More consolidation hit the kids business with last week’s announcement that Cartoon Network will take over responsibility for national ad sales in Kids’ WB programming in September.
The unification of sales efforts under Kim McQuilken, Cartoon Network’s executive VP for ad sales and marketing, will not affect program development efforts by the sister units of AOL Time Warner, which will remain separate.
This [decision] didn’t come down from on high,” said The WB President Jed Petrick. Bill Morningstar, executive VP for media sales at The WB, said the consolidation would allow Cartoon Network to put more energy into packaging ad sales for both platforms while enabling The WB sales staff to “focus on prime time and dig deeper.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Morningstar said at a New York upfront presentation during which Kids’ WB executives talked nearly as often about their competitor Nickelodeon and the Nick Jr.-on-CBS Saturday morning lineup as they did about new programming.
“Look out, Big Orange. We’re going to turn you into pulp,” said John Hardman, senior VP of programming for Kids’ WB. He said Kids’ WB will continue its strategy of freshening its lineup throughout the yearlong season. Joining the lineup for the summer will be “MegaMan: NT Warrior,” a show about a fifth-grader with a virtual superhero alter-ego, which arrives with 15 years of success in Japan and six related video games scheduled for release this year.
However, Nick still remains dominant in the kids marketplace, according to a recent study of kids TV ratings by Magna Global’s Steve Sternberg and Lisa Quan. The study looked back at the fourth quarter and found that “Nickelodeon and Cartoon combined account for roughly two-thirds of all weekly rating points among kids programming.
“Nickelodeon has remained stable vs. last season in this regard, continuing to account for slightly more than 39 percent. Cartoon has sl ipped a bit, going from 32.6 percent last season to 28.3 percent this year. Disney improved sharply, from 13.8 percent to 18.6 percent. WB improved from 3.2 to 4.3 percent.”
For the fourth quarter, Nick had 45 of the top 50 kids shows, according to MTV Networks research.
In fall, Kids’ WB will rejigger its Saturday lineup to add “Xiaolin Showdown” at 10:30 a.m., in between popular veterans “Yu-Gi-Oh!” at 10 a.m. and “Pokemon,” which will effectively have a whole new cast of Pokemons and pals, at 11 a.m. “Showdown” is about a group of kung fu-trained monks. Cartoon Network announced its major programming initiatives last week.
With kids 2-11 ratings generally down in the past few years, networks are fleeing the kids business or forming alliances to program their Saturday mornings, as NBC and Discovery did.
The study’s authors suggest that the decline in kids viewing of non-kids programming may be taking place because of other activities, such as video games and Internet surfing.
Kids are still watching the shows geared directly to them, the study said, but instead of watching non-kids shows they’re on the Web or banging away at the PlayStation or XBox.