By Debra Kaufman
Special to TelevisionWeek
Kids’ WB is flying high. Since “Pokemon” propelled the network to first place among broadcast networks offering children’s programming in February 1999, Kids’ WB has been a force to reckon with in the world of television for kids.
“Beginning in fall 2000 Kids’ WB has maintained its leadership position as the No. 1 broadcast network for kids in all key demographics,” said Senior VP and General Manager Betsy McGowen, who joined the network just after it launched in February 1995. “We’ve had hit after hit, and we’re very proud of it.”
Indeed, the monster success of “Pokemon” was followed by another huge hit, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” which, like its predecessor, is drawn in the hot Japanese anime technique. Other blockbusters boast use different animation styles. Titles include “The Batman,” “Teen Titans,” Emmy Award-nominated “Xiaolin Showdown” and “Static Shock,” Latin-tinged “Mucha Lucha!” and “Jackie Chan Adventures,” all aimed at the 6 to 11 demo.
“In the space of less than a decade, Kids’ WB has become the dominant player in the Saturday morning business, a truly remarkable accomplishment everyone at the network is incredibly proud of,” said David Janollari, president of entertainment for The WB. “We are looking forward to the next decade as we continue to develop, create and launch amazing new hit shows that kids will enjoy and embrace in a big way.”
Synergistic relationships with other Warner Bros. divisions have been part of the recipe that’s helped Kids’ WB stay on top. Ms. McGowen pointed to a close collaboration with Warner Bros. Animation, which produces “The Batman,” “What’s New Scooby-Doo?” and “Mucha Lucha!” among others.
“There are a lot of stakeholders in all our shows, from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which licenses the merchandising rights, to Warner Bros. Home Video and our international division,” said WB Animation President Sander Schwartz.
Over the past two years, Kids’ WB has evolved to focus on boys, with a roster of action-adventure and anime that appealed specifically to them. Ms. McGowen said that since she was promoted to helm the network last May, the goal has been to “move back to being much more gender-neutral.
“The idea is to keep the boy core audience,” she said. “But starting in fall 2006 we want to introduce more comedy-based shows. We’re hoping that comedy will bring the girls back.”
Kids’ WB already has staked a claim in comedy, with the irreverent humor found in “Jackie Chan Adventures,” “Xiaolin Showdown” and “Mucha Lucha!” But the upcoming animated series will build on a mix of action and comedy for a broader outreach, Mr. Schwartz said.
WB Animation has developed six comedies, all based on original concepts, he said, out of which two or three will get a green light. “Even though the network is 10 years old, it’s still growing and evolving,” Mr. Schwartz said. “We’re working closely with the network to produce shows that follow the direction of its evolution.”
Ms. McGowen also keeps an eye on the bigger prize. “Kids’ WB is not an island,” she said. “It’s really an integral part of the whole network. The general overall mission is to grow a kid audience which would then mature into our prime-time audience.”