Hasbro, Discovery announce joint venture


Hasbro and Discovery Communications announced an agreement to form a 50/50 JV, including a television network and website, dedicated to high-quality children’s and family entertainment and educational programming built around some of the most well-known and beloved brands in the world. As part of the transaction, the joint venture also will receive a minority interest in the U.S. version of Hasbro.com.

Both the network and the venture’s online component will feature content from Hasbro’s rich portfolio of entertainment and educational properties built over the past 90 years, including original programming for animation, game shows, and live-action series and specials. New programming will be based on brands such as Romper Room. Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Cranium, My Little Pony, G.I Joe, Game of Life, Tonka, Transformers and more.

The TV network and online presence also will include content from Discovery’s library of children’s educational programming, such as Bindi the Jungle Girl, Endurance, Tutenstein, Hi-5, Flight 29 Down and Peep and the Big Wide World..

In the deal, Hasbro will purchase a 50% stake in the venture, which will hold the assets related to Discovery Kids Network in the U.S., for which Discovery Communications will receive $300 million. The joint venture’s rebranded network is expected to debut in late 2010 reaching approximately 60 million Nielsen households in the U.S. with programming geared to boys and girls 14 years of age and under. The joint venture also will participate in merchandising opportunities associated with on-air content.

Each company will have equal representation on a board of directors that will oversee a management team responsible for programming, scheduling and operations. The search for a President and General Manager for the network will begin immediately. Discovery Communications will handle advertising sales services, distribution, origination and other operational requirements for the proposed venture, while Hasbro will provide studio-produced programming.

There is already some pushback on the deal. Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert, issued a statement in response to the announcement:

“The Hasbro-Discovery Channel joint venture sounds like nothing more than a scheme to deliver program-length advertisements to children over television and advertisements disguised as interactive games over the Internet.

The problems with advertising to children are familiar, and qualitatively different than advertising issues involving adults: Children cannot distinguish between ads and programming. To make programming itself into a full-length disguised advertisement is pure exploitation of children for commercial gain, nothing more and nothing less.

We will ask federal regulators to investigate whether the joint venture’s plans are as nefarious as they sound in today’s press release, and to take appropriate preemptive action to block plans to exploit children.”