Happy Trails to The Hub
Stick The Hub with a fork, ’cause it’s done.
For months now, there have been rumors circulating that the network was in trouble and its’ future murky, well, apparently those weren’t just rumors. Deadline reports:
“The long-rumored takeover and rebranding of the children’s network is about to take place, The Wall Street Journal reports. Discovery would acquire some of Hasbro’s share in the struggling joint venture — but still leave the toymaker with a sizable stake — and then likely rename it Discovery Family. It would target parents as well as kids, and still enable Hasbro to program the channel from 9 AM to 3 PM.
While the deal isn’t complete yet, it’s being reported that the channel likely will become part of Group President Henry Schleiff’s growing fiefdom — which includes Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and the American Heroes Channel. The joint venture has had little success taking share in a crowded market dominated by Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, while kids advertising has declined, HUB had already expanded into family-oriented programming, airing movies in primetime and adding older-skewing fare like popular 1990s teen comedy series Blossom.”
So that would seem to be it for The Hub. Shame too, because the channel had so much potential. It takes most cable networks at least a decade or so to hit their decline, The Hub did it in just 4 years. That’s gotta be a record. The channel had much more diversity when it first hit the scene 4 years ago than it has now. Back when the Hub first launched in 2010, audience’s reaction was this:
…Now in 2014, it’s this:
Hasbro had big dreams for this network: they wanted to run with the Big Dogs and turn the Trinity of Kids and Family Networks, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, into a quartet, but while the Big 3 kids networks typically attract millions of viewers in a given broadcasting day, The Hub was lucky to score 100,000 viewers.
The Hub used to offer a variety of programs. There was at one time a preschool block called Hub-Bub and an action cartoon block called HuBoom!, but those shows were mishandled and lacking in premiere shows, so they were soon gone. However, while we’re a tad nonplussed by this news, we can’t say we’re too disappointed, seeing as how the only shows that we’re currently watching on The Hub (Now that The Aquabats Super Show! was given the boot) are My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Littlest Pet Shop, and even then, that’s only when it’s a new episode. Really, this was to be expected. The channel was hemorrhaging money, and yes, the kids’ entertainment market is indeed crowded right now with the Big Three (Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network) but they still could’ve managed to cut a swath or at least carved a niche for themselves had they not chosen to rely solely on My Little Pony and 80’s nostalgia to carry them along.
Over the past few years, Hasbro had become complacent, thinking that the success of MLP and the moderate success of LPS alone was enough to carry the network, and they allowed The Hub to essentially become the Ponies, Pets and Nostalgia Network, not a wise move considering Hasbro’s plan was for the Hub to join the ranks of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. We can’t sum it up better than this post from the MLP forums:
“I knew Hasbro’s expectations for the Hub’s performance were unrealistically high from the start. After launch, they said that their goal was to become “half as big as Cartoon Network” in 5 years.
This is obviously not the case, and this is because Hasbro has failed on multiple fronts. They failed to adequately promote the network on a large scale since its launch, and they failed to distribute it wide enough where it would be on a level ground with Nick, Disney, and CN. Additionally, they expected to be able to do this with a relatively weak lineup. Besides the success of MLP and the moderate success of LPS, they tried to help themselves with only a short slate of original programming, most of it based on established franchises, while pinning the rest of their hopes on a full slate of reruns and imports. In the mature industry of today as opposed to the past, with all the competition, reruns and imports won’t really do you the best.”
Basically, Hasbro wanted to conquer the Seven Seas without leaving the comfort of their own bathtub. The Hub’s failings can be summed up by 2 main bullet points:
- Over-Reliance on Nostalgia, and
- Over-Reliance on Ponies and Pets.
A prime example of The Hub’s relying far too much on nostalgia is embodied by this promo:
This spot immediately got under my craw from the very first time I saw it, but I couldn’t figure out why it bugged me so much. I don’t fault Rob Paulsen and Jess Harnell for doing it, those guys are awesome and they’ve still got it, but something about this just left a burr under my saddle. Then, in the wake of recent events, it hit me: The Hub shouldn’t have been kissing up to Animaniacs (and later Tiny Toons) like this, touting them as their latest and greatest stars and having the stars of their other shows shining the Warners’ collective asses, because A! is 1) old and 2) over. If A! was being revived on The Hub and these were new, never before seen episodes, then the network could rightfully make a spot like this, since then they’d have something legitimate to brag about, but these were same old repeats which have previously aired on numerous other cable networks and currently are on DVD. A! and TTA simply didn’t deserve this level of hype, especially not over their original programs. The spot just came off as a thinly veiled attempt by Hasbro to expand their Brony audience and attract more older viewers. There’s nothing wrong with lightly sprinkling some older nostalgic favorites around the schedule here and there, but too much nostalgia is just overkill, and it does very little to attract and gain viewers. A! and TTA went on to receive as much as 5 airings in a day, only for the nostalgia balloon to burst and for them to go back to just a single airing a day, which they should have been doing all along. To put it simply, nostalgia just doesn’t work when it’s overused. A network can’t, and shouldn’t rely solely on the classics to get by. Older acquisitions should be lightly peppered around non-peak viewing hours to fill those little gaps in the schedule; you don’t treat an older canceled acquisition like the Next Big Thing and the network’s savior. The notion that canceled reruns of A! would or could become The Hub’s next Brony phenomenon was quite frankly, stupid of The Hub. When Cartoon Network would occasionally bring back an older show, it will just air during the day for a little while and then disappear when something newer is available to air, and Nick doesn’t even bother digging up older shows for their main network since they have offshoot channels like TeeNick and Nicktoons for that. A show like A! is OK to show for a little while, but it should have only been treated as filler, not embraced by the network as the Holy Grail.
This brings us to the second bullet point. They let the monster success of MLP and the moderate success of LPS become their crutches, and rather than developing other new and diverse shows based on their other toy properties as well as new originals and unique 3rd party acquisitions, they instead chose to simply repeat MLP 5 times a day and LPS another 4 days a day (to be fair, this is a common network practice: when a show proves successful, fill every available space with it; I’m looking at you, Simpsons, Family Guy and Spongebob), and in the process they tossed their other original series like Pound Puppies, Dan VS, The Aquabats Super Show, Kaijuto et all under the bus and eventually stopped developing new shows altogether outside of cheap-to-produce stuff like Kid President and Parents Just Don’t Understand. Come on, Hasbro. You’re the 3rd or 4th largest toy company in the world; you have dozens of toys and games at your disposal that you could have made shows out of, too many for you to only capitalize on MLP, LPS and Transformers. Where’s the new MASK cartoon? Where’s the new Jem show? (Though a Jem movie is said to be in the works.) Where’s the new C.O.P.S. show? Where’s the new Candy Land cartoon? Where’s the new Mr. Potato Head show? Where’s the new Play-Doh cartoon? Where’s the new Clue show or Monopoly show? I’m not saying shows based on those properties would all be masterpieces, but that would at least be a variety. Though personally I think a Monopoly show has the potential to be epic:
And Hub’s nighttime schedule was a joke: they just looped the same 10 B and C grade level movies again and again every night then cap off their evenings with a bunch of reruns of 1970’s and 1980’s sitcoms like some dime store Nick @ Nite. Running a bunch of old sitcoms during prime time was a PHENOMENALLY, HILARIOUSLY stupid idea, as that does little to nothing as far as attracting and keeping viewers for the simple fact that nostalgia is fleeting. No one is going to switch off the latest episode of True Blood or Arrow or The Walking Dead or Once Upon a Time for a 40-year-old rerun of Happy Days. Silly Hasbro, nobody wants another TV Land, not even TV Land wants to be TV Land anymore.
The statement that “in the mature industry of today as opposed to the past, with all the competition, reruns and imports won’t really do you the best” is quoted for truth, and to paraphrase Yoda, this is why Hub failed. They expected MLP, LPS and nostalgia to carry the entire network, which was a HUGE mistake, and they let their few first-run productions like Dan VS and Aquabats slip through their fingers in favor of the more “cost efficient” reruns and imports, another huge mistake. News flash, Hasbro: it’s not the 1980’s-1990’s anymore; a channel that consists mostly of repeats isn’t going to cut the mustard in today’s cutthroat industry. No one is going to rush home to watch a bunch of cancelled broadcast TV shows that they just as easily buy as entire series DVD sets at their local Wal-Mart or Best Buy for $20. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Hub needed a TGIF. It needed a SNICK. It needed a Cartoon-Cartoon Fridays. It needed a Miguzi. It needed a Funny For Your Face (and yeah, I know they had Animaniacs and Tiny Toons for a while, but acquisition rights don’t last forever and nostalgia is fleeting; what they needed were NEW shows done in the vein of those shows). Heck, it could have even stood a Secret Slumber Party/KEWLopolis. It needed some other new and original shows besides MLP that could appeal to multiple age groups across multiple platforms. While they did it as an effort to save money, dropping The Aquabats Super Show! was one of the single stupidest moves The Hub could make. It was a potential breakout hit which was watched equally by kids and parents alike. One major factor that did Aquabats and Dan VS in (aside from The Hub’s poor scheduling of the shows–seriously, who premieres new episodes to run on the middle of Saturday afternoons?) was that there weren’t any other shows like them on the network. For a while Hasbro tried to lump Dan in alongside of their action cartoons on the now-defunct HuBoom! block, but it really didn’t belong there; Dan stuck out just as badly alongside superhero cartoons as it did alongside MLP and the like. The only show Hub had that kind of clicked with Dan was Aquabats, since both shows were zany comedies which skewed slightly older than the rest of The Hub’s fare and were popular among adults, perhaps more so than with kids. Dan VS might have fared better premiering at night on a prime time block with similar skewing shows.If Hasbro had invested in some other older-skewing scripted comedies and put them all together on a premiere block, then both Dan VS and Aquabats might have found a sizable audience. As it was, those shows were all alone and badly scheduled and promoted.
So now, Hasbro will be divesting in their share of the channel and Discovery will be taking over. The Ponies will still be around, at least for now, since there’s another 26-episode season coming in due time. Plus, MLP is currently The Hub’s biggest cash cow, so I doubt that Discovery would want to get rid of it. Of course, if Hasbro chooses to take the show to another network or make it an online exclusive like Mattel currently does with some of their current properties, that’s another story. I guess it’s a good thing that The Hub will still exist in some way, shape or form, but I have to say, I’m really not getting a savior vibe from Discovery. They’re the network that let Discovery Kids go to turd to begin with. Yes, Hasbro dropped the ball big time on this channel, but lets’ face it: Hasbro’s stepping in was the best thing to happen to Discovery Kids. Hasbro made a lot of wrong moves, but they did manage to get some decent shows and properties out of the channel that people like(d) to watch and talk(ed) about. When was the last time you heard anybody talk about Discovery Kids? While it’s true that The Hub as of late hasn’t been that great, I really have a hard time believing that Discovery can make the channel any better. If Discovery knew how to run a family oriented cable channel in the first place then Hasbro wouldn’t have had to bail them out in the second place. If Discovery’s idea of saving this channel is polluting the airwaves with more reality shows about junkyard pickers, Amish mafiosos and bacon enthusiasts, then this re-branded channel is dead before it’s even started. I cringe at the thought of this channel becoming another TLC; one TLC is more than enough. And if this channel is really going to undergo a rebrand, I really hope they can come up with a better name than Discovery Family. For one thing, DiscFam sounds too similar to Discovery Kids, and NO ONE is begging for the return of that channel. For another, “Discovery Family” is 7 syllables, the name takes too long to say. Channel names have to be short and memorable. For yet another, placing the word “family” in a channel’s name can often result in the channel being DOA, as many viewers equate “family friendly entertainment” with “transmitting bland garbage that’s so tame, watered down and homogenized that only Quakers and heart patients can enjoy it”. Of course it’s possible that Discovery has something amazing in store for The Hub and they’re just keeping it under wraps, but frankly, I’m not getting that feeling.
Personally, we discussed what we would do with Hub Network. We would place the channel’s emphasis on comedy and fun and aim it towards kids and teens during the daylight hours and adults during the nighttime hours. Basically it would be Nickelodeon during the day and HA! at night. There’s be a block of original and 3rd party edutainment shows for younger kids and preschoolers in the mornings, blocks of acquired cartoon favorites and teen sitcoms in the afternoons, a block of girl-centric shows such as Ladybug and LoliRock, an block of action cartoons and superhero shows such as Max Steel and Super Sentai, music videos and shows about video games, extreme sports, comic books and manga/anime, at night we’d air reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000 every night from 8 PM to 10 PM except on Friday and Saturday nights, which would be devoted to original premiere programming blocks and on Sunday nights we’d run an “art house” animated short show, a review and behind the scenes of cartoons show (think Toon Heads meets X-Play), nights would consist of an original parody newscast, a riff show, a sketch comedy show, a hidden camera prank show, a mini-block of “edgier” adult cartoons both Western and anime (sort of an Adult Swim lite), a show featuring stand-up routines accompanied by visualizations and comedy clips from around the world (think Turkey Television meets Mash-Up), a block of British comedies, a classic sitcom block and a block of classic cartoons from the baby boomer era. We’d call this channel POP or KABOOM TV, but you don’t have to. Not saying this is the best way or the only way, but it is a way.
So for now, that would seem to a wrap for The Hub. No date has been announced for the rebrand yet, (EDIT: Hub Network officially switches to Discovery Family on October 13, 2014.) but for all intents and purposes, The Hub is just running on fumes now, waiting to be snapped up and recycled into something else. Hasbro had a potentially pretty decent thing going for a while, pity that shortsightedness and a lack of imagination killed it. So we at Twinsanity say…..