To back up its claim that the youngest kids network is finally a strong contender, Kids’ WB! executives point to several impressive facts. Ten hours have been added to the programming slate, bringing it from nine to 19 hours per week. Men in Black: The Series debuted on October 11 and immediately garnered the highest ratings in its 9 a.m. Saturday time slot. And The New Batman-Superman Adventures block is occasionally beating Fox Kids in the Saturday 10 a.m. time slot, according to overnight ratings.
These ratings successes, for a network that just a few years ago scarcely made a blip on the rating chart, are even more impressive considering the strength of Fox’s affiliates over those of WB. Last but certainly not least, the network’s long-running Steven Spielberg Presents offerings-including Animaniacs, which recently went into its 100th episode, as well as Tiny Toon Adventures and Pinky & The Brain-are among the most critically acclaimed animated cartoons on the air.
None of this comes as a surprise to chief executive Jamie Kellner, who says that all the recent milestones were not unforeseen. ‘It was part of the original plan when we sold the idea for the network to Warner Bros. and Tribune to have a strong kids lineup as a platform to cross-promote other day parts,’ he says.
Kellner, who headed the Fox network during the years of its launch, notes that bringing in kids first was a strategy that helped Fox take off. ‘The big network did grow more rapidly because of the kids network. I think the same thing is happening [at Kids' WB!].’
Kellner’s expectations for the network are unapologetically high. ‘We would like to be the number one kids’ network in America.’ He notes that a lot of growth is still possible, because while Fox’s distribution is ‘maxed out,’ the WB’s is still only 50 percent efficient. ‘We are going to grow as we add and improve our TV stations.’
Strong identification with the legendary Warner Bros. Animation studio has bolstered the network’s opportunities with kids since its launch, according to Jean MacCurdy, WB Television Animation president and head of children’s programming. Animaniacs, one of the flagship shows that the network acquired from Fox, contains visual references, such as shots of the studio lot and water tower that reinforce network identity. The show’s characters, the Warner brothers and their assertive sister Dot, also help reinforce the network’s identity.
‘There are a few shows where you get a sense that they are going to hit and really do well,’ says MacCurdy of Animaniacs. ‘I just think [the show] embodies an attitude that is Kids’ WB!: irreverent, going against the grain, full of a kid-like nature.’
Kids’ WB! Time line
* June 1994-Tom Ruegger steps into the role of executive producer of Warner Bros. Television Animation, working on several Steven Spielberg Presents series that will end up on Kids’ WB!, including Tiny Toon Adventures.
* Summer 1995-Creation of first Kids’ WB! logo and station IDs.
* September 10, 1995-Network premiere of Kids’ WB!.
* September 10, 1995-Animaniacs, previously a hit on Fox, airs on Kids’ WB! paired with Pinky & The Brain. Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid! debuts.
* September 7, 1996-Extra hour added to the Kids’ WB! Saturday morning schedule, bringing it to four hours.
* September 9, 1996-One afternoon hour added to Kids’ WB!, bringing total airtime to nine hours weekly. Superman series debuts Monday to Friday.
* February 3, 1997-Kids’ WB! announces the acquisition of Men in Black: The Series, based on the movie, and the Batman series from Fox.
* May 14, 1997-In the wake of the FCC ruling, Kids’ WB! announces the development of an original animated educational series, Histeria! slated to air in fall `98.
* September 1997-Network brands its kids’ block with a whole new look, emphasizing new Batman/Superman ‘Action Block.’
* September 13, 1997-Ten additional hours added to Kids’ WB! schedule, bringing the total to 19 hours. The all-new Calamity Jane series debuts.