Comcast Ponders Preschool Net, VOD Precursor

Should Comcast Corp.’s gambit to develop an around-the-clock preschool network with PBS, Sesame Street Workshop and HIT Entertainment plc reach fruition, the linear channel could be preceded by a video-on-demand iteration.

The network, which could bow as early as next year, would likely benefit from a promotional push afforded by programming incubation as part of the VOD platform that the nation’s largest MSO offers to subscribers.

“There are a lot of agreements to work through, but VOD rights are a big component in the discussions about the 24/7 linear channel,” a source familiar with the negotiations said.

“You could say that,” he responded when asked if VOD iterations would serve as a precursor to a linear launch.

Comcast officials declined comment.

News of the 24-hour preschool network was first reported in Wednesday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.

If launched, the network would compete for the attention of preschoolers and their parent with PBS, Nickelodeon, Nick spinoff Noggin and the “Playhouse Disney” block on Disney Channel.

The latter, two years back, was mulling turning Playhouse Disney into its own service. However, ABC Cable Networks Group has opted instead to package the block as part of its Disney on Demand subscription offerings to Cablevision Systems Corp.’s digital customers.

For its part, Noggin -- which purchased Sesame Workshop’s 50% interest in the network in August 2002 -- still airs some of the programmer’s shows: 123 Sesame delves into the Sesame Street archives, while Play with Me Sesame is a co-production between the parties.