By Joe Flint
9:36 AM EDT, May 3, 2013
Sprout is spreading its roots.
The kids network aimed at children ages 2 to 5 has landed a distribution deal with Cablevision Systems Corp., a large pay-TV operator in the New York City area.
Getting access to Cablevision subscribers is key for Sprout because the cable operator serves affluent parts of Long Island as well as Brooklyn and Queens. Overall, Sprout is available in a little over 50 million homes.
Sprout, which is a partnership between NBCUniversal, PBS and Apax Funds, has enjoyed steady ratings growth thanks in part to its original series "The Chica Show," about a chicken. Most of the fare is educational in nature.
"Sprout's a place you can trust," said Sandy Wax, president of the almost 8-year-old cable channel.
Last week, Sprout unveiled details on new programming, including "Ruff-Ruff, Tweet & Dave," a preschool game show that kids can play along with by using an iPad or smartphone.
"The iPad was made for our audience," Wax said. "They love to touch things."
In an interview, Wax said her audience is no different than the typical teen who is doing five things at once.
"The biggest challenge is capturing their attention, the competition for their eyeballs is getting even more intense."
One thing Sprout isn't doing yet is selling its shows to Netflix and other streaming services. Although Nickelodeon programs, including "SpongeBob SquarePants," proved to be very popular on Netflix, there have been concerns from some industry analysts that exposure there hurt ratings for the channel.
"Our distributors are really concerned about that," Wax said, adding that Sprout is "treading gently into that space."
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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