Why was it so hard to establish a "4th" kids network

TheMisterManGuy

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Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel are to Children's television, what CBS, ABC, and NBC are to broadcast television. They're the pioneers of modern kids tv, and they helped revive the TV animation market in the 90s with a focus on Cartoons from creators, not Toy companies. Nick, CN, and Disney leading the pack, other companies piped up and tried to take the role of the "4th" kids network that could give the big 3 a run for their money.

Fox was the first to throw their hat into the ring, and through its Fox Kids Worldwide division, acquired The Family Channel from Pat Robertson. Rebranded as Fox Family Channel with a focus on targeting not just kids, but the whole Family. However, News Corporation failed to truly rock the children's cable world, the same way they rocked the Broadcast world with the FOX Broadcasting Company. Lackluster shows and conflicts between Fox and Hiam Saban led to the channel being gobbled up by Disney in 2001.

Next up was Discovery, who decided to go after a niche audience with Discovery Kids. Their strategy was effectively emulating Nickelodeon, but with an educational slant. Their main growth period was during the 2000s, where they were leased NBC's Saturday Morning block to use as essentially, glorified promotional space for the channel. This was effective, as by 2006, the channel reached 43 million homes. However, without NBC, the novelty of an edutainment channel for Kids quickly wore thin. So Discovery sold half the channel to Hasbro in 2009, and the two companies re-built it from scratch as the more entertainment based Hub Network, which showed cartoons and live action shows geared towards Families, many of which, were based on Hasbro's extensive line of Toys and Games. This also failed to hit mainstream, which forced Discovery to buy-back some of Hasbro's shares and run the channel themselves as "Discovery Family" which by some strange miracle, is still around today.

Now NBCUniversal is up to bat. After a series of acquisitions and buy-backs regarding its Sprout Pre-school channel, NBC decided they should have their own Kids network, and in 2017, rebranded Sprout as Universal Kids, named after its most important asset, the movie studio, Universal Pictures. Drawing from both Universal and NBC's catalog of shows, including the newly acquired DreamWorks Animation, Universal Kids once again is failing to truly be a threat to the big 3, who aren't doing too hot to begin with largely thanks to streaming services.

So why is it so hard for a new kids channel to become the "4th network" the same way FOX was able to break into the scene? Why is it still Viacom, Disney, and Warner that dominate the market?
 

JoeMabbon

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The game ended in the 1990s. The pieces were all set in place then. I don't really know what could've been done then to set up a fourth channel, but by the the mid 00s the game was over.
 

LinusFan303

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Fox Family Channel came at the wrong time Fox Kids was getting weaker with the weekday market moving to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network (Maybe Disney Channel but they were still in transtion from being an HBO like service) and Saturday market having a slight problem too. Kids Wb also started taking up some of the audience from Fox Kids to. Then Fox and Saban were having internal disagreements. Fox washed their hands of all of this and Fox Family was part of that because Fox by then had no more feeling for children's TV anymore.

I never considered Discovery Kids to be attempt at 4th ,on my cable system it was digital cable like Nicktoons and etc it wasn't with the rest , even in the channel listings it was lumped with other extra discovery channels. I think the only think that had Discovery kids work was being on NBC , they even seemed to stop after leaving NBC.

Universal Kids felt like it was half launched it didn't feel like they planned it out enough hopefully they've adjusted it. I do like they've tried different things than just outright copying Nick or Disney Channel. Maybe they have a good chance but who knows.

The Hub was very ambitious from the start even run by the woman who make Fox Kids successful in the first place , but I think it didn't match Discovery's standards in ratings and they and Hasbro probably clashed on things and it ended. Discovery Family is way cheaper to run and as long as it's cheap it can run a long time that's how it's still on the air.

I think it's hard because it takes a lot of work to launch any new channel and it takes ambition and time and many companies want more instant results.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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Fox Family Channel came at the wrong time Fox Kids was getting weaker with the weekday market moving to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network (Maybe Disney Channel but they were still in transtion from being an HBO like service) and Saturday market having a slight problem too. Kids Wb also started taking up some of the audience from Fox Kids to. Then Fox and Saban were having internal disagreements. Fox washed their hands of all of this and Fox Family was part of that because Fox by then had no more feeling for children's TV anymore.

I honestly think the bigger problem with Fox Family was the lack of a successful programing strategy. Same problem with Fox Kids at this time as well. Digimon was popular sure, but network had no other hit shows to rely on, especially to justify the Weekday block. Kids' WB! got away with keeping its weekday block for a while because Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Warner Bros. Animation kept ratings high which pleased WB affiliates. And that's what it comes down to, if you don't have a lot of hit shows, then stations are going to be really hesitant on airing children's programing during the weekdays, something even Kids' WB! had to eventually learn as they gave up their Weekday schedule when most of their stable hits like Yu-Gi-Oh! were on their way out.

Back to Fox Family, A major problem was that they not only tossed out the original Family Channel lineup, but they didn't have a solid plan for what to replace them with. Their focus on the whole family was unique compared to the big 3, but without a solid programing strategy, their ratings suffered because of it. I think what should've happened was that Saban should've sold back his stake in Fox Family Worldwide, and split from the company, leaving his production studio with it. Without Saban, Fox would've had the creative freedom they needed to find the hits they were looking for, not just to save Fox Family Channel, but Fox Kids Network as well.
 

RandomMe

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Outside of the USA there was a network called KidsCo. It was a low-cost operation that ran for six years and during its run it tried to become an alternative or competitor to the existing players. Though by 2013, and before NBCUniversal shut it down, some countries were already dropping the channel due to low ratings (Polish providers dropped it in the spring of 2013).
 

JTOONSAnimation

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  • Nickelodeon was the first kids network so that pretty much led into popularity and bring in a large audience.
  • Disney Channel had a large family library from the already popular Walt Disney Company, and was able to use that library to form a network (even if it was initially premium). It's popularity and viewership brought it to cable.
  • Cartoon Network, not only was the first only cartoon channel, but also had the entire Hanna Barbera library, the most popular television cartoons at that point.
Other networks didn't really have their own special thing and just mimicked the former. No other network really had an original concept for a kids network, nor a big popular library. So other kids channels just scramble to find what works.

If anything Netflix original cartoons can count as the fourth, even if it's not a cable network, it's the only "non Big Three" to have popular animated series to come out in recent years.
 

LinusFan303

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I honestly think the bigger problem with Fox Family was the lack of a successful programing strategy. Same problem with Fox Kids at this time as well. Digimon was popular sure, but network had no other hit shows to rely on, especially to justify the Weekday block. Kids' WB! got away with keeping its weekday block for a while because Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Warner Bros. Animation kept ratings high which pleased WB affiliates. And that's what it comes down to, if you don't have a lot of hit shows, then stations are going to be really hesitant on airing children's programing during the weekdays, something even Kids' WB! had to eventually learn as they gave up their Weekday schedule when most of their stable hits like Yu-Gi-Oh! were on their way out.

Back to Fox Family, A major problem was that they not only tossed out the original Family Channel lineup, but they didn't have a solid plan for what to replace them with. Their focus on the whole family was unique compared to the big 3, but without a solid programing strategy, their ratings suffered because of it. I think what should've happened was that Saban should've sold back his stake in Fox Family Worldwide, and split from the company, leaving his production studio with it. Without Saban, Fox would've had the creative freedom they needed to find the hits they were looking for, not just to save Fox Family Channel, but Fox Kids Network as well.
The weekday block also wasn't liked by many of their affiliates because many used to be ABC,CBS,NBC stations that were used to airing soaps, gameshows, court shows, talk shows and they were not willing to take Fox Kids on weekdays because random talk was a better lead in to the their 5 or 6pm newscasts than hoping that people would turn over after Digimon or something from another station airing Sally or Oprah etc.


I think that if Fox had owned Fox Family in the early 90's when Fox Kids was doing great , then Fox Family could have been more successful. Plus the opening for a kids network would have been easier since Disney Channel wasn't one yet and still on premium and Cartoon Network had launched or in the early days still not being focused as kids network. Otherwise Saban was better at providing programs than also being a programmer.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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The weekday block also wasn't liked by many of their affiliates because many used to be ABC,CBS,NBC stations that were used to airing soaps, gameshows, court shows, talk shows and they were not willing to take Fox Kids on weekdays because random talk was a better lead in to the their 5 or 6pm newscasts than hoping that people would turn over after Digimon or something from another station airing Sally or Oprah etc.

Weren't most Fox Affiliates previously independent stations that aired children's programing anyway? Same for WB. I still think a lack of hit shows was the main problem. WB stations didn't mind airing Kids' WB!'s Weekday lineup until ratings started to drop.
 

The Overlord

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I honestly think it’s too late to start up a successful channel, kids’ or otherwise. Most people have moved onto streaming.

This why I think this question is moot, tomorrow's kids' channels will be subsections in existing streaming services, like Netflix's kids' sections or streaming services aimed at kids, like Disney plus.
 

Mikurotoro92

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Because Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and CN have been established for a long time

People are more likely to support something that's familiar vs something new

It's the same reason Star Wars, The Simpsons, Mario, SpongeBob, Mickey Mouse, Pokémon, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, etc are still pop culture icons
 

Dudley

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I feel that if the Hub has been in basic cable alongside its competitors it might’ve had a better chance, but the issue of obtaining ad revenue, and the fact that Hasbro cared more about toy sales than ratings means that even then it still wouldn’t tha be worked. Universal Kids not being on basic cable is also a problem.

But as kids consume more media online, it’s all a moot point. Even the main three kids channels are struggling now.
 

RandomMe

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KidsCo was built on a vast library of cheaper catalogs, mainly from Canadian companies (especially Corus who was one of its owners).
 

Action!

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I don't think there will be a major 4th major kids network.
 

Takao

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Out of the ones listed in the OP, only Fox Family realistically had a shot. Everything else was in another tier of cable. They were never going to close that distribution gap. Disney XD couldn't and that's despite the weight of (then exclusive) Marvel and Star Wars programming.

There are a lot of reasons The Hub failed. It replaced a dying channel and inherited its distribution woes. It launched while the U.S. economy was still struggling. There were no international affiliates to help spread production costs around.* Ultimately, I view its failure as being on the hands of Discovery. Hasbro tried, but as mentioned, giving them operational control negatively impacted ad sales due to fears of funding the competition. They weren't the company with decades of history running TV channels either. On the flip side, the zombified state that Discovery Family is in suggests they just aren't cut out for this segment.

*Mind you, this was probably a positive for Hasbro Studios as it meant they were free to sell these shows to anyone internationally. Mainly channels that were far more established in their markets than a newly launched Hub affiliate would be.
 
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