Children's TV in the UK is set to receive a further boost when Disney launches an HD simulcast of its Disney XD channel. The 'boy-focussed, girl-inclusive' channel targetting 8-12 year old boys will be launched exclusively via pay satellite operator Sky later this month (October 2010). With the launch of Disney XD HD, Sky's HD channel count has crossed the 50 channel mark-its stated target for 2010. According to the company, it now broadcasts 51 HD channels in the UK and 47 in Ireland, with Disney XD HD and Sky Movies Classic HD both launching on October 18.
Similarly to MTVN, which launched an HD version of its Nickelodeon children's channel late last month, Disney XD HD will be available to all Sky subscribers taking both the children's pack and its HD service. Screen Digest estimates that at launch, the channel will be available to roughly 2m households - equalling that of Nickelodeon HD, which is also available via subscription to Sky's childrens bouquet and HD service.
The launch of Disney XD HD lends credence to our prediction made last month, following the launch of Nickelodeon HD, that children's TV would start to see an influx of HD content and channels, particularly from majors like Disney (see Viacom expands HD lineup with Nickelodeon HD). Although Disney already has an HD channel operating in the UK and wider EMEA region, its Disney Cinemagic HD channel is a children's-skewed premium movie channel available for an additional subscription fee.
While HD channels tend to have lower (absolute) viewing share than their SD counterparts on account of a much smaller household reach, we believe that among Sky's HD-enabled households (households that have both an HD ready TV and connection to Sky HD pack) with access to the children's bouquet, it is highly likely that viewing share of both Disney XD HD and Nickelodeon HD will be superior to, and at the expense of, their SD peers.
The launch of Disney XD HD may be considered an aggressive move by Disney, rather than a purely defensive response to the launch of Nickelodeon HD. While it might be expected that Disney would launch its most popular channel, Disney Channel, as an HD channel, there are a number of reasons why it might have prefered to opt for Disney XD. Disney XD has yet to make a notable impact on the UK children's market as a standard-definition channel, with BARB data indicating the channel has one of the lowest viewing shares of all the core pay-TV children's channels. Promoting XD as one of the UK's two children's HD channels raises its profile significantly and will help improve awareness of the channel. Furthermore, as Disney XD is boy-focussed, the HD version is less likely to cannibalise SD viewing of the girl-skewed core Disney Channel and more likely to negatively impact SD viewing of more demographically similar competitor channels such as Cartoon Network.
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