Sprout (TV network)
Sprout (stylized as sprout) is an American digital cable and satellite television network that is owned by the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group subsidiary of NBCUniversal, all owned by Comcast. The channel, which also maintains a complimentary video-on-demand (VOD) service and website, features a mix of preschooler-oriented children's programs acquired from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and original programming exclusive to the network. The network's live programming and wraparound segments are produced at NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The channel's operations relocated from Philadelphia to New York City in 2014. The channel launched in 2005 as PBS Kids Sprout under a joint venture made up of PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop, and HiT Entertainment.
|Launched||September 26, 2005|
|Slogan||Free to Grow|
|Headquarters||Comcast Building, Rockefeller Center, New York City|
|Formerly called||PBS Kids Sprout (2005-13)|
|Replaced||PBS Kids Channel (first generation; on most providers)|
|DirecTV||Channel 295 (SD)|
|Time Warner Cable||255 (HD)|
|Verizon FiOS||263 (SD)|
|Google Fiber||Check local listings for channels|
|PlayStation Vue||Internet Protocol television|
|DirecTV Now||Internet Protocol television|
|YouTube TV||Internet Protocol television|
As of January 2016, Sprout is available to approximately 56 million pay television households (48.2% of households with television) in the United States.
On September 9, 2017, Sprout will be renamed to Universal Kids, featuring a focus on programming for older children in primetime. However, Sprout and its existing programming will continue to make up the majority of the network's schedule, as a programming block airing daily from 3:00 a.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET.
Sprout traces its origins to the PBS Kids network (referred to as PBS Kids Channel in press materials), which launched on September 6, 1999 coinciding with PBS Kids' rebrand that day. The PBS Kids feed was available on digital cable and satellite television, and was also offered to PBS member stations for use on a "cablecast" service (a cable-only local channel provided by the member station) or for use on the member station's over-the-air analog channel to provide a portion of the daytime PBS Kids programming on the station. Participating stations were required to pay an annual fee of $1,000 to use the feed. At launch, 32 PBS member stations had signed up to use the service. The channel was created, in part, to compete against Nick Jr. and its sister network Noggin (which now shares its name with the Nick Jr. block). Because the cable rights to the Children's Television Workshop's program library were owned by Noggin (which CTW owned a 50% interest in at the time), the channel did not broadcast any CTW programming, including Sesame Street, a long staple of PBS' children's programming lineup. The CTW-produced Dragon Tales, which premiered on the same day as the launch of the PBS Kids Channel, was the only exception to this.
The channel was not successful and had only reached 9 million households as of 2002, compared to Noggin's 23.3 million households at the time. Once the channel shut down, many member stations which had been using the PBS Kids channel on their cablecast channels or over-the-air digital subchannels continued to operate their children's channels as local services scheduled independently of a satellite feed, while other member stations shut down their kids channels entirely and redirected viewers of those channels to the newly launched PBS Kids Sprout. PBS later revived the PBS Kids Channel on January 16, 2017, this time with an online streaming option in addition to utilizing largely the same distribution methods that had been used for the original channel.
On October 20, 2004, PBS announced that it had entered into a joint partnership with cable provider Comcast, and production companies HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop to launch a then-unnamed cable and satellite television channel aimed at preschool children. On April 4, 2005, Comcast announced that the network's video on demand service, which would be named PBS Kids Sprout, would launch that day, and that the linear television network would launch later on September 1, 2005; the launch date for the television service was later delayed three weeks to September 26. When Sprout launched on September 26, it replaced the PBS Kids channel on some providers – helping give it an initial reach of 16.5 million pay television subscribers; the first program to be broadcast on the network was Boohbah, airing at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake of NBC Universal in January 2011 (and would assume full ownership of the company on March 19, 2013). As a result, Comcast's interest in Sprout was turned over to NBCUniversal. When Apax Partners sold HIT Entertainment to Mattel on October 24, 2011, HIT's ownership interest in Sprout was not included in the deal and was retained by Apax Partners. In 2012, Sesame Workshop sold its interest in Sprout. On November 13, 2013, Comcast acquired Apax and PBS's shares in the network, giving the company full ownership of the network, with its operations being merged into its NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group subsidiary. As a result, the "PBS Kids" branding was dropped from the network's name, leaving it as simply Sprout.
On May 1, 2017, NBCUniversal announced a change in branding for Sprout, taking advantage of Comcast's August 2016 acquisition of DreamWorks Animation. It will become Universal Kids on September 9, with the Sprout name remaining in use for the majority of the day as the name for its pre-school programming block. Universal Kids will program to a broader 2-11 year-old and family audience in primetime.
Sprout's current schedule consists of three programs carried by PBS (Caillou, The Berenstain Bears, and Space Racers), acquired programming (such as The Jungle Bunch, Maya the Bee, and Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave), and originally produced programming (such as Pajanimals, Nina's World, and The Chica Show). From its launch until 2015, Sprout aired programs (which are packaged into two 11-minute segments) that only lasted one segment. Sprout also airs programming blocks that fill most of the network's schedule, except between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. and 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time (3:00 and 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time only on weekends).
In July 2012, Sprout began to produce a Saturday morning cartoon/live-action block for NBC aimed at preschoolers, NBC Kids (along with MiTelemundo, a Spanish-dubbed version of the block airing on sister network Telemundo that airs on both Saturdays and Sundays), which replaced a similarly formatted block – which itself was produced in conjunction with NBCUniversal – called Qubo, which had been airing on NBC and Telemundo since September 2006 (Qubo continues to exist as a Friday morning block for Ion Television, which is now aired on Sunday mornings and now called the Qubo Kids Corner, whose parent Ion Media Networks now wholly owns the block's companion digital multicast network). With NBC Kids being replaced with Litton Entertainment's The More You Know E/I block on NBC by September 25, 2016, MiTelemundo retained on television with the same programming from the former NBC Kids block.
Since NBCUniversal took over management of Sprout in 2011, following its acquisition by the network's original managing partner Comcast, Sprout has evolved from its initial intent to serve as a home for archived content produced by the partners and has invested more heavily in original programming, in order to better compete with fellow preschool-oriented cable networks, Nick Jr. and Disney Junior. Under NBCUniversal, programs seen on the network such as The Chica Show have gained increased visibility airing on NBC as part of the NBC Kids block.
Despite PBS' divestiture of the channel in 2013, Sprout continued to air several PBS Kids programs until their contract with PBS expired on the channel's 10th anniversary, September 26, 2015. As of 2017, The Berenstain Bears, Caillou, and Space Racers remain on the schedule from the PBS era.
- Family Movie Night - Sprout Family Movie Night is the network's movie showcase block.
- Sunny Side Up – Sunny Side Up is the network's late morning block, airing from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It features a puppet character named Chica the Chicken, who is also the focus of the spinoff series The Chica Show.
- The Let's Go Show – afternoon music and science block
- Musical Mornings with Coo – morning music block that features Coo, a cuckoo, teaching kids to sing.
- Sprout's Wiggly Waffle with The Wiggles (Sam, Murray, Anthony, Jeff)
- The Sprout Sharing Show
- The Super Sproutlet Show
- The Good Night Show – The Good Night Show was the network's evening block, airing daily from 6 PM to 9 PM Eastern Time, with repeats throughout the night, hosted by Nina (Michele Lepe) and Star (Stacia Newcomb). It featured  Hush the Goldfish and Lucy the Firefly. In 2007, Lucy, Light the Way!, an animated guessing game, began with the block's 2007 season. The block ran from the day the channel was launched up until March 2017.
Sprout HD is a high definition simulcast feed of the Sprout channel that was first announced in May 2010 and began broadcasting on September 1, 2010. All programs filmed in HD are presented in 16:9 widescreen, whereas programs that are not filmed in high definition are presented in a 4:3 pillarboxed format. It is currently available on Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, and Time Warner Cable.
Sprout On DemandEdit
Sprout On Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service which launched on April 4, 2005 on Comcast, six months prior to launch of the linear Sprout channel. The service offers 50 hours of programs a month, with 25% of the programs updated every two weeks.
- "Governor Cuomo Announces that NBCUniversal's Sprout the First 24-Hour Preschool Network Will Relocate to New York City". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- "Sprouting her wings". Philadelphia Inquirer. June 8, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
- "Cable Network Coverage Area Household Universe Estimates: January 2016". Broadcasting & Cable. January 31, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
- Barnes, Brooke (April 30, 2017). "NBCUniversal is Building Its Own Children's Channel". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
- Steinberg, Brian (May 1, 2017). "NBCU’s Sprout Grows Up: Universal Kids to Debut in September". Variety. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
The Comcast-owned media conglomerate said Monday it would in September rechristen the network as Universal Kids, ...
- Getzler, Wendy (May 1, 2017). "A new age: Sprout to become Universal Kids". Kidscreen. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
On September 9, Sprout will rebrand to become Universal Kids, a US network for two- to 11-year-olds that will include preschool content, a lineup of DreamWorks Animation TV series, unscripted entertainment and live-action scripted originals.
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- Braude, Jonathan (October 24, 2011). "Apax sells Hit Entertainment to Mattel". The Deal. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
- Jensen, Elizabeth. "NBCUniversal Takes Full Ownership of Sprout Cable Network". New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- Nordyke, Kimberly (November 13, 2013). "NBCUniversal Acquires Ownership of Kids' Channel Sprout". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
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- "NBC Will Launch NBC Kids, a New Saturday Morning Preschool Block Programmed by Sprout®, Saturday, July 7". MarketWatch. March 28, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
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- "The Chica Show cast". Screener.
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- "Michele Lepe NBCUniversal Media Village". NBCUniversal.
- "24-HOUR PRESCHOOL TELEVISION CHANNEL SPROUT® TO LAUNCH IN HD". SproutOnline.com. May 10, 2010.
- Official website
- Comcast, PBS Plan New Service (Frank Ahrens, Washington Post, April 5, 2005)
- Saluting Sprout's Launch: PBS Sprouts a Kids Triumph (Debra Kaufman, TelevisionWeek, December 5, 2005)