Later this year, NBCUniversal will relaunch current network Sprout into a kids’ programming channel with more appeal for a broader age range of children.
According to the New York Times, Sprout will be renamed Universal Kids starting Sept. 9 and its programming will target kids ages 2-11, instead of the primary preschool-age children for whom Sprout currently programs. Universal Kids will feature more unscripted programming, including “Top Chef Junior,” a spinoff of the “Top Chef” series which currently airs on Bravo, a network which is also owned by NBCUniversal. More of Universal Kids’ programming will be filled out by existing DreamWorks shows including “All Hail King Julien.”
Last year during the run-up to Comcast/Universal’s completed acquisition of DreamWorks for $3.8 billion, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said DreamWorks content would largely be distributed via SVOD services. DreamWorks already has SVOD agreements in place with companies like Netflix. Last year, DreamWorks and Netflix announced a deal allowing Netflix to show DreamWorks Animation series globally.
While using DreamWorks content to help relaunch a struggling linear channel doesn’t necessarily match up with Cavanagh’s comments, it does make sense against the backdrop of other recent moves NBC has made in regards to some of its other less-popular networks.
Earlier this year, NBC announced it was shuttering Cloo, its crime- and mystery-focused network, and retooling Oxygen as a true-crime network similar to Discovery Communications’ Investigation Discovery.
“The recent expansion of our ‘Crime Time’ weekend block has enjoyed double-digit gains and has really resonated with our female audience,” said Frances Berwick, president of Lifestyle Networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, in a statement. “Oxygen has always played in this space with the highly successful original series ‘Snapped,’ one of the longest running crime series on television now approaching its 20th season. With a lot of high quality projects in development, we believe our current fans, as well as all armchair detectives, have good reason to be excited.”
Prior to that, NBCUniversal also announced that it was transitioning Esquire Network from a linear channel to a digital-only property.
Like Cloo and Esquire, Sprout has often found itself among the least-watched cable networks, according to Nielsen’s figures.