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Could Disney Junior Survive On Television?

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Hey everyone. This is SofiaBlythe2014. When looking at the Disney Junior premieres for January, I saw something surprising. With the exception of Puppy Dog Pals, TOTS, and Bluey, all the currently running Disney Junior shows will have their premieres on the Disney Junior channel rather than the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel. Now, I already know it's the case for shows like Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, and Muppet Babies, but for shows like Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures and Mira Royal Detective, that's a bit of a surprise. I'll elaborate on this more below, but let's just say I didn't see this coming. Not only that, the schedule for at least January is Sofia The First at 6:00, Bluey at 7:00 and 11:00, Puppy Dog Pals at 8:00 and 10:00, and TOTS at 9:00. Wow! A few weeks ago, I already thought about what the future of the Disney Junior block and Disney Junior channel in the United States could be like when talking to my friends, but with this information, I need to talk about it. I have a few points that need discussing in order to discuss why I think the future of Disney Junior on television is fine, at least in terms of where the content will come out. There are definitely problems with how Disney Junior airs their shows, but I think there's still a future on television.

1. The Higher Ratings On The Disney Junior Channel (And How Things Have Changed)

In a Some Thoughts On My Mind article from March 2019, I mentioned how premieres on the Disney Junior channel have generally gotten higher ratings than with the Disney Junior block on Disney Junior channel. Well, almost 2 years, I can say that things are the same yet also different.

Let's start with the same. When going up against shows that air on Disney XD, Disney Junior shows generally do better. Take for example, October 2020. Vampirina switched over to having premieres on the Disney Junior channel, with the show usually competing against DuckTales and Big Hero 6 The Series on Mondays as well as the Disney Junior block premieres on Fridays. For the most part, it usually either won out, or was close to whatever cartoon won that day. For example, October 19 had "Fang Ten/Science Rocks" airing at 11:00am while the DuckTales special "Let's Get Dangerous" aired at 7:00pm. Despite the latter getting more hype, it only managed a little over 100,000 views while Vampirina got over 350,000 views. Most Vampirina episodes in season 3 didn't get that high, but they usually get at least 200,000. The season 3 finale of Puppy Dog Pals that aired on the Disney Junior block on October 15 got 288,000 views while the Vampirina episode on the Disney Junior channel got 286,000 views. That is very close. I mentioned how scheduling and timeslots played a part, which holds true here with Vampirina consistently getting an 11:00am premiere. There's also the matter of when watching shows through other means like iTunes or Disney Now. People tend to watch shows like DuckTales or The Owl House more on these services and less on television, unlike preschool shows where it's more common to watch them on TV since parents tend to leave them on for kids.

Now, how does it differ? Well, let's look at Elena Of Avalor. The season 3 episodes that aired in October 2019 on the Disney Junior block usually got around 200,000-300,000 views, with "The Magic Within" getting about 450,000 views when airing on the Disney Junior channel on October 13. When it came time to switch over to premieres on the Disney Junior channel, it started well but then nosedived. "Crash Course" and "Sweetheart's Day" both got over 480,000 views when airing on April 3 and May 8. That's impressive. Episodes after that got somewhere in the 200,000-250,000 range, with the series finale getting about 338,000. What changed? These new premieres were in late Sunday afternoons at 5:00. Unless it's like a primetime special event, Sunday afternoon/evening premieres are never really a good sign for kids shows since it's usually a sign that the show will be treated poorly. It's happened with various Disney Junior and Disney XD shows, as well as Cartoon Network, and to a lesser extent Nickelodeon.

So, what can we infer from this? Well, you can get strong momentum in ratings from the start, but if the schedule gets too crazy, there will eventually be a huge dip in ratings, meaning a greater chance of being treated poorly. People are watching less cable TV now, but among the kids networks, Disney Junior still does well. While ratings went down by 27%, that's nothing compared to Disney Channel ratings going down by 33% or Nicktoons Network going down by 42%. The only other kids networks to do better were Nick Jr (which went down by 17%) and Disney XD (which went down by 23%).

2. Holiday And Special Event Preemptions

So when it comes to holidays, the Disney Junior block usually gets significantly shortened, mainly airing from 6:00am-9:00am. The most common ones are for Halloween, Christmas, and most Monday holidays. The schedule has varied quite a bit, but let's talk about some of the more recent schedules.

Whenever the block is shortened, the shows that are usually on there are Puppy Dog Pals and TOTS and to a lesser extent, Bluey (an Australian import). Sure, TOTS sometimes doesn't air on the block, (such as on December 23, 2020, or when the season 3 finale of Puppy Dog Pals aired on October 15), but for the most part, it's still guaranteed to be shown on the block. They'll sometimes have the block consist of nothing but these shows, or they'll throw in an extra show. Sometimes, you'll see Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures, but it's not a guarantee. Actually, Puppy Dog Pals and TOTS have a relationship similar to Spongebob SquarePants and The Loud House on Nickelodeon in how the latter show will be preempted at times in favor of the bigger marathons of the former as well as some special events, but they're both still treated extremely well by the network.

For Halloween and Christmas in particular, if they show something other than the three shows, they'll show one of the acquired holiday specials like Spookley The Square Pumpkin. Take October 30 for example. What they showed were the Halloween episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, the Monster Musical special from the same show, 2 Halloween episodes of Puppy Dog Pals, Spookley The Square Pumpkin, the Halloween episode of TOTS, and 2 episodes of Bluey. That's not much in the way of variety there.

Mira Royal Detective in particular has been prone to these holiday preemptions. The holiday episodes it does have are based on Indian holidays and not traditional American holidays. The show has never really been shown on the Disney Junior block on Monday holidays, nor has it been shown that often in conjunction with other holidays. When not airing new episodes on Fridays, it would usually be preempted by another show airing in the time slot for new episodes, like Muppet Babies and Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures, or be replaced by an encore of a more popular show. This even affected its viewership for the Disney Junior channel. When Vampirina season 3 premiered, the show ended up taking its weekday 11:00 time slot that it had for the past few months. At first, I thought it was just for Halloween, but this also extended past October.

Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures was also prone to this, though not as often. For example, the week of December 7-11 saw it only air once, and for a new episode. It also regularly had a 6:00am time slot, but when Sofia The First reruns returned (which I will talk about in a bit), it was taken off the schedule. Like with Mira, when it didn't have new episodes on Fridays, it would usually have something else air in its place. I do find it this confusing given how Mickey was the mascot for both the Halloween and Christmas events, and they still do Mickey Mornings (where there are commercials and PSA's where Mickey helps the viewers get ready for the day).

If there's one thing I learned from this, it's that consistency is everything. If you're generally treated well during many major holidays and events, there's always the chance of being treated well overall.

3. Sofia The First Reruns Return And January 2021 Scheduling (Why These Shows In Particular)

The last time Sofia The First aired on TV in America was on November 30, 2018 on the Disney Junior channel. Fittingly enough, when reruns returned, it was on November 30, 2020 when the pilot movie, Once Upon A Princess, aired on the Disney Junior block at 6:00am. When the schedule for January 2021 came out, it was just Sofia The First, along with Puppy Dog Pals, Bluey, and TOTS. Why is this the case? Why these 4 shows in particular?

Let's start with Sofia The First. From a fan's perspective, I do obviously love the show a lot and seeing it get air time again is nice. From a business perspective, why this show? One would think Doc McStuffins would be the one to air given how, of the Disney Junior shows from the 2010s, it's the longest running and has the most episodes. I'd say it's due to circumstances. The times that Doc McStuffins aired on the Disney Junior block after airing premieres on the Disney Junior channel would be Monday mornings at 6:00. Plus, the show only started gaining more prominence recently because of the pandemic (they air "Caught Blue Handed" a lot for its hand washing moral, and a standalone special called "The Doc Is In" was produced after the finale in December). Sofia, much like Jake And The Neverland Pirates, are the only two Disney Junior shows from the 2010s where they completed their entire run on the Disney Junior block. Even from the 6 times new episodes aired on the Disney Junior channel first (the summer 2016 episodes when all the Disney Junior shows did it, Holiday In Enchancia, and Forever Royal), they still aired a few days later on the Disney Junior block. Sofia is the more popular between the two of them due to the fact that the show is connected to Disney's theatrical movies, which are still popular. You can show kids of today an episode, and would most definitely like it as kids did back in 2012, to say nothing of the adult fanbase. It has the nostalgia factor but isn't alienating to today's kids.

Now what about Puppy Dog Pals and TOTS ? Why air them? Let's start with Puppy Dog Pals. In a way, it's kind of like the Disney Junior equivalent to Puppy Dog Pals. Sure, both shows are pretty different, but they do have some large similarities, mainly in how they're both about plucky dogs who mainly help those around him. It's cute, bright, and colorful, and to network executives, it makes sense to capitalize on this. Now what about TOTS? It's similarly bright and colorful, but I think the presence of babies, the show's cozy nature, and strong ratings, really help it out. I haven't seen much of Bluey, but I assume this is in a similar boat due to its wholesome vibe. The ratings they get helps out.

Now, from a viewer's perspective, I'm one for a balanced schedule. It's good to have variety so as to keep your audience in the long run. However, for network executives, playing these specific shows makes sense. Sofia has the appeal of princesses, established characters, and general light tone. Puppy Dog Pals, TOTS, and Bluey have the benefit of following cute animals and wholesome tones that greatly appeal to kids. From this perspective, it makes sense.

If there's some sort of focus group testing going on that says these four shows are popular, I wouldn't be surprised. In 2010, there was once a focus group of parents with kids about what they would want in their Disney Junior programming, and the most common responses were less about educational material and more about social values. Maybe there was some kind of test like this here? It's food for thought.

4. Disney Plus, And Why Preschool Shows Are Usually Not A Nostalgic Priority

So, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Disney Plus has been given more emphasis from Disney. This even extended to other countries with the UK and Indonesia shutting down all of their Disney networks. The latter even uploads half seasons as they air in America rather than full seasons after said season finishes in America.

One might wonder what will happen to the Disney networks in the United States, particularly Disney Junior. Well, this article is about Disney Junior, so let's discuss this. I think the future of Disney Junior on television will be fine, at least for the foreseeable future.

Let's talk about many of the animated projects for Disney Plus, whether they came out already or will come out. For foreign imports that were brought over to the US, we have Marvel Future Avengers (an anime that aired its English dub on Disney XD Asia back in 2017), Legend Of The Three Caballeros (which first came out on the Disney Life app in the Philippines in 2018, and aired on Disney Channel in some countries), and 101 Dalmatian Street (which aired on Disney Channel in Europe). For projects developed specifically for the service, many of the projects include Star Wars The Clone Wars season 7, Phineas And Ferb: Candace Against The Universe, Forky Asks A Question, The Wonderful World Of Mickey Mouse, the upcoming Proud Family revival, and TV shows based on The Princess And The Frog (Tiana), Zootopia (Zootopia+), Big Hero 6 (Baymax), Moana (same name), and Monsters Inc (Monsters At Work). What do these projects have in common? They're not based on Disney Junior shows. Why is that? It's because preschool shows are not really something that are seen as a great hook to reel in family audiences, at least in the United States. Sure, there are some exceptions, like Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, Dora The Explorer, and Winnie The Pooh, but that's it.

When it comes to stuff like reboots, revivals, and spinoffs, preschool shows are usually left out of this or given much less focus. There may be demand for more content for shows like Sofia The First (something I've also brought up before), but no one higher up really listens to that. Craig Gerber mentioned how he tried getting a Sofia The First art book approved, but was told no. If he couldn't do that, would a revival really draw in the family crowd beyond the show's adult fans? Plus, Disney Junior shows still do really well in ratings, as long as they air at good times, so it's no surprise that they're still airing quite a bit.

Now, I mentioned that some of the international Disney channels have been closing down and being replaced by Disney+. Why is that? I have no idea, but I'll still give a guess. My guess is that, besides the rise of streaming, it could also be because they also want to focus just as much on locally produced content. Any American produced channel will usually come to other countries much later. For example, Disney Channel started up sometime around 1985, but didn't come to Japan until 1996. For a more recent example, while most Toon Disney/Jetix channels worldwide became Disney XD in 2009 or 2010, Australia didn't get Disney XD until 2014 and they closed it down in 2019.

To close this section, preschool shows on the whole aren't hated by older audiences, and are usually seen as at least decent, but they're definitely not a major thing that adults talk about. As such, it's no surprise that there hasn't been any Disney Junior content produced for Disney Plus since, on the surface, it wouldn't be a huge draw for the family audience, and most likely won't be for the foreseeable future.

5. The General Type Of Disney Junior Shows Based On Established Properties

When it comes to Disney Junior shows based on established properties, there are usually two types. They're usually based on/connected to books or movies, though there's occasionally more of general franchises that Disney owns. Elena Of Avalor is a standout due to being a spinoff of another Disney Junior show, Sofia The First, and Muppet Babies 2018 stands out due to being a reboot of the 1984 cartoon of the same name.

If you look at the various Disney Junior shows based on established properties released throughout the 2010s, you'll see most of them are based on one of these three categories. We have Jake And The Neverland Pirates (based on a movie), Sofia The First (connected to movies), Henry Hugglemonster (book), The Lion Guard (movie), Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures (franchise) (previously called Mickey And The Roadster Racers), Vampirina (book), Fancy Nancy (book), and The Rocketeer (comic book in this case, though it's connected to a movie, albeit standalone). This also holds true for the upcoming shows such as Chicken Squad (book), Marvel's Spidey And His Amazing Friends (Disney owned property), and Mickey Mouse Fun House (another Disney property).

Why am I bringing this up? Again, look at most of what's being developed for Disney Plus, many of them either being based on movies, revivals of Disney Channel shows (whether as movies or new seasons), or based on big name brands like Star Wars (Star Wars: The Bad Batch) and Marvel (What If? is based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Most of the Disney Junior shows in recent years that are based on established properties are either book adaptations or franchise adaptations that already have flexibility in appealing to younger and older audiences, and less about shows based on movies. While general franchise adaptions can go for any audience when making a tv show, those that specifically adapt a book usually go for the Disney Junior audience. Outside of something like DuckTales, most Disney Channel and Disney XD shows that are based on established properties are not directly based on books, usually being movies or general franchises. Most of what was announced for upcoming Disney Junior shows are not directly based on movies, so they have a greater likelihood of staying on TV given that preschool adaptations mainly thrive on TV.

6. The Shortened Disney Junior Block, Premiere Times, And iTunes (Mira Royal Detective, Chicken Squad)

The final thing I want to talk about before I finish the article is with the scheduling, premiere times, and iTunes. The schedule for the Disney Junior block was being shortened ever since the COVID19 pandemic started back in March of last year. Around March 16, the block was shortened so that it would end at 12:00 rather than 2:00. Around the time Memorial Day came out, the block shortened even more so that it aired until 10:00. Mira Royal Detective actually premiered on March 20, 2020, just as the pandemic started. It had a cozy 11:00 am time slot until about May 15. After that, it moved to an 8:30 am time slot, with premieres on Fridays there. They would usually alternate between Mira, Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures, and Muppet Babies, but in the fall, it alternated between the former two. And then premieres moved to the Disney Junior channel on Friday nights at 7:30.

The 10:00 and 11:00 time slots have been used to premiere many recent Disney Junior shows with 2 episodes on the same day. These include Puppy Dog Pals, Vampirina (albeit on a Sunday and not a Friday), Muppet Babies, Fancy Nancy, The Rocketeer, and Mira Royal Detective. It brings up the question on when any upcoming Disney Junior shows could premiere, and at what times. As mentioned, the current schedule of the Disney Junior block for weekdays (which includes Fridays) has Puppy Dog Pals at 10:00 and Bluey at 11:00. For the Disney Junior channel, you usually have Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures from 9:45-10:10, Puppy Dog Pals from 10:10-11:00, Vampirina at 11:00, and TOTS from 11:25-12:15, though it's been switched up a bit to have PJ Masks at 9:45, TOTS from 10:10-11:00, Vampirina at 11:00, Puppy Dog Pals at 11:30, and Bluey at 12:00. Let's talk about Chicken Squad and when it could premiere. The show was meant to premiere in fall 2020, but that never came to be. Series showrunner Tom Rogers mentioned how he hopes the show will come out in spring 2021. Let's say he's right, and the show will premiere in spring. What time could it air, when could it air, and what channel will it air on? Disney is very reluctant to give up timeslots for Puppy Dog Pals on both the block and channel.

This brings me to another point. When it comes to multiple shows that air in the same day on the Disney Junior channel, they rarely air one right after the other. Let's use Mondays as an example. The shows that have regular Monday premieres as of late are Gigantosaurus, Vampirina, and PJ Masks. Gigantosaurus currently has premieres weekdays at 8:55am, Vampirina at 11:00am, and PJ Masks at 5:30pm. That is some serious gaps in the schedule. For Fridays, Muppet Babies would premiere new episodes at 5:00, with Mira Royal Detective at 7:30. There's also a bit of Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures at 6:00. This reminds of the two Fridays on the Disney Junior channel when Elena Of Avalor would air new episodes. For both days, Elena would air new episodes at 1:30pm. When it didn't, it would be preempted by Mickey Mouse Mixed Up Adventures. When The Rocketeer had a new episode on April 3, it was at 5:30pm, as were the other premieres that month. Again, that is a bit out of whack. Also, while they only aired once on the same Sunday in 2020 (August 16), Fancy Nancy would have premieres at 12:00 and Elena at 5:00.

My guess is that any upcoming Disney Junior shows will take up a late afternoon/early evening time slot for premieres. I wouldn't be surprised if Chicken Squad premiered at 5:00 on April 2, for example. Now, as someone who has the Disney Junior channel in the cable package, it's no problem for me. However, for those who don't have the channel, don't fear. For shows that premiere on television, they'll put up episodes on iTunes the next day, so you can still watch Disney Junior shows there if you don't have the Disney Junior channel or Disney Now. I know this is how people have been watching DuckTales 2017 when they don't have Disney XD. For shows that come from streaming, if they go to iTunes or something similar, it's not right away.

7. Closing Thoughts

The way Disney Junior shows have been treated has been up and down, whether its long hiatuses or poor scheduling. Then again, that could describe most channels these days. What I think gives me more hope for how Disney Junior shows will be treated on television is that they usually at least air at good times, and that they still bring in good ratings. It's been said that ratings are less important these days. That doesn't mean they're not important.

And that's all I have. Thanks for reading. Have a good day.

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furikatsuma's avatar

I can’t stand the thought of a streaming-only future.

Can you imagine having to subscribe to 10 different services each for a few shows?

Cable means having access to lots of programming from many different companies with a single subscription fee!

I only have Disney+ due to the closure of my country’s Disney channels.

I have Netflix but I only really use it for Hilda and Bojack Horseman.

I also want to be able to own DVDs and Blu Rays of my favorite shows, but sadly those aren’t as common anymore...

Environmentalist1's avatar

Interesting! Have you considered making a “Top 10 Disney Jr original series“ list?

SofiaBlythe2014's avatar

Maybe I could. I'd need to think about it.