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Where Disney Hopes The Boys Are: Disney XD

In a quest to be where boys are more often, Toon Disney will morph into Disney XD in the U.S. early next year.

The transition, across TV, where Toon Disney currently counts some 70 million households, online, mobile and VOD platforms, is set for February, when the service will reposition itself to one targeting kids 6 to 14, with a more direct focus on boys. As such, Disney officials said there will be an emphasis on content that will reflect boys’ sensibilities toward discovery and accomplishment, as well sports adventure and humor.

The programming will span series, movies and short-form, as well as sports-themed programming developed in concert with sister service ESPN.

“Disney Channel is a huge business serving kids all around the world, and it's especially successful with girls, and our goal with Disney XD is to have that same success ratio with boys,” said Rich Ross, president, Disney Channels Worldwide, in a statement. “Disney XD will showcase great stories and empowering characters with Disney's brand credibility and a cool creative factor that will set it apart from the pack.”

Disney officials said re-branding decisions for the 19 Jetix channels and six Toon Disney branded channels and programming in all other parts of the world will be made at a later point and on a case-by-case basis.

The announcement comes after a tough July for Toon Disney. Last month, the network saw its average viewership decline 5% to 246,000 on a 24-hour basis, a total that reflected a 12% drop among kids 6 to 11 (79,000 of those watchers) and a 7% decrease among tweens 9 to 14 (51,000), according to Nielsen Media Research data. In primetime during July, Toon Disney was off 12% among persons 2+ to 248,000. It was down 28% and 31%, respectively, among kids 6 to 11 (83,000) and tweens (41,000).

Disney XD aspires to differentiate itself via Disney-branded live-action movies, new and library animated programming and original programming developed with ESPN.

Coming out of the gate, the revamped network’s launch lineup is expected to showcase:

*Aaron Stone, an original live-action, single camera adventure series about a teenager enlisted to become the real-life version of a legendary crime-fighting online game character.

*Mongoose & Luther (working title), an original comedy, filmed in single-camera documentary style about best friends who want to become world famous skateboarders.

* Hero and Not (working title), an animated short-form series produced in Italy.

* RoboDz, a comedic 3D, CG-animated and live-action short form series co-produced by Toei Animation Company Ltd., and Walt Disney Television International Japan.

Among the more familiar fare: Disney's animated hit Phineas and Ferb, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series,Spider-Man and IronMan.