Cartoon Network’s new programming lineup is designed to connect with younger viewers who are increasingly accustomed to engaging with favorite programs across multiple screens and formats.
The Time Warner- owned kids’ cable outlet, which suffered linear ratings declines in the core kids 2-11 demo in 2016, will push to weave itself into viewers’ spheres of activity with a new content slate that calls for six new series, seven returning programs and more than 20 original mobile and console games Among the new offerings is the U.S. launch of a revamped “Ben 10,” a massive sci-fi franchise that generated big ratings and sales of consumer products between 2007 and 2013.
“Everything we do is multi-screen from the moment it is thought of,” Christina Miller, president of Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, told Variety. “We have this true ‘always-on’ mentality. It is not a catchphrase, but a core belief being served up as kids are leaning into video on demand.”
At stake is Time Warner’s share of the “kids’ upfront,” an annual ad-sales negotiation valued at $800 million in advance advertising commitments. Cartoon Network vies regularly with Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Disney’s suite of kids-focused cable networks, along with a handful of smaller outlets.
Like other media outlets that aim to entertain children, Cartoon Network must push forward quickly into new video venues, because its core viewers are the ones who adopt emerging technology most quickly. Toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers all like to watch TV. They simply don’t always do it in ways that can be easily measured and chronicled to elicit more money from advertisers. Miller acknowledged the industry faces a challenge in maintaining and increasing linear-TV consumption, but said her primary focus is now on total video consumption, not just linear numbers.
In that vein, several of the new offerings will launch across media venues. The launch of new series, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes,” will be followed by the debut of a console and PC game. “Ben 10” will launch alongside a full line of figures, playsets and role-playing games from Playmates Toys.
In recent years, Cartoon Network has assembled a portfolio of 44 apps and a slate of more than 400 free-to-play online games. The network’s flagship app is slated expand to Chromecast later in 2017 and nine more games will be added. The network’s seven returning series are: “We Bare Bears,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Mighty Magiswords,” “Adventure Time,” “Steven Universe,” “Teen Titans Go” and “The Amazing World of Gumball.”
New shows include “Apple & Onion,” a George Grendi-created friendship comedy; “Craig of the Creek,” an adventure series created by Matt Burnett and Ben Levin focused on kids running free in a world of tree forts and dirt-bike ramps; “Summer Camp Island,” from creator Julia Pott, centered on two characters named Oscar and Hedgehog and their adventures at summer camp; “OK K.O.! Let’s be Heroes,” which follows a young boy trying to “level up” among heroes, friends and foes; the aforementioned “Ben 10”; and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” an animated comedy series from Sony Pictures Animation that hews closely to the two animated movies of the same title.
(Pictured: “Adventure Time”)