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Wiggles Walking to Sprout

5/23/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

The Sprout network's ex-Disney Channel leaders, Sandy Wax and Andrew Beecham, went to Australia a couple of weeks ago and came back with U.S. TV rights to The Wiggles, spiriting the tuneful foursome away from Disney.

“They're rock stars in the preschool world,” said Wax, Sprout's president, of The Wiggles — Murray Cook (who, performing as a Wiggle, wears a red shirt), Jeff Fatt (purple), Anthony Field (blue) and Sam Moran (yellow).

The group's show will move to Sprout from Disney Channel, where it has aired since 2002, and the group will create new programming for and host a 6-9 a.m. block of programming on Sprout.

The Wiggles ends its run on Playhouse Disney in mid-June and starts on Sprout Aug. 24.

That's the day after The Wiggles' U.S. portion of a world tour takes the group to Philadelphia, where they will be available for a launch party.

Sprout, a partnership of Comcast, Sesame Workshop, HIT Entertainment and PBS, is based at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia as part of Comcast's programming Group.

Three-year-old Sprout elevated distribution of its 24-hour channel by 30% over the last year to 45 million homes, largely through Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks rollouts.

Wax and company want The Wiggles to help drive more distribution by being the exclusive home to Wiggles programming and by tying in with the group's tours.

“This is a significant deal for us both in terms of their huge franchise but they're also a really big marketing partner,” she said.

Mike Conway, managing director of The Wiggles Pty Ltd., said the move to Sprout was about aligning with a 24-hour preschool channel that will give the troupe a chance to do some new things creatively.

The Wiggles have known Wax and Beecham, the senior vice president of programming, for years, and “are absolutely thrilled” about their new five-year deal with Sprout, he said.

Disney Channel said in a statement: “Playhouse Disney has had a wonderful relationship with The Wiggles over the past seven years. We wish The Wiggles all the best as they embark on their next adventure.”

A Wiggles microsite on Sproutonline.com is planned for a July launch and Wiggles content will be used on demand.

September