PBS’ New Kids’ Net Sprouts

The linear network and companion Web site (www.sproutletsgrow.com) for a new 24/7 preschool network sprouted Monday with a full lineup of preschool fare and a new affiliate.

The linear version of PBS Kids Sprout -- the joint venture of Comcast Corp., Sesame Workshop, HITS Entertainment and PBS Kids -- bowed at 6 a.m. with the Boohbahs from Ragdoll Ltd., the maker of Teletubbies, and PBS.

Diana Kerekes, acting general manager for the service, said PBS Kids Sprout debuted in some 16.5 million homes through carriage deals with Comcast Corp., DirecTV Inc., Insight Communications Co. Inc., Wave Broadband, Blue Ridge Communications and RCN Corp., which came on board last week, among others.

Kerekes added that the network also struck a deal Monday with Sjoberg's Cable TV in northwest Minnesota.

And SproutLetsGrow.com launched Monday morning, joining the video-on-demand component that was rolled out in April.

Kerekes said the goal of PBS Kids Sprout is to “invite parents to savor significant shared moments with their young children anytime, anywhere.”

In addition to the Boohbahs -- five magical atoms of power and light designed to inspire physical movement and action from kids -- Sprout’s schedule includes such well-known kids fare as Bob the Builder, Barney and Friends, Sesame Street, Thomas & Friends, Dragon Tales and Angelina Ballerina.

The service can also supply companionship benefits if a parent or caregiver has to leave the room, because the content is “quality and safe,” according to Kerekes, who added that if a child is having sleeping difficulties at 2 a.m. and needs Barney, the parent could call up the big purple dinosaur on VOD or on the Web screen.

Asked when the service might develop its own original programming, Kerekes said it already had in the way of interstitials: a host, Kevin, reads out birthday messages during the day (also noted online), while Melanie, who tips off the “Good Night Show” block at 6 p.m., sings, plays games and demonstrates arts and crafts.

On the advertising side, the service has inked its first deal with Kimberly-Clarke Corp. for its “Huggies” and “Pull-Ups” diaper brands. Kerekes said the spots run only at the “top and tail” of shows, and not in between, with Sprout limiting its inventory load to two minutes per hour.

Messages are also integrated into similar positions on the VOD offering, while there are links on SproutLetsGrow.com to the brands’ dedicated sites

Kerekes noted that the service is “very close” to adding its second sponsor.