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Hasbro's TV Strategy: What Happened With The Hub & Where Things Are Now

Adweek has posted an article about Hasbro's TV strategies that goes into of detail about The Hub - and what went wrong. The short version is that Discovery was admirably hands-off with the network, leaving Hasbro almost solely in charge of programming... and a combination of slow profits, the proliferation of on-demand viewing, and the departure of President & CEO Margaret Loesch led Hasbro get out of the network-running business. Keep reading for more details on all that and a link to the full article where you can see My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic described as "creepily beloved"!

The content strategy Davis describes is a lot more staid in terms of raw investment than recent history indicates. Fresh off the success of 2007's big-screen Transformers, Hasbro expanded beyond content licensing into high-end production and distribution. And for a moment, it seemed like the toymaker was poised to become another multifaceted entertainment conglomerate—but only for a moment. After an initial expenditure in 2009 of $300 million for an even stake in The Hub with Discovery, plus production costs, The Hub finally called it quits last year. It just wasn't making money fast enough.

One former staffer at the network is fairly clear about what went wrong. Hasbro grossly overestimated the amount of money The Hub would be able to make. "Cable networks take time," explains the insider. "It was growing at a reasonable rate, but it was only making $9 million a year [before the sale]. … [Hasbro is] a toy company. They didn't know how to run a cable network, and Discovery was AWOL the entire time. They considered Hasbro first among equals because they'd paid so much for it."

In part, The Hub also suffered from inauspicious timing. The much higher-profile growing pains of the Oprah Winfrey Network drew Discovery's attention away from Hasbro where at least there was a clear vision, good programming and polite buzz.

Ultimately, Hasbro turned full operational control back over to Discovery after the network's CEO, kids programming legend Margaret Loesch, left at the end of last year. (Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner gave Loesch's departure as the reason to sell back its ownership stake.) "Hasbro is a good company and Discovery is a good company," acknowledges one former Hub exec. "In my opinion, Hasbro realized over time that they overpaid for their share, and that was a great worry for them. They had an opportunity to reduce their position, and they took it."

A source inside Discovery who asked not to be named in this story offered the following comment: "There are absolutely no problems with the relationship with Hasbro then or now. The transition we made was based on changes in the kids business, primarily more children watching SVOD. We want people to watch the best of what Hasbro brings to the table and the best of what Discovery brings to the table."

Davis takes a diplomatic tack as well. "We decided with respect to Transformers that it deserved to be on a network [Cartoon] that had a much broader, older-boy-skewed demo," says Davis. "But we continue to produce a significant raft of shows for Discovery Family. We're still very committed to the success of that network."

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