Sprout To Become Universal Kids

NBCUniveral pre-school targeted network Spout is growing up to appeal to a broader, 2-to-11 year old kids' audience, the company said Monday.

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 9, Sprout will be renamed Universal Kids and will include DreamWorks Animation Television series, unscripted entertainment, live action scripted originals and international content, said company officials. NBCU parent Comcast bought DreamWorks Animation a year ago for $3.8 billion.

The rebrand and audience extension will put the 12-year old Univeral Kids network in direct competition with veteran kids TV networks Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

“We see enormous potential to grow our audience in this space and create the Universal Kids platform for families to experience together,” NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Lifestyle Networks president Frances Berwick said in a release. “NBCUniversal is invested in the kids and family business, and the company believes in working together – we will benefit from promotion across our portfolio of networks and across the company through support that is unparalleled in the industry.”

Universal Kids will feature a 15-hour Sprout-branded block of preschool programming daily (3 a.m.-6 p.m.) before rolling into the older kids and families programming block at 6 p.m., the network said. Among the new shows slated for the Sprout block include Kody Kapow, which joins series Floogals, Dot., Nina’s World and Noddy Toyland Detective from DreamWorks Animation Television, NBCU said.

The new Universal Kids lineup will be anchored by the debut of Top Chef spinoff Top Chef Junior, from the Magical Elves studio. It's set to launch in October, NBCUniversal said.

“The launch of a channel that represents the world of NBCUniversal family brands with great TV content at its center makes tremendous sense for our business,” Deirdre Brennan, the general manager of Sprout and now Universal Kids, said in the release. “Just as children grow, Sprout is growing into Universal Kids – and we will reflect all that is universal about being a kid through connection, storytelling and entertainment. A place that reflects their life and passions.”

Comcast, back before it bought NBCU, launched what was then PBS Kids Sprout in 2005 as a joint venture with PBS, HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop as a commercial channel aimed at pre-schoolers and their caregivers. NBCU bought full control of the network in 2013. Sprout is in about 58 million U.S. TV homes, according to Nielsen universe estimates. 

Under Berwick, NBCU has been tweaking channels including Oxygen, which is taking on a true-crime focus; has switched off the crime-drama channel Cloo and is converting Esquire Network, a joint venture with Hearst, into a digital-only service, shutting down the linear Equire Network by mid June. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.