When one thinks of the Discovery brand, one tends to think of documentaries and Mythbusters, rather than My Little Pony and Transformers. It may come as a shock, then, that with Discovery Kids folding, Discovery Communications has filled the gap with what may seem to some to be an unholy alliance with Hasbro Toys. Discovery Kids is gone. Here comes The Hub.
The Hub is a new cable network aimed at children age 6-12. Sort of.
Many of the shows are aimed at kids. There’s a block of programs for pre-schoolers on weekday mornings that includes many shows that are new to the U.S., including The WotWots, In the Night Garden, and Animal Mechanicals. Older kids might also tune in during the afternoon hours, for programs like the Looney-Tunes-inspired Twisted Whiskers Show, and Cosmic Quantum Ray, a show that says it introduces children to quantum physics. Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic represent older franchises who have new series starting up on The Hub.
There are also older, aquired shows for kids, many of which are popular favorites that have been missing from television for many years. Shows from the 80’s like Jim Henson’sFraggle Rock, Transformers: Generation One, and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero are in the rotation, although the Transformers’ and Joes’ original series may only be placeholders, as a new series for each franchise has also been announced: Transformers: Prime and G.I. Joe: Renegades. These last two help make up The Hub’s action packed Huboom line up, which also includes another returnee to syndication: Batman, the 1960’s camp-fest featuring Adam West and Burt Ward.
The old Batman series, you say? Some adults may tune in to that for nostalgia’s sake.
It seems The Hub has nostalgia in mind when it comes to its current block of prime time programming. Some say a void has formed between adult entertainment and children’s entertainment where family programming used to lie. The Hub hopes to push the cynicism of modern programming aside and end every episode with a hug again with the return of family favorites like Happy Days, The Wonder Years, and Family Ties. In fact, the more one looks into The Hub’s list of content, the more one is likely to see that the new channel isn’t really for kids. It’s for families. Many of the shows on The Hub are exactly the type of shows that modern parents can watch with their children, with smiles plastered all around.
While trying to keep things enriching with shows like Cosmic Quantum Ray, and nostalgic with shows like Fraggle Rock, Discovery’s new bid for families’ attention is not without an obvious hand in marketing strategy by their new partner Hasbro. It has not escaped critical attention that many of the network’s animated series are based on Hasbro toy lines, but product placement may not be more obvious than in the prime-time game show, Family Game Night, in which two families compete for big prizes in a mash-up of larger than life versions of classic board games like Monopoly, Guesstures, and Cranium.
The network has already come under fire from some parental groups as being too commercial for children. “Yes, some of our programs are based on beloved brands, some of which are toys, but you could say that across the board,” network spearhead, Margaret Loesch fires back, “We have some original shows that have nothing to do with toys. Our job is not to sell toys. Our job is to have a vibrant network that has diverse programming, and that’s what we’re presenting.”
Many of today’s generation of families may enjoy the opportunity to refamiliarize themselves with, and introduce their children to the Fraggles, the Keatons, and the Transformers and Batman that they grew up with, and the kids might just stick around for the original programming, but only time will tell if The Hub’s eclectic mix of edutainment, product placement, and nostalgia hits the mark.
For more information on The Hub, check out the official site. Check your local listings to find out if The Hub is available in your area.