Hasbro and Discovery launch HUB

It's the latest in the race to make the most of cable real estate: on Sunday "HUB" launches in 60 million homes, replacing "Discovery Kids."

Toymaker Hasbro paid Discovery Communications $300 million for a fifty percent stake in the TV channel back in April 2009.

HUB's launch speaks to key themes in media: the wide interest in cable channels' valuable dual revenue streams. HUB makes a major statement on the power of established brands: Why create new characters if kids are already familiar with Transformers and My Little Ponies? And this is yet another example of toy companies trying to diversify into media, to drive merchandise sales and revive older brands.

So, will it work?

Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen

Hasbro's brands have been a huge hit in theaters — the first two "Transformers" movies have sold over $1.5 billion in tickets.

"G.I. Joe" generated $300 million worldwide and gave a boost to the line of action figures.

Whether Hasbro brands work on television depends on a slew of other issues.

HUB is both looking to compete with Disney and Nickelodeon, and also trying to carve out a niche by focusing specifically on six to 12 -year-old boys.

This puts HUB up against Disney's "XD" cable channel, which launched in February 2009 and targets a slightly older demo — age 9 to 14.

HUB has nostalgia on its side. The parents of the kids HUB is targeting were raised on the Hasbro brands like Transformers, My Little Pony and Pound Puppies. That means parents might be more likely to watch with their kids, or at very least will have some fond memories of the brands.

But speaking of brands, that's the risk: will the Hasbro-branded shows come off as 30-minute commercials?

Children's programming has always had its fair share of product placement — just take a look at the merchandise that comes from each Disney show. But HUB is coming under particular scrutiny as media watchdogs warn that kids might see the shows as infomercials. To get ahead of that criticism the channel will carry just six minutes of commercials per hour in shows aimed at preschoolers, far less than the FCC's 12 minute limit on weekdays and 10.5 minutes on weekends. But nobody tunes in for the commercials, so HUB will only be a success if the shows feel like entertainment, not ads.

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