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May 26, 2010

Disney dumping SoapNet to make way for kids net

All-my-children36Disney/ABC TV Group is shutting down decade-old cable channel SoapNet to make room for a new kids channel.

The company will launch Disney Junior, a 24-hour channel devoted to preschool-age children (age 2-7). The move will expand Disney Channel's current daytime programming block, Playhouse Disney, into its own network. The network will make its debut in 2012, taking advantage of the 75-million-home distribution of SoapNet.

"The launch of Disney Junior in the U.S. is the next step in our global preschool strategy, which began 10 years ago with the premiere of our first dedicated preschool channel in the UK," Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks. "The decision to ultimately transition SoapNet to accomplish this was not arrived at lightly. SoapNet was created in 2000 to give daytime viewers the ability to watch time-shifted soaps, before multiplatform viewing and DVRs were part of our vocabulary. But today, as technology and our businesses evolve, it makes more sense to align this distribution with a preschool channel that builds on the core strengths of our company."

SoapNet mainly airs repeats of broadcast network daytime soap operas, particularly ABC programs, such as "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," as well as more contemporary titles like "One Tree Hill" and "Gilmore Girls."

With daytime soaps a dying breed on broadcast, and the kids TV market booming, it's no surprise Disney would shift the channel to target younger viewers. 

Disney Junior will launch with 200 episodes annually of new series and current Playhouse Disney titles such as "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," "Handy Manny" and "Jungle Junction," as well as showcase classic Disney movies such as "Little Mermaid."

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