On October 20, 2004, PBS announced that it had entered into a joint partnership with cable provider Comcast+, and production companies HIT Entertainment+ and Sesame Workshop+ to launch a then-unnamed cable and satellite television channel aimed at preschool children. On April 4, 2005, Comcast announced that the network's video on demand service, which would be named '''PBS Kids Sprout''', would launch that day, and that the linear television network would launch later on September 1, 2005; the launch date for the television service was later delayed three weeks to September 26. When Sprout launched on September 26, it replaced the PBS Kids+ channel on some providers – helping give it an initial reach of 16.5 million pay television subscribers; the first program to be broadcast on the network was ''Boobah+'', airing at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time+.
When Apax Partners sold HIT Entertainment to Mattel+ on October 24, 2011, HIT's ownership interest in Sprout was not included in the deal and was retained by Apax Partners. In November 2013, NBCUniversal+ acquired Apex and PBS's shares in the network, giving the company full ownership of the network, with its operations being merged into its NBCUniversal Cable+ subsidiary. As a result, the "PBS Kids" branding was dropped from the network's name, renaming it as '''Sprout'''.
Sprout's schedule consists of programming carried by PBS – including those syndicated directly to that network's member+television station+s by outside distributors (such as ''Sesame Street+'', ''Barney and Friends+'', ''Caillou+'', ''Super Why!+'' and ''Thomas and Friends+''), acquired programming (such as ''LazyTown+'', ''Justin Time'', ''Tree Fu Tom+'' and ''Poppy Cat+'') and originally produced programming (such as ''Pajanimals+'' and ''The Chica Show+''). Unlike other children's television networks, Sprout would usually air programs (which are packaged into two 11-minute segments) that only last one segment. Sprout also aired programming blocks that fill most of the network's schedule, except between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. and 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time (3:00 and 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time only on weekends).
In July 2012, Sprout began to produce a Saturday morning programming block+ aimed at preschoolers, NBC Kids+ (along with MiTelemundo, a Spanish-dubbed version of the block airing on sister network Telemundo+ that airs on both Saturdays and Sundays), which replaced a similarly formatted block – which itself was produced in conjunction with NBCUniversal – called Qubo+, which had been airing on NBC and Telemundo since September 2006 (Qubo continues to exist as a Friday morning block for Ion Television+, whose parent Ion Media Networks+ now wholly owns the block's companion digital multicast network).
Since NBCUniversal took over management of Sprout in 2011, following its acquisition by the network’s original managing partner Comcast, Sprout has evolved from its initial intent to serve as a home for archived content produced by the partners and has invested more heavily in original programming, in order to better compete with fellow preschool-oriented cable networks, Nick Jr.+ and Disney Junior+. Under NBCUniversal, programs seen on the network such as ''The Chica Show'' have gained increased visibility airing as part of the NBC Kids block.
* '''''The Sunny Side Up Show+''''' – ''The Sunny Side Up Show'' is the network's late morning block, airing from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
* '''''SuperSproutlet Show''''' – The ''SuperSproutlet Show'' is the network's early morning block, airing daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time; replacing the ''Wiggly Waffle'' block, it previously aired from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
* '''''Good Night Show+''''' – The ''Good Night Show'' is the network's evening and overnight block, airing daily from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Sprout On Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service which launched on April 4, 2005 on Comcast+, six months prior to launch of the linear Sprout channel. The service offers 50 hours of programs a month, with 25% of the programs updated every two weeks.
* (Frank Ahrens, ''Washington Post'', April 5, 2005)
* (Debra Kaufman, ''TelevisionWeek'', December 5, 2005)
* (Allison J. Waldman, "TelevisionWeek", Nov 27, 2006)
Sprout (TV network)+ Sprout is an American digital cable and satellite television network that is owned by the NBCUniversal Cable subsidiary of NBCUniversal.