Sprout (TV network)
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.
|Launched||September 26, 2005|
|Owned by||NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group
(Children's Network, LLC.)
|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)|
|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|
|Hulu Live TV||Internet Protocol television|
The network was originally launched in 2005 as PBS Kids Sprout—a joint venture between PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop, and HiT Entertainment. Following Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal, the company gradually bought out the remaining owners' shares in the channel, reaching full ownership in 2014. The channel's operations were subsequently relocated from Philadelphia to New York City. On September 9, 2017, the network will re-brand as Universal Kids, which will add primetime programming targeted towards family viewing. Preschool programming under the Sprout brand will continue to air on the network outside of primetime.
As of January 2016, Sprout is available to approximately 56 million pay television households (48.2% of households with television) in the United States.
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.
Takeover by NBCUniversalEdit
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 the company. 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, it was announced that Sprout would be re-launched as Universal Kids on September 9, 2017. The re-branded network will revamp its evening and primetime programming from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. ET to target youth and family viewing, with plans to incorporate new original series targeting the demographic (such as Top Chef Junior), as well as other international imports (such as the Australian series Nowhere Boys and the Canadian series The Next Step). Universal Pictures' recent acquisition of DreamWorks Animation will also be leveraged by Universal Kids to bolster its programming; critics felt that the DWA purchase and the launch of Universal Kids were meant to help NBCUniversal establish a viable multi-platform presence in children's media to directly compete with those of Disney and the Nickelodeon division of Viacom. The remainder of the network's programming will continue to consist of preschool programming under the Sprout brand, occupying 15 hours per-day of programming.
Prior to the Universal Kids' launch, the network had already re-launched its morning block as Sprout House, with a new format and host character.
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.
- Sprout House - the network's late-morning block; it debuted on August 14, 2017 as a replacement for Sunny Side Up, and is hosted by Carly Ciarrocchi and the new character Snug—a talking dog, through 90-second segments throughout the block. The program was designed to be more flexible to produce than its predecessor, with a varied "tiny house" set with additional areas and camera options. Unlike Sunny Side Up, its segments are pre-recorded rather than broadcast live; supervising producer Vinny Steves felt that the live format was too "limiting", and stated that the new format was also designed to enable the segments to be distributed on digital platforms such as social media. With the launch of Sprout House, the network began to downplay its long-time mascot, Chica, although she will still appear in certain segments during the new block.
- 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.
- Sunny Side Up – Sunny Side Up was the network's late morning block, airing from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It featured a puppet character named Chica the Chicken, who was also the focus of the spinoff series The Chica Show. On August 11, 2017, the show was replaced by Sprout House.
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 DirecTV, 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.
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- Braude, Jonathan (October 24, 2011). "Apax sells Hit Entertainment to Mattel". The Deal. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
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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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- "Michele Lepe NBCUniversal Media Village". NBCUniversal.
- "The Chica Show cast". Screener.
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- 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)