The Hub Takes on Kiddie Cable Giants With Hasbro Nostalgia

With their new channel to launch Sunday, Nickelodeon, Hasbro and Discovery Communications need kids (and parents) to love the '80s

When Discovery Kids relaunches as The Hub on Sunday, parents will see more that resonates than their little ones.

And maybe that's the idea.

The Hub is pinning its hopes on new partner Hasbro, and shows built around the toymaker's storied brands: "Transformers Prime," "G.I. Joe," "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," "Fraggle Rock," "Strawberry Shortcake" and "Family Game Night," a game show hosted by Todd Newton that's based on the company's board games.

With its retro line-up, clearly The Hub believes it will stand its best chance at taking on children's TV juggernauts Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

See accompanying story: "The Hub's Inaugural Line-Up."

Hasbro paid $300 million for a 50 percent stake in The Hub in April 2009. At the time, Discovery Communications president David Zaslav said the plan was to leverage the toy company's brands to gain a foothold in a crowded market.

It will need it. According to the Daily News, Discovery Kids' most recent ratings showed an average viewership of just 240,000 households. The Hub will launch in about 60 million homes.

Disney and Nickelodeon each dominate specific sectors of the kiddie cable landscape. With its stable of tween pop stars like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, Disney tops the ratings charts for 6- to 14-year-olds.

The third quarter of 2010 tied with the third quarter of 2007 as Disney's best of all time in its target demos. During that time, Disney was TV's No. 1 network in total day among kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14. Disney averaged 2.0 million

Nickelodeon skews slightly younger, with live-action shows and "Nicktoons," including TV's top animated series with children: "Spongebob Squarepants."

And Nick just came off its best third quarter performance ever with 2.3 million total viewers. During the third quarter of 2010, it was also the No. 1 basic cable network in total day with kids 2-11. It has been basic cable's top network with kids 2-11 and total viewers for an incredible 62 straight quarters.

Disney and Nickelodeon operate other niche channels in addition to their flagships; Playhouse Disney, Disney XD, Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick. And other rivals like Cartoon Network and PBS Kids also stand in the way of The Hub.

Margaret Loesch, The Hub's president, knows she has a tough task ahead of her. In an interview with the Daily News, Loesch discussed the strength of her competitors.

"There's a lot of competition, more than I've ever confronted in my career, more than I've ever experienced," Loesch said.

Loesch is well-equipped to face it. She's a children's programming veteran who previously ran the kids programming unit of Fox Broadcasting during its heyday with "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Bobby's World" and "X-Men."

But because of the tight squeeze in the kiddie space, media watchers have looked with some skepticism at The Hub. The channel has also been criticized as a platform for marketing Hasbro toys for young viewers.