The New York Times has examined the rapid successes of Disney’s entries into the pre-school market, presenting a major challenge to Nickelodeon’s traditional dominance in that demographic. Within a year of the launch of Disney Junior as a programming block and a separate cable TV network, Disney has taken the top 3 pre-school programs while Nick Jr.’s Nielsen ratings have dropped more than 50%. Disney’s success has been led by the one-two punch of Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, both of which are scoring big in viewership and in the merchandising aisles. While Dora the Explorer is still generating nearly $1 billion in global retail sales, Disney is estimating sales from its Disney Jr. offerings to surpass $1.5 billion this fiscal year, and one Doc McStuffins doll sold out fast enough to begin commanding premium prices on eBay shortly after its release. Both Nickelodeon and Disney are using their pre-school strategies as gateways to their respective networks, leading audiences to pre-teen and teen offerings on other networks (and, increasingly, alternate avenues of distribution like dedicated apps on tablet devices).
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