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Opinion: The End of The Hub Network

October 10, 2010 at 10:00am Eastern Daylight Time Discovery Kids turned into The Hub and it all began. Now, just under four years later, it’s over. Discovery is taking a larger stake in the joint venture with Hasbro and renaming the network Discovery Family.

The original 50-50 ownership was set up to have Discovery provide the television business background (and the actual channel space) and have Hasbro provide the bulk of the programming content. The joint venture picked Margaret Loesch, well known for successfully running Marvel Productions in the 1980s and the popular Fox Kids block in the ‘90s, to run the network as Hub President and CEO. As an outsider from the two parent companies, her vision was to regain that 90s mentality that kids weren’t dumb and didn’t need to be talked down to.

When the network launched, it didn’t have much to work with in terms of Discovery Kids content. That network had basically been defunct for years, running repeats of the same series over and over each day. Therefore they had to acquire a large chunk of programming and make sure to have some original productions lined-up for launch as well.

When The Hub went live on 10-10-10 it featured a big mix of content. From original programming like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Pound Puppies and Family Game Night (all from Hasbro) to new-to-America acquisitions like Deltora Quest, The Twisted Whiskers Show, Dennis and Gnasher, Cosmic Quantum Ray and more, to acquired American series like Happy Days, the 1960s Batman, Doogie Howser, Wonder Years and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids TV show.

Just a little over a month later, the marquee action franchise Transformers Prime launched along with the really good G.I. Joe Renegades series. One went on for 68 episodes while, sadly, the other ended after its first season of 26. Those were by Hasbro Studios as well.

The Hub had a problem though. They had to convince advertisers that Hasbro (a toy company) wasn’t going to be just producing 22-minute commercials for themselves. They needed other original content. Enter: The Haunting Hour and Dan Vs., two series from The Hatchery, a production company owned by Hub President Margaret Loesch. Haunting Hour launched as a preview that October before joining on Christmas Day no less. Dan Vs. rang in New Years 2011. While The Haunting Hour has been extremely successful (awards, notable guest stars, high production quality) and is about to premiere its fourth season this October, the animated Dan Vs. wasn’t as lucky. Though, it did at least get 53 episodes and is airing again on the network weekday mornings.

The Hub pleased action animated fans with repeats of shows like Batman Beyond and Men in Black: The Series to start with and Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series later on. More Warner Bros. Animation showed up like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. The 90s were alive on The Hub for a while.

My Little Pony: Friendship is MagicOf course, we all know which series made The Hub a recognizable name outside of the few who paid attention – My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I have no qualms with the show, though it’s not my thing. While very successful, the show has basically had the SpongeBob-effect on the network. Airing six or more times per day, it’s pretty much the only show airing today that gets respectable ratings (for both premieres and repeats). Not that it’s the ponies fault… but it’ll likely be the “mane” thing The Hub is remembered for.

The network has had a few other really good originals, like The Aquabats! Super Show, Kaijudo and Spooksville. Even a very likeable Clue miniseries. They’ve also aired fun classics like Goosebumps, Jem and Lois & Clark. They’ve had big misses, like the ill-fated launch of UK series Wizards vs. Aliens which was gone weeks after it started. They also tried initially with preschool programming, even having a Hasbro original with Chuck & Friends, but that too didn’t last.

From “Where Everything Comes Together” to “It Could Happen, Only on The Hub” to “Making Family Fun” – The Hub (now Hub Network) has always had a family approach. The Discovery Family name makes that point even clearer.

Discovery CommunicationsMy main fear with the new Discovery overloads, I mean rulers… I mean programmers, is that they’ll take the network down the course of the other Discovery Communications networks. Reality shows plague each Discovery network and the new name for The Hub is a candidate to fall in line with recent unscripted fare like Kid President and Parent’s Just Don’t Understand. From understandable science and nature reality shows on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet to odd and disturbing family reality on TLC to horribly, horribly acted hospital recreations on Discovery Fit & Health, I can only hope the new Discovery Family stays away from this format.

HasbroGiving Hasbro a chunk of the daytime is understandable. It’ll also mean a scaled back Pony saturation and the ability to direct the afternoon and evening line-up to a more family-friendly schedule.

Still, we don’t know what the new network will look like yet. Will they pretty much keep things status quo? Likely not. Why else go through all this change if they plan to keep things as is? Things are going to change, it’s just a matter of what exactly and to what degree.

As it was in 2010, I look forwarding to seeing where things go from here. But unlike 2010, I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of a network I’ll like very much.