Disney to Launch Disney Junior, Shutter SOAPnet

Disney Channel is spinning off its "Playhouse Disney" pre-school programming block into a new 24-hour cable channel, the company announced May 26.

The new channel, to be called Disney Junior, is targeted to launch in 2012. It will take the place of the SOAPnet channel, currently available in 75 million homes.

The new venture, which will include the requisite online site, is aimed at children ages 2-7 and will "invite mom and dad to join their child in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, both classic and new," according to the company's media release.

The new destination also will include video on-demand offerings, a High-definition network and a Spanish language SAP feed.

The new network will include 200 new episodes annually of both new series, including Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and current hits, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Imagination Movers and Jungle Junction. It will also have acces to the Disney movie library which includes 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin and Little Mermaid.

The news comes as Disney is weathering an internal scandal regarding a secretary who stands accused of insider trading in a scheme to sell information on the company's financial picture to hedge funds.