Cartoon Builds Blocks

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Coming off of a strong year, Cartoon Network is launching six new series, shuffling its afternoon block and continuing a collaboration with broadcast sibling The WB.

Cartoon's plans, including a new show from The Powerpuff Girls creator Craig McCracken, came out at a joint upfront presentation here with the Kids' WB last week. Cartoon will premiere more than 300 new show episodes this season — more than double last year's total, according to general manager Jim Samples. Cartoon is holding a separate upfront, in late March, for its successful "Adult Swim" late-night block.

At last week's kids-oriented event, both Cartoon and The WB said there will continued cooperation and program-sharing between the two. Advertising on the cable network and the broadcast kids' block is now sold by one sales force, as executives alluded at the presentation.

"Joining forces with Kids' WB just reinforces the fact that we're learning to live in your one-television world, the world where the lines between cable and broadcast no longer exist," Cartoon executive vice president of sales and marketing Kim McQuilken told media buyers.

He also noted that during the past few years: "We've had more collaboration, more sharing of shows and more projects and co-development that ever before. And it's only going to get better."

In its target demographic, Carton has enjoyed steady growth this season to date. For example, in primetime for kids six to 11, delivery grew 11%, to 587,000 and ratings were up 14%, to a 2.5, according to a Turner Entertainment Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. In total day for that demographic, delivery increased 6% to 342,000, and ratings were up 8% to a 1.4.

Last year, Cartoon was in a three-way tie at No. 3 in the primetime household ratings, with a 1.6, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen data. In total day last year, Cartoon was in a four-way tie for second place, with a 1.1.

WB SHARING

Cartoon already shares more than a half dozen shows off and on with The WB, including Teen Titans. The next series likely to be "multiplexed" is The WB's The Batman, which debuts on the broadcaster this fall. It will probably get a window on Cartoon Network six months later, Samples said.

During Cartoon's upfront segment, the network outlined plans to debut an afternoon action-adventure program block called "Miguzi," which will replace its Toonami anime block from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. A revamped Toonami, in turn, will move to Saturday nights.

The Miguzi weekday afternoon franchise, whose focus is action-adventure shows with a comic twist, is targeting kids ages 6 to 11. Toonami is being positioned as the home for sophisticated action and anime programming for teens.

"We do believe we'll get a higher concentration of 9-to-14-year-olds on a Saturday night," Samples said. "It's going to give a better structure to the air, better audience flow and higher ratings."

The new block will be "more inclusive," he added. "Toonami was much more boy-targeted."

Toonami takes its new time slot, Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to midnight, starting on April 17.

Miguzi, set on an abandoned spaceship buried in the sea, debuts April 19. Its lineup will include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teen Titans, as well as live-action segments profiling entertainers, athletes and everyday heroes.

Toonami's Saturday-night block will be anchored by one of Cartoon's new shows, Megas XLR, about a 20-something grease monkey who discovers a giant fighting robot from the future in a New Jersey landfill.

MCCRACKEN'S 'HOME'

A second new series, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, is from McCracken. Foster's Home
premieres with a 90-minute movie July 16. The series debuts Sept. 3.

Cartoon's other new shows are: Justice League Unlimited, in which the Justice League characters return with a new series; Atomic Betty, about a brainy little girl who is also a superhero defender of the Cosmos, set for September; Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, about the adventures of two real-life Japanese pop stars, which debuts in November; and The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, which is slated to bow in the first quarter of next year.

In addition, Cartoon and The WB have a variety of projects in the works, according to officials.

"We have all different kinds of sharing going on, stuff that we are developing that they air, stuff that they have that we air, things that we're doing together," Samples said.

The WB and Cartoon only have 28% audience duplication, so ratings don't fall off on a show for either network when they both run it, Samples said. "We haven't seen any erosion."

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