Besides rolling out several new hit series on Cartoon Network feeds around the world, which broadcast to 166 countries and 230 million homes, the net spent this year setting up a new scheduling strategy State-side to pump up ratings after a bit of slide in recent years.
The network focused on Thursdays as a go-to night for comedy, anchoring Har Har Tharsdays with network original Chowder, new acquisition Total Drama Island and new production The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Fridays, meanwhile, gave way to action-adventure with a hard-hitting lineup that now includes new series Ben 10: Alien Force, The Secret Saturdays and the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Clone Wars CGI series from Lucas Film Animation, the first ep of which went down as the most-watched series premiere in network history.
CN also launched an in-house hub called Cartoonstitute for hatching new series and nurturing talent. The initiative is in the midst of sussing out comedic animated shorts from up-and-coming writers and animators, with the goal of shepherding promising concepts into full-fledged series.
On the cross-platform front, the net launched a free real-time Ben 10 MMOG and announced a deal with kid cell phone service kajeet to bring CN to the pay-as-you-go mobile market. On the development slate, the network and Warner Premiere are starting production on Scooby-Doo: In the Beginning, a new live-action prequel that will debut on CN in fall 2009. www.cartoonnetwork.com
Disney Channel Worldwide
Following hot on the heels of its enormous success with High School Musical II (watched by 293 million viewers around the globe), the House of Mouse rolled out its latest feel-good musical movie, Camp Rock. More than 82 million sets of eyeballs worldwide tuned in to make it the most-watched original movie premiere ever with key demos on Disney Channel in France, Poland, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and Canada. Seventeen renditions of the songs from the movie have been recorded in several languages as part of Disney’s mission to connect with kids on a local level.
Disney Channel is also investing more than ever in European production, setting up a London-based long-form animation hub and growing its Italian short-form development center. In the EMEA, it has doubled its distribution in just three years, and this past summer, it launched free-to-air on digital terrestrial television in Spain – a global first for the business. In Singapore, Disney Channel launched As the Bell Rings, its first original, made-for-mobile short-form series. And Hong Kong Disneyland set the stage for High School Musical: My School Rocks 2008, a region-wide inter-school dance competition that premiered on Disney Channel Asia. www.disney.com
New legislation in France putting strict limits on advertising for public broadcasters created quite a stir when it was announced last spring. The publicly funded France Télévisions saw reforms that merged all of its channels into a single enterprise. In October, children’s programming activities on France 3, France 2 and France 5 banded together to form one main kids unit, France Télévisions Jeunesse. France 3′s head of children’s programming, Julien Borde, was promoted to the position of children’s and youth program director, overseeing the new centralized organization of co-production, acquisitions, programming for all kids content on air and on-line on France Télévisions channels and services.
France 3′s broadcast slate, in particular – 15% of which is devoted to kids – is forging ahead in meeting its annual goal of commissioning and/or acquiring 10 animated series. The net’s lineup will also soon be enriched by two strong new shows based on highly popular properties Gaston Lagaffe and Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale The Little Prince, as well as new shorts Léon Terreur de la Savanne from Studio Hari and TV-Loonland. The channel amped up its web service in October, making the content on Toowam available all day. www.france3.fr
In the last year, Nickelodeon brought its worldwide channel count up to a grand total of 50, with the launch of Nick Jr. in Latin America and Nickelodeon in Poland, Africa and Arabia. The net now reaches a total of 287.6 million households in 162 territories worldwide. Regional successes across the globe include: Nick UK’s third consecutive year in the number-one spot in the competitive Brit kids cable market, achieving its best ratings ever in the first half of 2008; Nick Germany’s double-digit ratings gains since relaunching in 2005, with a historic ratings high scored this past July; and a 71% increase in ratings at Nick India. The broadcaster has also created nine fully localized versions of its iconic Kids’ Choice Awards.
Of further note is the net’s digital efforts, with the launch of its global vertical site, icarly.com to complement the series of the same name; it hit the one-million mark in international unique visitors per month in June. In September, the second Avatar Global game rolled out in 81 markets and 10 languages.
Coming down the pike, next year will see a globally co-ordinated effort to make the most of SpongeBob SquarePant’s 10th anniversary across every channel and line of Nick business. www.nickelodeon.com
After taking a chance as commissioning network on Toronto-based studio Fresh TV’s sassy tween animated series 6teen and Total Drama Island, the Canuck net has signed on for the second season of the latter, Total Drama Action, which bows in January. The two shows have done a great job of wooing toon-shy tween girl viewers. The net has also maintained its strong boy draw as the Canadian home of Ben 10: Alien Force. And just recently, it inked an exclusive deal to become the Canadian broadcast home to Marvel Animation’s catalogue. In spring 2009, the net will begin airing the likes of Iron Man, The Avengers and Spider-Man. The deal also grants rights for additional platforms, including broadband, VOD and mobile.
On the interactive front, teletoon.com took home the Promax/BDA Silver Award for best consumer website and plays host to over 1.5 million visits and 2.5 million game plays per month, with average time spent on the site sitting at 15 minutes. www.teletoon.com