'Ferb’ Next Big Tween Thing

1/25/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Move over, Hannah Montana: The Disney Channel is hoping that two animated, nerdy step brothers will emulate the success of the wildly successful teen pop singer and give the tween-targeted channel its next big, first-quarter series launch.

The network will launch its new animated series Phineas and Ferb next month with a unique month-long preview that will feature a new episode every night of the month. Disney Channel executives are hoping that increased viewer exposure to the series will generate strong word of mouth among its target audience of 9-to-14-year-olds and build future momentum for the series.

Kidvid Kingpins
Disney Channel is hoping to place more episodes of Phineas and Ferb among the most watched cable original series and specials for 6-to-11 and 9-to-14-year-old viewers. The top five most viewed shows in cable history among the two demos:
Kids 6 to 11
Show Date Network Viewers
SOURCE: Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data
Phineas and Ferb 8/17/07 Disney 4.15 million
Hannah Montana 8/17/07 Disney 4.13 million
Rugrats 1/18/99 Nickelodeon 3.88 million
Rugrats 2/20/06 Nickelodeon 3.71 million
SpongeBob SquarePants 11/11/05 Nickelodeon 3.56 million
Tweens 9 to 14
Hannah Montana 8/17/07 Disney 4.23 million
Phineas and Ferb 8/17/07 Disney 4.20 million
Hannah Montana 8/17/07 Disney 3.36 million
Hannah Montana 6/24/07 Disney 3.35 million
Cory In the House 1/12/07 Disney 3.35 million

“I’m pretty convinced the word of mouth on this will be very positive and so our goal is to create a massive sampling and then let word of mouth drive it from there,” Disney Channel Worldwide entertainment president Gary Marsh said.

Disney Channel viewers have had a peek at the show’s two lead characters and their adventurous plans to make each day of summer vacation the best day ever.

A 15-minute episode of the series airing Aug. 17 — immediately following the record-setting cable movie ratings premiere of High School Musical 2 — generated 10.8 million total viewers and 4.1 million tweens aged 9 to 14, tying an Aug. 17 Hannah Montana episode as the second-most-watched show ever on television within that demographic.

While any one episode of the series will have a tough time matching the lofty viewer performance of the series pilot, Marsh said that the cumulative audience for the 28 February prime-time episodes could finish within the ballpark of the pilot.

Add in the unique viewers the show will generate on 27 Disney Channel outlets around the world that will also air the series every night of February, and Ferb could become one of the network’s most successful shows ever, Marsh said.

If Phineas and Ferb proves to be a ratings success, it will give Disney Channel three straight successful first-quarter series launches, following the debuts of Hannah Montana and That’s So Raven spinoff Cory In the House over the past two years.

The March 2006 Hannah Montana premiere drew 5.4 million viewers, only to be topped by the 7.6 million viewers who tuned into the January 2007 launch of Cory, which follows the exploits of teen Cory Baxter and his chef father as they take up residence in the White House.

It would also give Disney a strong start to its defense of its 2007 primetime cable ratings crown. Marsh said current hits like Hannah and Cory, along with new shows like Phineas and Ferb and original movies such as Camp Rock, starring teen singing group the Jonas Brothers, and the third installation of the popular Cheetah Girls movie franchise should help keep the network in contention for this year’s title.

Marsh said Disney Channel is well-suited to ride out the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, now in its 12th week. While the network has had to suspend development of several new projects due to the writer’s strike, its current lineup of new and returning shows have been virtually unaffected by the walkout.

Cory In the House is the only show thus far on the network’s schedule that has had to suspend production due to the strike.