This Weekend Marked the End of an Era in Children’s TV

Oct 6, 2014  •  Post A Comment

Something happened this weekend that hadn’t happened in more than 50 years of children’s television. Gizmodo reports that it was the first time in more than a half-century that a block of children’s animation didn’t air on Saturday morning broadcast television.

The CW, the single broadcaster still airing a Saturday morning children’s animation block, ended its last slate of Vortexx cartoons the previous weekend, the story reports. Instead of finding “Cubix” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” this past Saturday, viewers of the CW received “One Magnificent Morning,” a block of live-action educational programming.

“It’s the end of an era, but it’s been a long time coming: NBC ditched Saturday morning cartoons in 1992, CBS followed suit not long after, and ABC lost its animated weekend mornings in 2004,” the report notes. “The CW, a lower-tier broadcast network, was the last holdout in a game that the Big 3 left long ago.”

What’s to blame for the demise of Saturday morning cartoons on broadcast TV? Gizmodo notes, “Cable, streaming and the FCC.”

“In the 1990s, the FCC began more strictly enforcing its rule requiring broadcast networks to provide a minimum of three hours of “educational” programming every week. Networks afraid of messing with their prime-time slots found it easiest to cram this required programming in the weekend morning slot,” the story reports.

With cable networks airing animation around the clock, kids can find cartoons at any time of the day, the report points out. Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have further widened the availability of animated children’s shows.

Gizmodo adds, “Still, there’s something a little hollow about the notion that we woke up this morning to an America bereft of broadcast ‘toons. I guess we all had to grow up sometime.”




  1. Gizmodo is doubly mistaken saying that in the 1990’s, the FCC “began more strictly enforcing its rule requiring broadcast networks to provide a minimum of three hours of “educational” programming every week.” This requirement did not exist before the Clinton administration whose FCC Chairman, Reed Hundt, made a shortsighted trade — longer license renewal periods and other relaxed regulation in exchange for stations (not networks, which the FCC doesn’t regulate) agreeing to carry that weekly 3 hours of “educational” kidvid. The predictable result: the lowest possible budgets applied to generally-mediocre programming. The current FCC should revisit these regulations to incentivize more creativity and collaboration on the local and national level.

  2. The financial reasons for Saturday morning animation was killed by the FCC when it imposed limitations on the amount of commercial time allowed in children’s programming, imposing harsh fines for minor infractions. At the same time, cable channels like Nickelodeon sucked up the remaining revenue that typically went to local stations.

  3. Saturday morning​ cartoons are still on one channel called retro TV they are a free to air TV channel all across the USA.

  4. The answer to why Saturday morning cartoons died is nowhere near as simple as those who just want to blame the FCC.

    After all, cartoons on broadcast television continued to thrive for quite a few years after the strict enforcement of the ad limits and the E/I requirements came into effect. During this time, both the WB and UPN went into the kids TV business, which is not something that would have happened if those regulations were what killed the business.

    No, what killed the Saturday morning cartoons was a combination of cable TV and the death of the spot advertising market for kids advertising. Competition with non-stop kids networks on cable weakened the ratings that children’s entertainment shows could earn on broadcast TV, but even so, a look at ratings from ten years ago shows that the weekday afternoon kids blocks still managed to earn decent ratings, often times up to the point where they were discontinued. But the problem was that stations couldn’t sell the local availabilities, and just couldn’t make any money carrying cartoons aimed at children. Meanwhile, as more stations got into the local news business, it also became an issue that children’s shows make a horrid lead in for local news — and, at the same time, local news shows starting spreading into morning hours (both on weekdays and on weekends) that had once been filled with cartoons.

    For those of us with fond memories of afterschool and Saturday morning cartoon blocks, the demise of this programming is sad. But, ultimately, it does seem that the market killed these shows.

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