In Depth

‘Clone Wars’ Brings Universes Together

Cartoon Net Limits Sponsors, Sharpens Focus on Partners

As Yoda would put it: In the premiere of Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” limited will commercials be.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The animated series from George Lucas launches this week, and EA Games and 20th Century Fox will be the lone sponsors. EA will be offering viewers a code to help them play its new game, SimCity Creator, and 20th will be running a trailer for its upcoming film “City of Ember,” starring Bill Murray and Tim Robbins.

“For our marketing partners, it’s just a great opportunity to stand out in an uncluttered environment,” said John O’Hara, executive VP of ad sales and marketing for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

Promotional spots urging viewers to tune in to see the special material from EA and 20th Century Fox begin airing today.

The practice of running series premieres with few or no commercial interruptions is gaining in popularity. Several cable networks, among them FX and Cartoon’s grown-up sibling TNT, have gone the no-commercial route. And this year, Fox is touting “Remote Free TV,” in which two of its series will be carrying half the normal number of spots.

Mr. O’Hara declined to say how much these sponsorship packages cost.

“Suffice to say if you have a reduced commercial load, and you’re doing a custom promotion, it’s going to be a bigger-ticket item, he said.

Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network, now running third behind Nickelodeon and Disney Channel in the kids market, sees “Clone Wars” as a game-changer, Mr. O’Hara said.

“This is the most significant programming event on Cartoon Network in our history,” he said. “It’s a significant property with significant interest beyond just our core demographic. So that’s a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for our marketing partners.”

Like most kids networks, Cartoon sells the bulk of its ad time based on viewers 6 to 11 years old. While the network expect “Clone Wars” to have a core viewership ranging from 6 to 14 years old, most ad sales were done based on the 6-to-11 demo.

“I can’t say that we did sell it differently, but I do agree that it will draw a bigger audience,” Mr. O’Hara said. The show should attract older “Star Wars” fans, including some parents watching with their children.

While the network won’t generate extra revenue from those viewers, it will benefit in different ways.

“I think what it will do is bring new viewers to our network, which is important,” he said. “It will be on throughout the year, so in the upfront we sold it to a variety of partners and it really expanded our client base.”

Mr. O’Hara said a significant amount of the time on “Clone Wars” was sold during the upfront, particularly for the fourth quarter, when kids advertising is most in demand.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the first weekly TV series from Lucasfilm Animation, will be part of Cartoon Network’s Friday night of fantasy, action and adventure programming. It joins the new series “The Secret Saturdays” and “Ben 10: Alien Force.”

The series features the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other “Star Wars” characters as the Jedi fight to maintain freedom and peace in the galaxy using an army of cloned soldiers.