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Disney Ditches Soaps for Kid Shows

Back when I was a kid, it seemed as if all my friends’ moms were addicted to soap operas. Today’s moms are more likely to have the TV tuned to kiddie shows — which is why it’s not such a surprise to hear that The Walt Disney Company will eliminate its SoapNet cable channel and replace it with a new network targeted to preschoolers.

Since it aired soap opera reruns, the 10-year-old SoapNet has been relatively cheap for Disney to operate. But, as Nickelodeon has discovered with Nick Jr. (formerly Noggin), preschool television programming is big business.

The new commercial-free channel will be called Disney Junior, which some critics say emulates Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr.

Disney said the name was chosen to highlight that the programming is geared to younger children. “We’re very comfortable with it — parents know the difference between Disney and Nick,” Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, told The New York Times.

Disney Junior, which will be geared to kids ages 2 to 7, will feature new episodes of Disney Channel shows like “Handy Manny” and “Special Agent Oso,” as well as new series like “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” an interactive animated program which features Peter Pan’s Captain Hook.

Disney plans to develop shows that feature classic Disney characters and they’ll also air Disney movies such as “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “101 Dalmations.”

Disney’s corporate sibling ABC continues to air soap operas such as “General Hospital” and “All My Children,” but other broadcast networks are cutting back on their soaps, leaving less available programming for SoapNet.

Nickelodeon is hoping to tap the enormous preschool market, which Nickelodeon has successfully mined with hits like “Dora the Explorer,” which generates more than $1 billion annually in sales of related products.

The question is: does the television landscape need another network devoted to young children? Don’t our kids spend too much time in front of the screen in the first place?

What do you think?

Photo: Walt Disney Company

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