NBCU-owned Universal Kids is shifting its programming strategy and will no longer make original content, Kidscreen has confirmed. The shift is to ensure the long-term viability of the channel.
The US kidcaster will stay on the air and continue as a linear channel, however moving forward it will only be acquiring content and continuing its current partnership with DreamWorks Animation (also owned by NBCUniversal).
Any originals that have already been commissioned will also air as scheduled, and will have full marketing support from the network. Kidscreen was unable to confirm whether any of these shows would have the option of additional seasons.
Some of Universal Kids’ original programming includes Top Chef Junior (two seasons have aired), American Ninja Warrior Junior (second season in production and will air in 2020), tween makeover series Get Out of My Room and live-action scripted comedy Bajillionaires, previously titled Greenfields (co-commissioned with DHX and produced by Six Eleven Media). Universal Kids announced in May that it is developing spin-off show Top Chef Junior: Remix and escape room-inspired series Create the Escape. DreamWorks series Where’s Waldo and Factory’s Norman Picklestripes will still air as planned as Universal Kids continues to build on that partnership.
Based in New York, anyone who was in a content, original content, or development role has been shifted into a new position at Universal, or their job has been eliminated. It’s not clear who will be affected.
In February this year, Deirdre Brennan left after serving as GM for two years. At the time, her departure was attributed to an executive restructure. NBCU’s president of lifestyle networks, Frances Berwick, took over Brennan’s responsibilities when she left. Berwick continues to shoulder those responsibilities as part of her role as lifestyle networks president.
Universal Kids launched in 2017, after rebranding the preschool channel Sprout. It instead targeted two- to 11-year-olds, with a Sprout preschool block featuring original programming from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. and content for older kids and families airing from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. After the rebrand, the channel’s ratings plummeted 30% between 2016 and 2017, according to IndieWire. The following year, IndieWire reported that Universal Kids’ ratings dipped an additional 73%.