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Kids block axed by UPN affils

Oct 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

UPN will not renew its deal with Buena Vista Television to air a two-hour block of kids programming beginning next season, opting instead to give the time slots back to stations. The decision will essentially get UPN and its affiliates out of the kids business.
The kids block, which has gone under the names “Whomptastic,” “Disney’s One Too” and “Disney’s Animation Weekdays” over the years, currently airs Monday through Friday on UPN affiliates such as KCOP-TV in Los Angeles and WWOR-TV in New York. The programming lineup, including such shows as “Digimon” and “The Legend of Tarzan,” also airs over the weekend. The four-year deal began in fall 1999 and expires after this season, but the time-buy is now set to go the way of Peter Pan-off to Never-Never Land, according to sources.
Although UPN originally talked with sister company Nickelodeon before the Disney deal was signed in 1998, don’t look for UPN to approach Nickelodeon this time around. Sources say that the time will be handed back to the stations, opening up key morning or afternoon hours for syndicated or local product. In New York and Los Angeles, the series air from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays while in Chicago the series air from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. In Philadelphia, the series run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Kellogg’s has long been a major sponsor of the block. A source said the breakfast-food giant is expecting the cancellation. “I would imagine that Kellogg’s will now look for another kids opportunity,” the source said.
The decision came after key UPN stations decided they would be better served programming those time slots themselves. Last year, several of those same UPN affiliates aired cast-off Fox Kids programming after the Chris-Craft station group was bought by Fox. The Fox Kids Monday-through-Friday programming ended last season after Fox station managers complained of ratings underdelivery in the era of Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network. Fox’s 8 a.m.-to-noon Saturday morning lineup was acquired by 4Kids Entertainment this season as part of a $103 million, four-year time buy deal with Fox.
UPN’s original deal with Buena Vista called for a share in national advertising revenues as well as additional dollars from Buena Vista for carrying the block. The deal ended up looking like a network-syndication hybrid with UPN carrying the show on its stations while Buena Vista syndicated the product in markets where UPN didn’t have affiliates. Buena Vista sources said they were unsure whether the two hours of children’s programming would continue in syndication without UPN support.
Spokespeople at UPN, Buena Vista and the Fox owned-and-operated stations would not comment.