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PBS Will Launch Family Night on New PBS Kids Channel

Variety logo Variety 1/15/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Fans of PBS’ educational lineup for kids know full well that the network’s hours of “Wild Kratts” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” eventually fade into programming aimed for adults. Starting this week, more children will be able to tune into their favorite PBS programs around the clock.

On Monday, PBS’ “PBS Kids” channel  will be made available through broadcast, cable and live-stream via 108 PBS licensees to 90% of U.S. TV households. PBS said 75 licensees – typically a PBS member station – will launch the channel January 16, with additional outlets coming online over the next several months. The TV channel will be made available for free on pbskids.org and the PBS Kids Video App for mobile devices and tablets.

The goal is to extend the reach of PBS Kids programming so that it’s more available to children when they are likely to want it – after school and in the evenings. The launch also helps the public broadcaster reach families watching the programs together.  “With the launch of the multi-platform 24/7 PBS KIDS channel, all of America’s children will be able to access our trusted educational content anywhere, anytime and through any device,” said Paula Kerger, chief executive of PBS, in a prepared statement. The move means PBS Kids programming will also be more available to “our nation’s most underserved, many of whom do not attend preschool and rely solely on over-the-air television for media content,” she added.

PBS said it intended to launch later this year a new feature that will allow live-stream viewers to toggle back and forth between a show they are watching and a digital game or activity that is tied in to the educational goals of the specific program. PBS said it has done research showing  kids who watch its shows learn more when they interact with both the program and games related to it.

Stations will provide the PBS Kids channel in addition to their current primary PBS channel, which will continue to feature a kids’ daypart. The schedule of children’s programming on the primary PBS channel will be different from the 24/7 channel. The new outlet will feature 21 different PBS Kids series, ranging from current favorites like “Peg + Cat” and “Odd Squad” to library programs such as “Cailliou” and “Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman.” Other series that will be included are “Sesame Street,” “Nature Cat,” “Dinosaur Train,” “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That” and “Super Why!” One PBS Kids perennial, “Curious George” is not part of the package. That show’s producer, NBCUniversal, struck a deal in March of last year to make past and future seasons of the show available exclusively via Hulu.

Beginning Friday, April 21, 2017, the new channel will debut “PBS Kids Family Night,” and will offer weekly family viewing events featuring movie specials or themed programming. These events will appear every Friday from 7  p.m. to 9 p.m., repeating on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “Family Night” will kick off with popular movie favorites such as “Odd Squad: The Movie” and “Sesame Street: The Cookie Thief, and will also feature world premiere movie events such as “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip,” “Wild Kratts: Alaska Adventure,” “Ready Jet Go!: Return to Bortron 7” and “Arthur and the Haunted Treehouse.”

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