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Sprout grows into Universal Kids

Sprout will rebrand as Universal Kids in September as part of NBCUniversal (NBCU)’s plans for the US preschool cable channel to also target six- to 11-year-olds.

Deirdre Brennan

Universal Kids will go live on September 9 with a slate of programming including unscripted entertainment, live-action scripted originals and international acquisitions.

The new line-up will be led by Top Chef Junior, a spin-off from the Bravo cookery format produced by Magical Elves, set to begin airing in October.

The schedule will also feature content produced by DreamWorks Animation (DWA) Television, such as All Hail King Julien and DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk. DWA was acquired by NBCU owner Comcast last year.

The network, available in more than 59 million homes, according to NBCU, will continue to air and commission preschool programming following the changes.

A 15-hour Sprout preschool programming block will air daily from 03.00 to 18.00. Universal Kids will air from 18.00 onwards with programming for older kids and families.

This includes Australian drama Nowhere Boys, comedy Little Lunch, also from Australia, Canadian drama The Next Step and UK/Canadian copro Hank Zipzer, based on books written by actor Henry Winkler.

“We see enormous potential to grow our audience in this space and create the Universal Kids platform for families to experience together,” said NBCU Cable Entertainment Lifestyle Networks president Frances Berwick.

Frances Berwick

“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.”

Deirdre Brennan, general manager of Universal Kids, added: “The launch of a channel that represents the world of NBCUniversal family brands with great TV content at its centre makes tremendous sense for our business.

“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.”

Brennan, the former boss of ABC Kids in Australia, joined Sprout last year from Corus Kids in Canada. Hers was one of a number of high-profile recruitments NBCU has made at Sprout since the beginning of 2016, adding Amy Friedman, Dea Connick Perez and, most recently, Rick Clodfelter to the programming team.

Friedman recently told C21 that Sprout was in the process of ageing up its programming to an upper preschool audience, and hinted that more collaboration with DWA was in the pipeline.

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