Nickelodeon v. Disney has been a hot button topic in the children’s media world for a while now (well, at least for those of us who talk about this stuff and look at ratings), but Disney Jr. (formerly Playhouse Disney) is relatively new on the scene as real competition for Nick Jr. While I certainly appreciate Disney Jr.’s increased focus on research for their preschool programming (particularly speaking with a large number of children), I don’t believe for one second that it is not about the money. Both Disney and Nickelodeon, while genuinely interested in providing exciting content for children, are first and foremost businesses. To be clear, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. However, the Disney Jr. relaunch was certainly about ratings and money and not losing a portion of their audience and future audience to Nickelodeon.
Last year, for the first time, Disney beat Nickelodeon out in ratings with their target kid audience. However, Nick Jr. still beat out Disney programming for preschoolers. As the Disney representative logically explains, the earlier they get their audience to latch on, the better the chance they will watch Disney-owned channels their whole lives. And with so much preschool content on TV, tablets, smartphones, and more, it is not surprise that Disney has amped up its preschool programming. By integrating their existing properties for preschool content (princesses, Peter Pan, etc.), they maximize their potential—a 3 year old who loves Princess Sofia will not only want the Princess Sofia toys, but will want all the product of her princess teachers (Snow White, Cinderella, etc.). She will want to visit them at Disney World. She will want a Princess makeover and matching tiara. Again, I’m not blaming Disney. It is, at its core, business, and an superbly run business at that. And I don’t doubt that all of this interaction with the property (the Disney world visit and Peter Pan comforter, etc.) strengthens a child’s bond to it and increases the likelihood that they will keep watching which increases the likelihood that they will benefit from the educational messages. It’s not ALL bad. All I’m saying, is that it would be nice if they owned up to it. By helping the kids, they are helping themselves.