Discovery Teaming Up With Hasbro for New Kids Network

By Terri Rupar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 2009

Discovery Communications announced that it is forming a joint venture with Hasbro to create a new TV network, to debut late next year, focused on children 14 and under.

Both companies will contribute content. Shows such as "Bindi the Jungle Girl" and "Tutenstein" will come from Discovery's library, and there will be programming based on Hasbro brands such as My Little Pony, Tonka and Scrabble.

The network is part of "reimagining the potential of our incredible portfolio of brands well beyond traditional toys and games," Hasbro chief executive Brian Goldner said in a statement. The toy company has already branched out into movies, with a G.I. Joe film due this year, and video games.

Consumer advocates expressed concern about the venture, saying such a partnership would create content akin to advertising.

"This network is going to be nothing more than back-to-back infomercials aimed directly at kids," said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood at Harvard University's Judge Baker Children's Center. She said children play less creatively with media-linked toys and that creative play is the basis for learning and critical thinking.

Each company will hold 50 percent in the venture, which will also form a related Web site and hold a minority interest in the U.S. version of The entity will also include the U.S. assets of Discovery Kids Network, for which the Silver Spring company will get $300 million.

"The combined assets of both partners provide a compelling platform for building a trusted children's destination that engages and enlightens a thirsty and growing audience," Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said in a statement.

In response to a question about whether people would see the new network as overly commercialized, Goldner and Zaslav said in a conference call yesterday that they believe the companies together can "tell some great stories."

Hasbro is separately establishing a team to create and produce animated, live-action and game show programming based on its brands, as well as content for digital and mobile devices.

The companies said the new network would continue to devote some hours each day to educational and informative content.

Discovery will continue to run the Discovery Kids channel until the new, yet-to-be-named network kicks off. It is expected to reach 60 million homes.

The deal is similar to a joint venture Discovery formed with Oprah Winfrey in January 2008 to turn Discovery's Health Channel into the Oprah Winfrey Network, slated to launch early next year.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company