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The 500-channel challenge

It's not every year a new kidcaster attempts to enter the uber-competitive US market. With an abundance of already-familiar programming choices, how do you compel kids to tune into something new? Discovery and Hasbro's multi-platform joint-venture channel The Hub, which goes live on
October 22, 2010

It’s not every year a new kidcaster attempts to enter the uber-competitive US market. With an abundance of already-familiar programming choices, how do you compel kids to tune into something new? Discovery and Hasbro’s multi-platform joint-venture channel The Hub, which goes live on

October 10, is in the process of forging that path. And in an effort to cut through the channel clutter, the net has embarked on a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to support the launch and sustain momentum through Q4 2010.

We caught up with The Hub CMO Amber Tarshis amid the intense lead-up to launch day to find out about the go-live strategy. It included reaching out to kids as well as moms and fanboys to make sure every target demo was informed and their curiosity piqued for the switch-on.

Tarshis says reaching the kids audience months prior to The Hub’s air date was a priority. A mix of national cable and terrestrial TV ads, as well as tune-in messages placed on more than 30 million Hasbro product packages earlier this year, have been speaking directly to kids about the channel. However, leveraging digital media to grow awareness has also played a significant part in the campaign.

‘We’re the first major kids and family network launching in the digital era,’ says Tarshis. ‘From the outset, our digital strategy has been critical and has been driving our overall marketing strategy.’

To that end, www.hubworld.com will go live a week prior to the channel launch. The site taps into the portfolio of casual Hasbro games already available and is stacked with videos and clips of upcoming channel content to engage kids and build awareness of the characters and shows landing on the network. And to drive traffic to hubworld, Tarshis says the network has devised an extensive digital media buy on kid sites like Addicting Games, Miniclips and Wild Tangents.

Besides kids, getting moms and fanboys on-board was also a big part of the strategy. ‘The idea of building a space that works for fanboys, young men who have kids, moms and kids directly is central to the idea of a playful destination that has great content for everybody,’ says Tarshis.

The channel rolled out an outdoor ad campaign in New York and L.A. this summer, placed print ads in key parenting magazines and used social media to get the word out to the mom-blogging community. In addition to online social networking efforts, The Hub mounted its most extensive consumer-facing live event at Comic-Con in San Diego this past summer. The exhibit specifically targeted fanboys who worship the ground upon which flagship property Transformers treads.

‘We wanted to make the Comic-Con event very experiential and allow people to touch and feel and be a part of our brands,’ says Tarshis. Outside the convention center, a 17-foot-tall Optimus Prime kept watch, while inside fans could literally stand in the palm of his hand and get a photo taken. The channel also had a GI Joe Renegade station where show-goers could sign up as Cobra Industries employees and obtain personal photo ID swipe cards. And for the younger set, the puppeteer who brought Red from Fraggle Rock to life was on-hand to lead a sing-along.

The event was intended to get the fanboys buzzing, but Tarshis says the exposure to families was also huge. ‘The big surprise was how many families were there. We designed the attraction to appeal to fanboys and we got them, along with an unexpected turnout of kids and their families.’

Tarshis says that beyond the milestone October 10 launch, the real work will then be sustaining audience growth through a mix of cross-channel promos with sister Discovery nets, off-channel media buys and more online outreach. The strategy will also focus on using on-air time to drive viewership, as well as using off-channel marketing to maintain awareness of the launch shows and new series being introduced mid-season at the end of November and in January.

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