Rich Frank has had plenty of high-profile gigs over the years: He was former chairman of Walt Disney Television from 1994-95, president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and president of Paramount's TV group. It's an impressive resume. His new gig, however, is much different—board member for BabyFirstTV, a little cable network for kids that just broke the 40 million home distribution mark recently (the channel is on Dish, Comcast, U-Verse, and a la carte with Time Warner and Charter).
It is an unstable time to be a new television channel, especially an independent one—cable operators are fighting networks for every dime, so BabyFirst's growth in that environment is notable.
"I've had a lot of experience in the past with starting the E! Channel and the Disney Channel and I know how hard it is to get a channel launched today; there are a lot of women's channels and a lot of kids' channels," Frank told Adweek. "But while this is an educational, structured channel for children, the real advertisers for this were reaching out to moms. The person in the room who never leaves the young baby alone, who is making a lot of first-time brand decisions, and she's the one you can do a lot of advertising to."
Frank, a veteran of BBDO, says that he's hoping the network's focus on parents is enough to interest more advertisers—BabyFirst already has some—in the same proposition he used to sell as a marketer drumming up business for the 18-34-year-old demo. Those parents, he says, "[were] a proxy for people who were making these very brand decisions."
"It's always a challenge to be an independent network and the biggest part of the challenge is even getting distribution," admitted Guy Oranim, BabyFirst's CEO. "If you look at the last decade and what channels were launched in the U.S., you'll find maybe three, including us, who don't have a big conglomerate behind them."
Oranim said the network is on tiers with Discovery joint ventures The Hub and OWN at the moment, and that the network's next project is approaching marketers; BabyFirst owns 90 percent of its content, making integration an easy proposition, and that's certainly where the growth in television marketing seems to be at the moment.
The network is looking to land "life and educational insurance" clients at the moment, according to Oranim—"brands that would particularly like to talk to young moms." With Frank and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan among BabyFirst's backers, it's worth watching this company closely—if they can't pull off a network launch, the days of the indie channel may be drawing to a close.