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Qubo head to pick up for digital launch

Making steady strides in the ratings race since sliding into NBC's Saturday morning slot in September, Qubo is gearing up to go 24/7 in the digital spectrum this month. And in order to manage this growth, the media partners behind the joint-venture have brought in an experienced channel launcher to run the show as president and GM.
January 1, 2007

Making steady strides in the ratings race since sliding into NBC’s Saturday morning slot in September, Qubo is gearing up to go 24/7 in the digital spectrum this month. And in order to manage this growth, the media partners behind the joint-venture have brought in an experienced channel launcher to run the show as president and GM.

Having rolled out the first Discovery Kids network in Latin America in ’96, Rick Rodriguez knows a thing or two about how to identify untapped audience niches in a broadcast landscape. He believes the U.S. market is ripe for Qubo right now because none of the region’s other kidnets are serving the four to eight demo with values- and literacy-based fare that parents can get behind, too.

So far, his gut instincts seem to be on the money. The channel is almost netting one caregiver for every child tuning in, and according to Nielsen’s ratings for the week ending November 27, 2006, Qubo on NBC was up 56% with six- to 11-year-olds compared to the previous year. To give this figure some more context, the other kids broadcast blocks were down in the same measurement: ABC Kids by 17%, DIC on CBS by 65%, 4Kids.TV on Fox by 31% and Kids’ WB! by 19%.

Right now, Qubo’s lineup consists of animated fare from the three content partners: Dragon from Scholastic; VeggieTales, 3-2-1 Penguins! and Larryboy from Classic Media/Big Idea; and Jane and the Dragon and Babar from Corus Entertainment. The block airs Saturdays on NBC from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fridays on majority partner ION Media’s i-network from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays on Telemundo from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Each of the content partners are on the line to contribute one new toon to Qubo’s programming lineup each year, but do the math and it’s clear that this infusion doesn’t exactly add up to a 24-hour schedule. So the initial digital plan calls for looping Qubo’s partner-provided lineup for the first two quarters of 2007.

In the meantime, Rodriguez wants to acquire at least four additional series to refresh his air in the fall. He’s after 26 x half-hour shows that have literacy at their core – i.e. protagonists who solve their problems using mastery of language and the written word. Although the NBC block is 100% animation, Rodriguez is open to live action for the digital channel, but it must hit a four to eight target, rather than preschool.

Besides shoring up more programming, Rodriguez is working with SVP of advertising sales and sponsorship Kerry Hughes to expand Qubo’s advertising business. Because the channel missed the spring 2006 media-buying spree, it’s had to rely largely on the scatter-market so far. But Rodriguez and Hughes are planning to pitch hard at this year’s upfront for clients aiming to reach caregivers and kids together.

Another priority is fleshing out the Qubo team, which currently consists of just Rodriguez and Hughes. To that end, Rodriguez has an aggressive recruitment plan in mind, starting with finding New York-based communications and marketing talent who can help build the channel’s public profile. And next year, he’s hoping to bring in a development and programming head to source new content and manage scheduling.

Rodriguez will soon relocate from L.A. to Qubo’s headquarters in New York to manage the team more effectively, a move that shouldn’t be too jarring considering his family lived in the Bronx for 10 years after emigrating from Cuba. Welcome back to East Coast winters, Rick! JL

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