NBC, Qubo Reject Unhealthy Food Ads For Kids' TV

These days, kids' ads are strictly a la carte.

NBC will continue to refuse ads for "unhealthy food and beverage choices" on its Saturday morning kids' lineup. NBC is one of four networks that offer animated programs under the Qubo banner--and all have taken a hard-line stance against national advertising for products heavy in sugar, saturated fat and other ingredients that could contribute to childhood obesity.

The other networks are Telemundo--which airs Qubo programs in Spanish on Saturday and Sunday mornings--and the Ion network, which airs the same two-and-a-half-hour block as NBC on the following Friday afternoons. Also taking part in the pledge is a 24/7 Qubo digital multicast channel operated by Ion that runs in conjunction with some of its owned-and-operated stations. (NBC Universal has a stake in Ion.)

Ion Media took the lead Monday with an announcement stating that Qubo programming will begin to include integrated messages promoting the values of nutrition and exercise.



Since the Qubo-branded programming launched a year ago, a rep said it has not carried ads for products deemed "unhealthy." But with increasing pressure by government arms, such as Congress and the FCC, to curb advertising that could contribute to escalating childhood obesity, the networks offering Qubo have all issued a formal policy.

Qubo has a dedicated New York-based sales team that sells the NBC and Ion network blocks and the digital network. It will begin selling the Telemundo avails in October.

As with many media entities faced with losing ad dollars from cereal, beverage and candy companies plugging products heavy with sugar and saturated fat, Ion, on behalf of Qubo, said it would look to make up any shortfall--if not grow revenues--by attracting more advertising from marketers interested in promoting products that dovetail with a healthy lifestyle.

Some marketers--also under pressure from government arms to help curb childhood obesity--have already pledged to limit their advertising to young children for certain unhealthy products, while showing a willingness to increase spending behind more nutritious options. Those companies will continue to be a prime target for the Qubo sales team.

Two weeks ago, Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network all bowed to pressure about contributing to the obesity epidemic by curtailing the licensing of their characters for marketing unhealthy products. But by refusing to accept certain ads, Ion and Qubo have gone a step further.

Qubo includes animated programs, such as "Babar" and "Veggie Tales," a series that features several vegetables as characters. It's a dedicated 24/7 digital multicast channel run by Ion. The programming block also runs on the Ion network on Friday afternoons, as well as NBC and Telemundo on weekends.

Besides the formalization of ad policy, Ion said Qubo would engage in a sort of message placement, looking to inject story lines about the merits of healthy eating and exercise in some episodes. A PSA campaign will also run.

Separately, Ion will air programming about the diet and exercise needs for kids on another digital multicast channel: Ion Life. Qubo.com will also host a slew of health-conscious content for kids and parents. Ion Media is part of government-industry task force regarding media and childhood obesity.

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