On Sept. 9, NBC will debut Qubo, a multiplatform block of original children's programming to launch simultaneously in English on NBC and in Spanish on Telemundo. An additional Friday-afternoon lineup on ION Media Networks' i network premieres Sept. 15. All three networks are owned by NBC Universal.
Plans call for Qubo to become its own digital-cable network by the end of the year, although no launch date has been set.
Result of a partnership
Qubo is the result of a partnership made in May among NBC Universal, Scholastic, Classic Media/Big Idea (producers of "Veggie Tales"), Telemundo (NBC's Spanish-language network) and the ION Media Networks (formerly Pax TV).
The venture is intended to promote literacy and positive values primarily to children ages 4 to 8, said Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media.
"We're really targeting kids right when they're getting ready to start real school and want to get off to a really strong start," Ms. Forte said. "The network is not just about meeting the needs of kids. We did not think that the audience was being served by commercial TV."
NBC has struggled to attract viewers ages 2 to 11 to its Saturday-morning lineup of children's programming. Near the end of its demise in February, Discovery Kids drew ratings that averaged 0.5 to 0.7, a mere third of those at ABC and CBS.
Qubo, however, has one major ally on its side in the Saturday-morning basic-cable war zone: "VeggieTales."
Scheduled to make its U.S. broadcast debut Sept. 9, "VeggieTales" is the extraordinarily popular series of values-based videos for children. The cartoon has sold more than 50 million copies since its debut in 1993, making it the highest-selling show never to air on TV, said Eric Ellenbogen, CEO, Classic Media, whose subsidiary company Big Idea produces the "VeggieTales" movies.
Qubo's flagship series is known for emphasizing positive values, which will be reflected in the network's advertising as well.
"Right now we are actively in the market for marketing partnerships where it isn't about having a sugared-cereal commercial but rather promoting good nutrition habits and having family meals together," Mr. Ellenbogen said. "It doesn't necessarily preclude a particular class of advertiser, but what it does preclude is certain types of messaging."