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Baby TV is here

Marketplace Staff May 11, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: For couch potatoes, there’s ESPN. Classic movie fans can click over to TCM. And shopaholics have two choices: They can get their fix on QVC or HSN. A new television channel launched today caters to yet another niche market. The infant and toddler set. Marketplace’s Business Editor Cheryl Glaser has that story.

[Sound: “Hi, Daddy!””What are you drawing?””I don’t know, you tell me!”]CHERYL GLASER: This cartoon series is called Danny & Daddy. It features a boy named Danny, who loves to paint pictures. Then his dad figures out what Danny has painted. It’s just one of the shows on BabyFirst TV.

BabyFirst TV offers what it calls educational programs ad-free for $9.99 a month. The new network says its goal is to help moms and dads interact with their babies and make them better parents.

Professor Robert Thompson teaches TV and popular culture at Syracuse University. He says for BabyFirst TV the key is to convince parents that it’s educational:

ROBERT THOMPSON: What Sesame Street managed to do was to grip the population of parents with the idea that this was good for their kid. They’d learn to talk. They’d learn their alphabet and their counting. They might even learn a little Spanish.

And BabyFirst TV may be following in those footsteps. Executive Vice President Sharon Rechter says low-income families are particularly inclined to get the channel because they think it’s a less-expensive option than classes for their baby.

Harvard psychologist Susan Linn says this isn’t about education. It’s about money:

SUSAN LINN: The media market for preschoolers is pretty well saturated — Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network. And what the media market industries do is look for another demographic. And the only place they have to go is down. So they’re targeting babies.

She says it’s a market that’s grown all the more attractive, thanks to the success of Baby Einstein and other toddler-oriented DVDs.

But BabyFirst TV could still be a tough sell. Experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children not be exposed to TV until they’re at least 2 years old.

I’m Cheryl Glaser for Marketplace.

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