The Wall Street Journal on The War Between Disney and Nickelodeon Over Pre-Schoolers

Thanks to Cathal Gaffney for tweeting this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal. You might want to grab a cup of tea (or coffee) before you read it. I’ll wait.

Back? OK, good.

The point of the article is that Disney and Nickelodeon differ on how they think pre-school children should be programmed for. Nick believes firmly in educational programmes whereas Disney is soon to switch to more story-based shows. The article makes it out like the two are locked in an epic battle for eyeballs that have absolutely zero purchasing power. Although that is not telling the full story, is it?

Of course not. it’s made quite clear that parents are the real ones being courted. Yes, there are the Jesuit ideals at work (get them young and they’re customers for life) but the networks seem to be pandering to parent’s wants even more. As is pointed out, there has been a shift in what parents desire for their kids. A decade ago, they wanted them to be well educated, now they want them to be happy.

What I think is that as parents, they should be spending more time with their kids! Why? Well, the programming may have a lot of educational content, but as pointed out in the article, the top advertisers during said programmes are the fast food and toy companies. Now there is nothing wrong with that, per se, however knowing how much TV kids in the US seem to watch, it can’t be a good thing.

Something that I admit kind of floored me was that 40% of Nick Jr’s viewers watch between 8-11p.m. What the #$%^(*&? When I was that age, I was lucky to stay up past 8, let alone up to 11!

I am not trying to disparage the idea of educational, pre-school TV shows, I did after all, watch Sesame Street religiously for years until I went to school.However, I also watched plenty of Postman Pat and Thomas the Tank Engine too. The point is that I enjoyed a good mix of programming, it wasn’t skewed heavily in either direction.

On the other side of the fence are the networks, who will come up with the relevant facts to prove that their content is beneficial, such as this from the article.

“Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” a new series launching in February, follows a group of kids who get into adventures with Captain Hook. Even though Hook is a bad guy, Jake still invites him to play at the end of the episodes, an important social lesson, Disney says.

Yeah right. From my own recollection, kids on the playground will heed their peers when it comes to including and excluding other kids from play. I did it and I was on the receiving end of it too and all the time I don’t recall using what I saw on the TV as a guide as to my behaviour.

Well, I take that back. once I told another kid to “get lost” as in an Oscar the Grouch way and man, did I get hauled up to the teachers desk, from where I had to make a very, very public apology to the entire class. I learned my lesson after that experience!

What worries me most is that the whole point and benefits of pre-school programming will be lost in the scramble to win parent’s affections and dollars. Responsibility for a child’s upbringing should rest with the parents. Networks are in the unenviable position of having to balance the need for high-quality programming with the need for earnings from advertisers. So far they’ve done relatively well. Should a war break out, we all know who will suffer the most.

2 Comments on “The Wall Street Journal on The War Between Disney and Nickelodeon Over Pre-Schoolers

  1. hi charles, nice post. I cant take sides on the Disney/Nick side of the article because we have Olivia on Nickelodeon US and were in production with DocmcStuffin for Disney JR at the moment.
    While you infer commercialism as being a problem, I think the best childrens programmes ever made are on television now, so while TV may be a window to sell toys, the kids today are watching far better programmes than you or me saw as kids.
    all the best
    cathal

    • Hi Cathal,

      Go raibh maith agat as do chuid nóta tráchtaireacht!

      It’s understandable that you can’t take sides, nor would I expect you to either. I agree that the calibre of programming has improved greatly in the last 25 years, which I’m sure has been helped by the healthy competition between networks.

      As for my thoughts on commercialism, all I can say is that I’m the offspring of two secondary school teachers and I’m afraid I’ve inherited their traits when it comes to education. 🙂

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