What the Hub?!

THIS JUST IN: Disney Channel and Disney X-D Networks executive Nikki Reed has been named Senior Vice President, Programming & Development for The Hub Network, the fastest growing children’s cable network, it was announced today by Margaret Loesch, President & CEO of The Hub, to whom she will report. The Hub Network is a joint venture of Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc. 

Ms. Reed succeeds Donna Ebbs who served as The Hub’s first programming chief and helped launch the network in October 2010. Ms. Ebbs has transitioned to a new role as a consultant and an executive producer for The Hub and is responsible for pursuing and developing several new properties and securing unique production opportunities for the network.

“Nikki Reed’s background as both a producer and an executive at top-level entertainment companies like Disney, NBC Universal, and Touchstone Television makes her the perfect person to lead our development and programming during this unprecedented time of growth for The Hub,” said Ms. Loesch. “Donna Ebbs built an incredible creative team that helped shape The Hub in its first two years on the air. Moving forward, Nikki’s experience and creativity is the right blend to lead this team as we grow The Hub into the primary destination for programming that children and their parents watch together.”

“The Hub is in a period of tremendous growth as it becomes a leader in the kids and family space,” said Ms. Reed. “Our goal is to utilize my relationships with writers, producers and talent to grow The Hub’s existing slate of programming and enhance it with more live-action series. I am excited to work with Margaret and The Hub team to carry out the creative vision to make smart, entertaining shows that appeal to both children and their parents.”

Ms. Reed is responsible for planning, directing and executing the network’s programming strategy, as well as working with Ms. Loesch and the network’s senior management team on creative development and overall strategic planning and direction.

Ms. Reed has more than 15 years of experience developing feature films and television series, including live-action series geared towards kids, tweens and families on Disney Channel and Disney X-D, as well as numerous platforms around the world. Among the series she developed at Disney are “Jessie,” “Austin and Ally,” “Dog with a Blog,” “Lab Rats,” and “Crash and Bernstein.”

Prior to joining Disney, Ms. Reed was the Vice President of Current and Development at Universal Cable Productions. She also spent five years as a development executive for executive producer Barry Kemp’s Bungalow 78 Productions while it was based at Touchstone Television. Previously, she served as Vice President of Development for director Jon Turteltaub’s Junction Entertainment for Disney Studios. There she spearheaded the development of the feature films “National Treasure” starring Nicholas Cage and “The Kid” starring Bruce Willis. In 2005, Ms. Reed served as an executive producer on the feature film “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg.

Naturally, upon hearing this news, people on the interwebz are having a hissy-fit because they’re afraid that a former Disney Channel exec taking the reins of The Hub’s programming will mean that the channel’s entire lineup, animated hits and all, will be nerfed in favor of live-action teencoms like Dog with a Blog and Good Luck Charlie. Personally, I’m taking a cautious “wait and see” approach to this. Why? Here’s my take:

While it is a potentially off-putting truism that Ms. Reed’s history is predominantly in live-action and she’s coming to The Hub, a channel largely dominated by animation currently, I honestly don’t think that the toy-based animated shows are in any danger. As I pointed out in “A Failure to Communicate…and See the Truth”, The Hub is first and foremost a toy company. The whole reason Hasbro launched this whole venture with Discovery Communications in the first place was so they could have a launchpad for shows and movies based on their cadre of toy and game franchises, so the likes of My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, Littlest Pet Shop, Transformers Prime, Transformers Rescue Bots and the like aren’t going anywhere. Those shows are the main reason why The Hub exists; they earn great ratings, and more importantly in Hasbro’s eyes, they drive toy sales. My guess is that the reasoning behind this move is that The Hub is trying to bring in more viewers and is trying to find some more solid rating grabbers to increase their audience, but they’re not likely to alienate their current audience since they are still dedicated to toys. This could, mind you, could mean that the channel may be relying less on acquired 3rd party reruns like Animaniacs and The Super Hero Squad Show, which wouldn’t really be such a bad thing, at least not to me; I already own the A! DVDs and SHS has looped all of its’ episodes a few times already. As for the prospect of  “focusing on live-action series”, well that depends on the type of shows Ms. Reed has in mind and where and how much of them she plans to implement; while it’s true that I consider shows such as Good Luck Charlie, Dog with a Blog and Shake it Up to be twaddle and an entire schedule of those kinds of sitcoms would indeed be terrible for a good network, a smattering of a few of them here and there around the schedule wouldn’t be that bad, provided The Hub’s original vision isn’t lost and these live-action shows (whatever they end up being) don’t take over the channel. It would be a heck of a lot better than just looping the same 5 movies over and over again every month. While I personally can’t stomach most of Disney Channel’s live-action ventures, the sad truth is that they do put butts into seats, and if the addition of such shows were to bring more permanent viewers to The Hub, that would mean higher ratings and more money, money which could conceivably be used to produce more original series for the channel, both animated as well as live-action, hopefully.

Also keep in mind that it’s not a given that Ms. Reed will simply try to copy the sort of shows that got made under her watch at Disney here, as that may not prove to be the best strategy. Hasbro undoubtedly wants The Hub wants to carve out its’ own niche, not be thought of as Disney Channel 2.

What I really hope this means is that The Hub will finally be spicing up their nighttime lineup. I’ve mentioned this a few times already here, but The Hub’s PM schedule sucks noodles. I never watch The Hub at night because absolutely nothing that The Hub runs at night interests me in the slightest. Shortly before this announcement, The Hub released the news that they would be acquiring reruns of Who’s the Boss? in April. My reaction: “Another old fluffy family sitcom from 20+ years ago. Yay.” The Hub could be doing so much more than just trying to ape early 90’s Nick @ Nite. On this someone remarked: The Hub is trying to follow in the footsteps of Nick at Nite and have their prime time line-up consist of type of programming that their adult viewers remembered watching when they were kids/teens (be it live action shows on syndication or hit cartoons of the 1980’s and 1990’s).” Yeah, here’s the thing about that: animated shows aside, I never watched this crap when I was a teen. I thought shows like The Facts of Life, Family Ties and Who’s the Boss? were trite when they were new. You know what I watched as a teenager? The Young Ones, Red Dwarf, SCTV, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Black Adder, French & Saunders. The only network sitcoms I watched during that time were Newhart and Night Court. I see so much wasted potential on the PM Hub; Hasbro could be offering so much of a variety: not just my idea of alternative comedy (though I still think that’s a great idea), but also new game shows, new action/adventure shows, sketch/variety, etc. I’m not saying that The Hub should abandon the old sitcoms if they’re pulling in ratings, but why should that be the only thing they run at night? Like I mentioned in “Point and Laugh at Retro-Snobbery”, classic TV is nice and all, but it doesn’t equal huge ratings, and The Hub knows this, hence whey they’re mking this move in the first place. If Ms. Reed can inject some much needed life in The Hub’s nighttime schedule, then I welcome our new overlord.

Basically, I have to see what’s to come before I start playing Taps for this channel just yet. I really need to see what sort of shows get ordered and the pilots which get greenlit before I can say conclusively whether this is a regrettable move or not. As long as the likes of The Aquabats Super Show! and Littlest Pet Shop remain intact, I’m fine with it.


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