Children’s TV in Australia is set to get a massive boost from May, with Disney and ABC re-branding their preschool offerings.

Announced yesterday at the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association conference in Sydney, Playhouse Disney will be replaced by “stronger” brand Disney Junior from May 29 on both Foxtel and Austar.

The channel will target ages 2-7 (rather than 2-5) and feature Disney Channel’s number one preschool show of all time, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, which is based on popular franchise Peter Pan.

Disney Media Networks’ global distribution president Ben Pyne said the decision followed “astounding” results from its US launch last month.

“The initial results are nothing short of astounding. In its premiere week, Disney Junior delivered the highest preschool ratings in the history of the Disney channel,” Pyne told a packed ASTRA conference.

“Disney Junior blends Disney’s heritage of storytelling and great characters with contemporary entertainment and learning.”

The channel will be broadcast 24 hours a day and be launched with online and mobile content – including games – and video-on-demand offerings.

ABC confirmed to IF that as of May 2, their preschool offering will also be changing with three more hours of content daily on ABC2 from 6am-7pm (instead of 9am-7pm).

“We’re re-branding ABC For Kids and re-presenting that whole preschool package,” ABC Children Television’s controller Tim Brooke-Hunt said.

“We recognised that we’re not servicing that age group before 9 in the morning and we really need to do that.”

As part of the launch, an animated Bananas In Pyjamas series will premiere.

“The Bananas are an enormously successful ABC brand,” Brooke-Hunt said of the show that originated almost two decades ago.

“And what we’ve done in partnership with Southern Star [Entertainment] is to re-imagine or rejuvenate or renew the Bananas in the form of an animated series comprising 104 episodes of 12 minutes.”

The show will be a mix of both 2D and 3D.

Channel Nine announced earlier this month that Kids'  WB – the network's most popular children's program – will now screen daily on GO!, offering more than 12 hours of programming per week.

For a full feature on the state of children’s TV in Australia, see the April/May edition of IF magazine.

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