Almost a week after Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch announced that she will be stepping down at the end of the year, speculation about the future of the upstart kids cable channel — a co-venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker Hasbro — is growing. At the time of Loesch’s announcement, I was hearing the name of Discovery veteran Tom Cosgrove — CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. Cosgrove continues to be rumored for the job. Complicating a potential hire is the fact that 3D is a three-way venture of Discovery, Sony and Imax, but I hear Discovery has been exploring becoming a majority or sole owner of the fledgeling 3D TV channel. There is talk that Hub might be put under the purview of Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel (formerly Military Channel) and Discovery Fit & Health. He only recently added Fit & Health to his portfolio, so oversight of Hub would further expand his turf, with Cosgrove possibly reporting to him.
I continue to hear that Hub, which reaches nearly 73 million U.S. homes, may be re-branded, with its headquarters, currently based in Burbank, potentially moving to Discovery’s home base in Silver Spring, MD. After trying with little success to gain ground in a crowded marketplace dominated by Disney Channel and Nickelodeon while kids advertizing is steadily declining, HUB recently expanded into family-oriented programming, airing movies in primetime and adding older-skewing fare like popular 1990s teen comedy series Blossom. That new direction may be the key to HUB’s future, with sources mentioning Discovery Family as a potential new moniker. That would also be consistent with HUB’s recent rebranding, which added the tagline Making Family Fun to the network’s name.
Of course, all this is contingent on partners Discovery and Hasbro reaching an agreement on what to do with HUB. The toy manufacturer, which put down $300 million for a 50% stake in the new network five years ago (plus another $150 million-$200 million to ramp up HUB supplier Hasbro Studios), has not given indication that it plans to pull out. One scenario has Discovery has Hasbro remaining a partner, with HUB’s successor airing the contractual amount of Hasbro programming until that contract is over, after which Hasbro would not have any involvement in the operation of the joint venture. Other sources don’t discount the possibility for Hasbro departing but that would involve Discovery writing a check, probably for less than Hasbro’s original $300 million investment but still a very significant amount. (Hasbro recently reported HUB turning profit for the first time after posting losses of $6 million-$7 million for the past couple of years.) The two sides are likely trying to sort all that out. Meanwhile, witnesses compare the HUB offices to a ghost town.