Qubo (// KEW-boh; stylized as "qubo") is an American multi-platform children's entertainment programming service that is with the sister channel, Ion Television. Qubo consists of a 24-hour television network, alternately known as Qubo Channel (which is available as a digital multicast service on owned-and-operated stations and some affiliates of corporate sister Ion Television, and on some pay television providers), a video on demand service, and the branding of a weekly programming block on Ion Television under the name "Qubo Kids Corner".
In May 2006, Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal (which owned a 32% interest in Ion Media at the time), Corus Entertainment, Scholastic Corporation and Classic Media (which is now owned by NBCUniversal) announced plans to launch a new, multi-platform children's entertainment brand known as Qubo, oriented towards providing "educational, values-oriented programming" targeted towards children between 4 and 18 years of age. The brand would encompass programming blocks on NBC Universal and Ion's respective flagship broadcast television networks (NBC, Telemundo and Ion Television), a video on demand service, a website, and a standalone 24-hour network to be carried as a digital subchannel on television stations owned by Ion Media Networks and by cable and satellite providers.
Qubo president Rick Rodriquez (who formerly served as a programming executive at Discovery Communications) explained in a 2008 interview with Multichannel News that Qubo was designed as a bilingual brand, offering programming in both English and Spanish. While Qubo would initially carry Spanish-language dubs of its programming for its Telemundo block, Rodriquez did not rule out the possibility of developing original children's programming tailored to Hispanic audiences through Qubo in the future. He felt that the market for Spanish-language children's programming had been underserved by existing outlets (such as Telemundo and Univision), and envisioned the possibility of programming which could "bridge the gap" and educate Spanish-speaking children on the English language, and vice versa.
The Qubo brand was intended to represent a "building block for kids," as reflected by its logo. The name "Qubo" was chosen because it had a "fun" sound, and was usable in both English and Spanish.
Qubo launched on September 9, 2006, with the premiere of weekend morning blocks on NBC (which aired exclusively on Saturday mornings, replacing Discovery Kids on NBC, a weekly block programmed by the Discovery Kids cable network) and Telemundo (which aired on both Saturday and Sunday mornings). That was followed on September 15 by the introduction of a daytime block on i: Independent Television (now Ion Television), which initially aired on Friday afternoons. At launch, its programming included the first-run animated series Dragon (produced by Scholastic) and Jane and the Dragon (produced by Corus subsidiary Nelvana), along with VeggieTales and its spinoffs 3-2-1 Penguins! and Larryboy: The Cartoon Adventures (produced by Classic Media subsidiary Big Idea) – marking the first time that VeggieTales had ever been broadcast as a television program.
VeggieTales and its spin-offs incorporated lessons related to Christian teachings; initially, this religious content was edited out of the original VeggieTales broadcasts on Qubo at the request of NBC's standards and practices department. The move, however, drew criticism from the conservative watchdog group Parents Television Council, which filed a complaint against NBC. A representative for NBC replied in a statement that the editing conformed to guidelines within the network's broadcast standards "not to advocate any one religious point of view". VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer also expressed discontent with the edits, stating that he was not informed that religious content would be removed from the series, and that he would have refused to sign a contract with Qubo if he had known of the decision beforehand. Vischer said, "I would have declined partly because I knew a lot of fans would feel like it was a sellout or it was done for money." Still, Vischer added that he understood NBC's wish to remain religiously neutral, and said, "VeggieTales is religious, NBC is not. I want to focus people more on 'Isn't it cool that Bob and Larry are on television?'"
In December 2006, a Spanish-language version of the Qubo website was launched. A companion digital subchannel network, Qubo Channel, launched on Ion Media Networks' stations on January 8, 2007, initially featuring a schedule of children's programming in rolling four-hour blocks; Ion intended to seek carriage of the channel on cable, satellite and telco providers. In May of that year, NBC Universal sold its minority stake in Ion Media Networks to Citadel LLC. On December 3, 2007, Qubo Channel expanded its programming offerings to include shows from other producers, as well as some programs that were already airing on Ion Television's Qubo block. In addition, the rolling schedule was expanded to a six-hour block, which repeated four times per day.
In January 2008, Ion Media Networks and Comcast reached an agreement to continue carrying Ion's digital channels, including Qubo and Ion Life. In August 2008, Qubo introduced guidelines for advertisers in an effort to help combat childhood obesity, committing to only accept advertisements for products which meet nutritional guidelines determined by the network in collaboration with childhood obesity expert Goutham Rao. Qubo also began to air a series of public service announcements featuring characters from its programs in collaboration with the Ad Council, the United States Olympic Committee and the Department of Health and Human Services, advocating exercise and healthy living.
In May 2009, Ion Media Networks filed an inquiry with the Federal Communications Commission to seek must-carry cable and satellite carriage to expand Qubo's distribution to other providers. Later in May 2010, Ion signed carriage agreements with Advanced Cable Communications and Blue Ridge Communications, as well as deal with Comcast's Colorado Springs system to add Qubo on the providers' digital tiers.
With the acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast, it was announced on March 28, 2012, that NBC and Telemundo would discontinue their Qubo blocks and replace them with NBC Kids and MiTelemundo –2 separate weekend morning preschool programming blocks which would both be programmed by PBS Kids Sprout, a preschool-oriented television network that came under NBC ownership as part of the merger – on July 7; leaving Ion Television as the only remaining network with a Qubo-branded programming block (with Ion Media acquiring NBCUniversal's interest in the venture). At the time, PBS Kids Sprout was a competing joint venture between Comcast, HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop; NBCUniversal acquired full ownership of the cable network in November 2013, and PBS Kids Sprout suddenly became simply Sprout as a result. Ion Media Networks acquired the stakes in Qubo held by DreamWorks Classics (which acquired Classic Media in 2012), Scholastic and Corus Entertainment in 2013, with all three companies retaining program distribution partnerships with the network. The Qubo block on Ion Television was renamed as the "Qubo Kids Corner" on January 4, 2015, concurrent with the block's move from Friday to Sunday mornings.
Qubo Channel features archived content from the programming libraries of Corus Entertainment, DreamWorks Classics and Scholastic Corporation, with its programs targeted at children ages 2 to 15. Though there was an early promise of the three companies, NBC Universal and Ion Media producing a new series for the network and program block each year, Qubo only produced one original series – the animated series Turbo Dogs, which aired from 2007 to 2008. Qubo Channel regularly broadcasts series aimed at preschoolers during the morning and afternoon hours, while series aimed at older children are featured as part of the network's evening and midnight schedule.
Programming on Qubo Channel and its companion Ion Television block account for all educational programming content on Ion Television's owned-and-operated stations and certain Ion affiliates that carry the 24-hour channel, relieving the network from the responsibility of carrying programs compliant with guidelines dictated by the Children's Television Act on its other subchannel services (especially those that simulcast the Home Shopping Network and QVC, two networks that by virtue of their primary distribution via cable and satellite television, are exempt from the guidelines).
On September 28, 2010, Qubo Channel launched "Qubo Night Owl", (running from 12:00 to 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time) which features classic animated series, many of which came from the Filmation library owned by Classic Media, which currently owned by Qubo's former part owner, NBCUniversal; the block was restructured in August 2013 (due to Sprout gaining the rights to NBC Universal) to feature a mix of animated and live-action series sourced solely from Qubo's distribution partners.
As of November 2015[update], Qubo has current and pending affiliation agreements with 67 television stations encompassing 34 states and the District of Columbia. The network has an estimated national reach of 58.83% of all households in the United States (or 183,832,858 Americans with at least one television set). Like parent network Ion Television, the network's stations almost exclusively consist of network-owned stations (with the exception of Louisville, Kentucky affiliate WBNA). Qubo's programming is available by default via a national feed that is distributed directly to cable and satellite providers in markets without a local Ion Television station that carries the network.
Qubo does not have any over-the-air stations in several major markets, most notably Baltimore, Maryland; Toledo, Ohio; San Diego, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cincinnati, Ohio. A key factor in the network's limited national broadcast coverage is the fact that Ion Media Networks does not actively seek over-the-air distribution for the network on the digital subchannels of other network-affiliated stations (in contrast, its parent network Ion Television – which had similarly limited national coverage following the digital television transition – has begun subchannel-only affiliation arrangements through agreements with NBC Owned Television Stations' Telemundo Station Group subsidiary and Media General during 2014 and 2015), with very few stations that contractually carry the network's programming (with limited exceptions in markets such as Louisville, Kentucky and Anchorage, Alaska). As a result, Ion Media Networks owns the vast majority of the stations within Qubo's affiliate body.