Top two Canuck kidcasters vie for after-school eyeballs

Teletoon puts top series through Spin Cycle
October 1, 2007

Teletoon puts top series through Spin Cycle

The net: Teletoon is Canada’s first and only, 24-hour animation specialty network offering viewers English and French language services. Launched in 1997, Teletoon currently reaches three million-plus Canadian kids ages two to 11, and is available in more than seven million homes.

The challenge: To create an after-school destination for kids that fits with Teletoon’s revamped branding.

The plan: Teletoon is shaking things up this fall by expanding its March Break campaign and creating a brand-new after-school block around the concept. Dubbed Spin Cycle, the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekday block launched September 3, mixes up top shows such as Wayside, George of the Jungle, 6Teen, Johnny Test and Total Drama Island and new fall programming like Ricky Sprocket, and runs them in a completely random order each day. So no two days – or weeks – will ever be the same. ‘We want to stay true to our brand positioning – bold, spontaneous and smart – and keep things random,’ says Annette Friesen, director of on-air productions at Teletoon.

While the network believes that its audience will welcome this unstructured format, it is looking to create destination viewing by putting the programming power into kids’ hands. Every Friday will be viewer’s choice – kids go to to vote for their favorite show out of that week’s four titles, and the winner runs in back-to-back episodes in a promotion called Fan Fridays.

And once a month, the block will feature a Winners Week (debuting the week of October 1) in which kids have the opportunity to create their ultimate Spin Cycle lineup online and essentially become Teletoon programmers on-air by participating in interactive games on the net’s website. ‘We’re running lower thirds on-air with custom codes that allow kids to ‘unlock’ additional episodes or programming titles to drag and drop within the game,’ says Friesen. ‘This bonus programming is our way of rewarding the loyal Spin Cycle viewer.’

Running the first week of each month, Winners Week allows that month’s five winners to host their own day and have their fave shows appear in whichever order they choose. The monthly promotion will feature custom bumpers that launch each day and feature the name and hometown of each kid programmer.

The shows: New to the fledgling block and Teletoon this fall is Studio B’s Ricky Sprocket, a 2-D animated comedy about the adventures of the world’s biggest kid movie star as he balances living the life of the rich and famous with real-world annoyances like a little sister and too much homework.

The marketing: Teletoon has launched an extensive on-air and on-line push to promote Spin Cycle. And instead of pursuing traditional print promotion, the net is taking things outdoors with a billboard campaign showcasing many of the shows in the new block’s rotating lineup.

YTV gives kids more of what they tune in for

The net: Kids TV powerhouse YTV dominates the specialty airwaves. The 20-year-old network, available in more than eight million households in Canada, is also home to an interactive website that averages more than 90 million monthly page viewers.

The challenge: Staying fresh and competitive, while remaining true to the character of the net’s most successful bit of real estate, live-hosted block The Zone, which launched in 1992.

The plan: ‘We know from research that kids tune in to The Zone first,’ says Scott Dyer, Corus Entertainment EVP and GM of the Corus Kids division. ‘The block offers kids a consistent face, wise-cracking jokes and shows that they love. It’s the building block of everything YTV. We’re not moving away from that; we’re working to take it to the next level.’

While Dyer believes that the hosted element gives The Zone a competitive edge in the after-school realm, he also notes that The Zone is not about to ease up in the battle for viewers. An on-air makeover of the block that debuted on September 10 included a new look, branding and set.

Anchoring the transformed block are two themed days – Comedy Monday (featuring a mix of live action and animated comedies like Drake and Josh, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents) and Hyperaction Friday (featuring action series that lead into the net’s evening anime lineup). Tuesday to Thursday offers familiar and non-thematic Zone fare. The strategy behind the programming switch is a simple one. ‘Monday is a tough day for kids – it’s the start of the school week and they want to come home and unwind with the comedies they love,’ notes Dyer. Fridays, meanwhile, lead into the weekend, when kids are outside and doing things with their friends, so action seems like a natural choice for that programming day.

Beyond the refreshed branding and new content, viewers can expect to see more comedy gags, more user-generated content and more real kids appearing on The Zone this season. Dyer says the block’s hosts will also venture out into the community for more on-location shooting.

The shows: Headlining the net’s Comedy Mondays this season will be Nickelodeon series The Naked Brothers Band, a rockumentary chronicling the fame and friendships of real-life sib-lings and bandmates Nat (11) and Alex (eight). The series debuted in The Zone on Monday, September 10 at 5 p.m., but viewers got a sneak-peek on Monday, September 3 when one-hour special The Naked Brothers Band Movie aired at 4 p.m.

Another Nickelodeon series, 2-D animated comedy toon El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera functions as the main programming feature of Hyperaction Fridays. With new half-hour episodes airing at 4:30 p.m. that day, the show stars 13-year-old Manny Rivera, a conflicted third-generation superhero who lives with his retired superhero father and super-villain grandfather in Miracle City.

The marketing: From a buzz-building perspective, YTV focuses on promoting its key series within The Zone, rather than pursuing off-air support for the block specifically. For The Naked Brothers Band, YTV ran national bus ads and convenience store posters, and distributed CDs throughout the month of August as part of its Weird on Wheels events. El Tigre was supported with national convenience store posters, a rich media online campaign on national kid-targeted websites, and posters on Weird on Wheels trucks throughout the summer to September.

In terms of online promotion, The Zone’s newly redesigned website launched September 3, with mini-sites for The Naked Brothers Band and El Tigre. On-air, 30-second spots promoting The Zone and both shows are being created for fall featuring the block’s refreshed look.

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