The new black and white

Cartoon Network revamps its on-air identity and programming mix.
February 8, 2011

The challenge Faced with an ever-competitive broadcast scene and tight ratings race for its core six to 11 demo, Cartoon Network US undertook a whole-scale refresh of its on-air branding and a programming shuffle in Q3 2010.

The plan On-air, CN’s signature checkerboard made a triumphant return, and the nostalgic visual refresh was just one element of the initiative that focused on introducing new programming genres to its core viewers. A multiplatform tie-in strategy and interactive interstitials laced with pop-culture references were also key.

The programming To start, Cartoon concentrated on its bread-and-butter programming—animated series—by highlighting comedy on Mondays (led by Adventure Time and MAD) and action on Fridays, which saw new boys toon Generator Rex joining top performers Ben 10 and Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the sked.
Beyond that, the net switched things up by adding live action to the mix, but was careful to stay true to its animation tradition by sticking to shows that were high on boy-skewing comedy, fast-paced action and toon-inspired brands. On Wednesday nights, for example, quirky Japanese game show-inspired Hole in the Wall joined the sked with Dude What Would Happen and Destroy Build Destroy, both of which have been renewed. CN is also carving out time for live-action TV movies—Scooby-Doo Curse of the Lake Monster made a victory lap in 2010 and Never Fail, announced at last year’s upfront, will debut this year.

Game on Competing for boys (and dads) also meant CN had to find its legs in the sports arena. The net is currently promoting Hall of Game, its first-ever live sports award show, scheduled to bow on February 21. Also on-deck is the latest edition of My Dad’s a Pro, which will feature Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Frank Gonzalez. Additionally, Run It Back Sunday is a shortened version of NBA games infused with pop-ups and other sports trivia tidbits for a Cartoon Network flavor.
“We’re really looking for those opportunities where we can bring pop culture into the conversation that we have with our audience,” says Brenda Freeman, CMO for Turner Animation. So fun pop culture facts and wacky animal graphics pop up in the middle of several shows throughout the week, sometimes prompting the audience to go online and vote on things.

The marketing No millennial expansion plan would be complete without a multiplatform strategy, and Cartoon Network’s marketing team has also worked on connecting the audience with its brands through several touch-points. Programming events like the Ben 10 10-10-10 promotion held on October 10, 2010, for example, drove viewers to move back and forth between the TV series and its online component. Kids were prompted to enter codes online that appeared during the on-air Ben 10 marathon in order to win prizes, and it also coincided with a live event held at New York Comic-Con. And in August, the net launched a separate online gaming initiative attached to dozens of its online games,  in which players earn badges for gameplay achievements to display on their online profiles. So far, more than more than two million badges have been awarded.

Next moves Stuart Snyder, Turner Animation’s president and COO, says the channel will be on the lookout for more live-action fare that resonates with its boy-centric audience. He adds that the net will be making pilots of half-hour comedies in the months to come. And finding great animated comedies that exude a current and fresh attitude and that appeal to boys will continue to be a focus.

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