At least when it comes to watching television.
According to Nielsen Media Research, children ages 2 to 5 spend an average of 32 hours in front of a TV each week.
For cable networks this means big business. In the past five years, a slew of channels dedicated to preschool programming have inundated the market. Since 2000, Nick Jr. has continually garnered the highest Nielsen ratings. The Viacom-owned channel is dedicated solely to preschool children and is home of the mega-hit show “Dora the Explorer.”
Riding the wave of popularity with its own animated preschool shows is Disney Junior. The channel recently topped Nick Jr.’s numbers, even though it is only available to a limited number of households. According to Nielsen, Nick Jr. is broadcast to 75 million homes in the United States, 25 percent more than Disney Junior.
Among the most popular Disney Junior shows is the relatively new “Sofia the First.” The animated series stars a pint-size princess and her cast of cute and cuddly animal friends. “Doc McStuffins,” a cartoon about a girl, who runs a clinic for her toys, is also attracting millions of preschoolers.
Execs at Disney Junior credit the shows’ educational value for landing them on the preferred watchlist in homes around the nation. Disney bigwigs claim parents allow their offspring to sit in front of the TV to watch the shows because they promote literacy, teach social values and good behavior, as well as incorporate counting, memorization, and spelling into entertaining episodes.
The folks at Disney say, while their audience is young, they won’t compromise the integrity of a series just because preschoolers’ taste in programming may not be as discerning as their older siblings.
Meanwhile, producers at Nick Jr. are fighting back. The battle is on for young viewers and Nick Jr. is not backing down without a fight. The network recently debuted four new preschool programs, including a spinoff of “Dora the Explorer.” Another new series called “Wallykazam!” encourages preschoolers to look in books by embedding a reading curriculum in the show’s plot that involves a boy and his pet dragon, Norville.