) and ToddWorld (Jem Entertainment and Imaginease Entertainment) featured as veteran shows. The channel has already signed development deals to co-produce new series with the likes of the Tom Lynch Company, Porchlight and Decode, although future plans call for fully funded programming. On Tom Lynch’s DK development slate is a 26 x half-hour series called Kendall’s Safari, about a girl coming of age in Africa. The show should figure into the channel launch in Q4 2002.
Kaplan explains that there are three cornerstones for the success of Discovery Kids as a stand-alone channel. Audience, obviously, is key, and Kaplan hopes to attract all kids who currently watch the Discovery Channel–whether they’re tuning into the kids block or prime-time specials like When Dinosaurs Roamed America, which attracted 1.1 million kids when it aired on July 15. Next, cable operators have to want to carry the channel, and there’s been enough demand so far to indicate that won’t be a problem. Finally, Kaplan needs to further cultivate both production and marketing partnerships. On the latter front, Kaplan says there has been some significant movement and that a promotional deal with a major packaged goods company is close to being signed.