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Discovery Kids - So.... This was a thing


Discovery Communications, Now known as Discovery, Inc. is one of the largest providers of edutainment media in the US. It's flagship product, the Discovery Channel, revolutionized educational television by bringing it to basic cable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Discovery has since grown to include numerous other edutainment and lifestyle channels, divisions, and other brands with different purposes. One of the company's older divisions, was an attempt to make an entirely educational channel for kids.

Discovery Kids, was launched in 1996, initially running as a programing block on the mothership network, before gaining its own 24-hour channel on Digital Cable and Satellite providers. Discovery Kids' creation was the result of Discovery recognizing the flagship network's periphery audience with children who were watching it with their parents, and thus the next logical step, was a similar network made just for them. The network's initial batch of programing consisted of kid-friendly reality shows and documentaries that aimed to make learning fun and interesting to a demographic who was already stuck in school for most of the day. It's tone was similar to that of Nickelodeon, with an obvious educational bent.

At first, the channel didn't gain much coverage, having only 19 million subscribers roughly. But the network was given a big break in 2001, when NBC was planning on dumping its Saturday morning block of Teen sitcoms that were decaying in ratings over the years. They asked Discovery Kids if the channel was interested in licensing NBC's Saturday morning block to run its own programing. Discovery's knack for edutainment could help NBC fill the E/I quota mandated by the FCC pretty easily, and NBC, with its massive coverage as a broadcast network, could open Discovery Kids up to an audience who didn't get the channel on their cable lineup. NBC also wouldn't have to lift a finger, because all the programing and ad-sales would be handled by Discovery, thus saving the network tons of money. Plus, a block on NBC could also help drive adoption rates for the Discovery Kids channel itself, and make the network an actual threat against the other kids channels, it was a win-win.

In 2002, Discovery Kids on NBC launched, with a slew of new original programing. A clause NBC placed in the agreement was that new Discovery Kids original series would premiere first on NBC, before launching on the main channel. Most of new shows initially made for the NBC block were kid-teen oriented versions of shows from Discovery's other networks including Croc Files, a spin-off of the Crocodile Hunter hosted by the late Steve Irwin. Operation Junkyard, based on TLC's Junkyard Wars, and Prehistoric Planet, a re-edited version of the Walking with Dinosaurs special. Joining them were three new original shows, Scout's Safari, a drama about a teenage girl living in a safari, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, a mystery series about a boarding school filled with science related conspiracies, and Endurance, a Survivor-for-kids reality competition series.

Continuing its ambitions to try and be an educational Nickelodeon of sorts, Discovery Kids launched its first line of "Real Toons" series in 2003, "Real Toons" were essentially the network's equivalent to Nickelodeon's Nicktoons or Cartoon Network's "Cartoon Cartoons". Animated series from independent cartoonists produced for the network by a variety of studios. The two initial shows, Tutenstien, based on a comic by Jay Stephens, and Kenny the Shark, based on a series of shorts, combined the slapstick humor of a Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network series, with educational facts about their specific topics, Egyptian history for the former, and marine biology for the latter.

The strategy paid off, and Discovery Kids grew to over 60 million subscribers by the end of 2006. That year also saw NBC end its deal with Discovery, as the network would end up getting involved in a joint-venture project named "qubo". A brand aimed at 4-to-8 year olds that would air Saturdays on NBC, Fridays on Ion Television, and Sundays on Telemundo. But Discovery Kids chugged along, rolling out new original series in the process. A new young-teen centric block, @DK was launched, and the network continued to produce new "Real Toons" shows like Time Warp Trio, Growing Up Creepie, Grossology, and The Future is Wild. But over time, its ratings began to deteriorate, as the novelty of edutainment for kids was wearing off. For all of Discovery's efforts, DK couldn't make a splash against Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, or Disney Channel.

In 2009, Discovery put a 50% stake in Discovery Kids up for bidding. The Winner? None other than toy-giant Hasbro, who wanted to get into multimedia more thanks to the success of the Transformers films from Michael Bay. Discovery Kids came to an end on October 10th, 2010. Launching in its place, was The Hub, a channel best famous for revitalizing interest in one of Hasbro's most well known toy brands, with a cartoon that drew not just little girls, but a surprising number of adult male fans as well. But I think that's a story for another thread.
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