Creator / Universal Kids
aka: Sprout

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Get Set, Go

Universal Kids is a cable/satellite network from NBC Universal targeting targeting children, much in the same vein as Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. The network started out life as PBS Kids Sprout before finally shortening to just Sprout.

Sprout was a cable/satellite network that originated as a subnetwork of PBS Kids which originated from Philadelphia. Originally launched as a Video on Demand service, Sprout replaced the 24/7 PBS Kids network in 2005. It was a partnership of Sesame Workshop, Apax Partners (a share owned by HIT Entertainment prior to its purchase by Mattel), PBS and NBCUniversal (via the Comcast merger). The latter company became the sole owner late in 2013, with NBCU's international kids' channel joint venture KidsCo ending in the process.

Sprout was known for their themed blocks of programming. Since its creation, it has had a regular feature in "The Sunny Side Up Show," a morning block with live hosts and the channel's kazoo-voiced puppet mascot Chica the chicken (who received her own series, The Chica Show, in 2012) that even airs original content on holidays such as Christmas. It also regularly aired "The Good Night Show," a block of programming themed around getting children for bed. The program was originally hosted by Melanie Martinez (no, not that one), prior to Sprout's learning that she had appeared in a parody public service announcement for an online service titled "Technical Virgin". Following a brief series of guest stints, including Noel MacNeal (Bear of Bear in the Big Blue House), the program found a new regular host in Michele Lepe, known on the program as "Nina"; she interacts with another puppet character, Star (a - you guessed it - sentient star). Sprout's on-air continuity once partially consisted of miniseries "The Wiggly Waffle Show" and "The Super Sproutlet Show". As of 2015, though, they've more or less stopped with this.

Sprout maintained an official website where much of their content could be viewed, and also continued their Video-on-Demand service, which features programs available in Spanish (including some no longer aired in English on Sprout) and from time-to-time other programming that has never actually aired on the main Sprout network. They have also sponsored a number of public service initiatives, such as "The Great Sprout Tuck-In" and "Kindness Counts", and each year on Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning air a "snooze-a-thon," which depicts the characters from their various programs sleeping, in order to encourage children that they, too, should be asleep. This has been made available on-demand, and officially, for free, online. All programming on Sprout is rated TV-Y.

Notably, unlike most U.S. networks of this type (i.e. Nick Jr., Disney Junior), Sprout actually aired advertising in-between programs. They had a stated policy of only airing ads targeted at children's parents, rather than children themselves, though naturally some ads might blur those lines. (Ads for The Lorax aired after NBCUniversal gained ownership of the channel, as have ads for direct-to-video movie Barbie Mariposa & The Fairy Princess, distributed by Universal.)

In July 2012, Sprout kicked Qubo to the curb and took over programming NBC and Telemundo's Saturday morning blocks, under the names NBC Kids and MiTelemundo respectively. With the demise of Vortexx, NBC Kids became the last traditional Saturday morning block on a major English-language U.S. commercial TV network to air cartoons, albeit of an educational nature. The block would come to an end in October on 2016, replaced by a Litton Entertainment block branded "The More You Know", based off NBC's long running series of public service announcements. On another note, despite PBS no longer owning a stake, several PBS Kids shows still aired on the network until their contract to do so (except Caillou and The Berenstain Bears, the latter of which hasn't been seen on PBS nationally in years) expired on September 26, 2015.

On April 30, 2017, Sprout general manager Deirdre Brennan announced that NBCUniversal Cable would relaunch Sprout, effective September 9, and re-brand the network as Universal Kids in an attempt to broaden the channel's demographics.

Under this new structure, the Sprout brand will be used for preschool programming, running from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m, while Universal Kids will focus on children's content from the Universal archives. Content will include those from DreamWorks Animation (and its subsidiary DreamWorks Classics), and potentially Universal Animation Studios, Walter Lantz Productions and Illumination Entertainment. Additionally, it will also carry both live-action and animated original programming, with the channel's inaugural show being Top Chef Junior, a spin-off of the Bravo Reality Show Top Chef, as well as a revival of Beat the Clock with kids as contestants. If the effort goes well, this could potentially make the channel a viable competitor to Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, among others.

Despite this, it should be noted that not everyone is happy with the revamp, especially those that had witnessed what NBCUniversal had done to other networks under its wings. A number of people see this as Executive Meddling, network screwing and/or Network Decay, and those who subscribed to the channel for its wholesome educational content are especially weary of the change. It doesn't help that despite being a rebrand, preschool programming still makes up the majority of the channel's airtime, likening Universal Kids' to a youth-oriented [adult swim] or a less-raunchy NickMom.

Time will tell how this will turn out.

The following programs were broadcast on Sprout in the United States (a (*) indicates it aired on NBC Kids prior to that block's ending):

The following programs no longer air on Sprout but were previously seen on either the channel or on demand:

These programs air on MiTelemundo and Sprout (Spanish for the former):


Alternative Title(s): PBS Kids Sprout, NBC Kids, Sprout

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