Disney will launch Disney Junior, a 24-hour basic cable and satellite channel targeting kids 2 to 7, on Friday, March 23.
The move comes as Disney’s channels try to close ground on lead kids network Nickelodeon, which slid in the ratings last quarter. The announcement came at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, where Disney also announced plans for an all-Marvel block on Disney XD.
The Disney Channel’s Disney Junior daily programming block, which began in February 2010, will continue. Its ratings are up 26 percent year-over-year in kids 2 to 5 and 36 percent among boys in that age group.
Disney Junior will air through cable and satellite providers including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Verizon, among others.
“Ultimate Spider-Man” will anchor the new Marvel block, which will debut Sunday, April 1. (If you’ll indulge your friendly neighborhood spider-reporter some editorializing, it looks really cool.) The block will also feature the series return of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
The “Spider-Man” creative team includes Marvel Entertainment chief creative officer Joe Quesada, Paul Dini (“Batman: The Animated Series,” “Lost”) and Man of Action Studios (creators of “Ben 10″ and “Generator Rex.”) The series will feature a teenage Peter Parker joining Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and fighting alongside fellow heroes, including Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
The voice talent includes Drake Bell (“Superhero,” “Drake & Josh”) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chi McBride (“Boston Public,” “Pushing Daisies”) as Nick Fury, JK Simmons (“Spider-Man”) as J. Jonah Jameson, Stan Lee as Stan the Janitor, Clark Gregg (“Iron Man”, “Thor,” “The Avengers”) as Agent Coulson and Steven Weber (“Wings”) as Norman Osborn.