Cartoon Network's late-night adult franchise will dive into new nights next year, boosted by the cable syndication debut of Futurama.
Beginning Jan. 12, "Adult Swim" will become a five-night block, up from its current Saturday and Sunday showings. The block will run Sunday through Thursdays, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Futurama
kicks off the weeknight component at 11 p.m. on Jan 13.
Cartoon has acquired the rights to all 72 library episodes of the show from The Simpsons
creator Matt Groening, according to Cartoon Network executive vice president and general manager Jim Samples.
The expansion to a five-night slate will curtail Cartoon's Saturday-night initiative, which began last February with more action-oriented series. Under the new schedule, more comedic fare will air during the 11 o'clock hour, leaving the action shows for midnight.
Historically, adults have composed one-third of Cartoon's audience, so Cartoon has long had designs on building this late-night block.
"A lot of people around here, myself included, always felt there was a big adult audience for animation in late night," Samples said. "We think Futurama
will bring even more as we expand Adult Swim."
Following its Sunday Sept. 2, 2001, debut, Adult Swim produced a 25 percent increase in ratings among its target audience of adults 18 to 34 during its first year in the time slot, averaging a 0.5 with that group, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Delivery of this group surged by a third over the same period to an average of 244,000.
The ratings improvements have continued during its second season, with numbers among this group growing for the past five weeks, according to network officials.
During its Oct. 20 outing, Adult Swim scored a 33 percent rise among adults 18 to 34, while delivery jumped 84 percent to 224,000. Among men 18 to 34, ratings doubled to a 0.6, as delivery climbed 148 percent to 139,000.
With adults 18 to 24, ratings gained 67 percent to a 0.5, and delivery rose 117 percent to 104,000 of those watchers.
Adult Swim's lineup combines originals —SeaLab 2021
(a comic re-imagining of Hanna-Barbera's 1970s SeaLab 2020), The Brak Show, Home Movies
(Cartoon commissioned original animators Soup 2 Nuts to produce fresh episodes of the former UPN show), Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, the long-running Space Ghost Coast to Coast
and Aqua Teen Hunger Force
— and acquired fare like Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop
The highest-rated shows in the block: Mission Hill
and The Oblongs.
The success of Adult Swim has also helped Cartoon diversify its sponsor roster. Samples listed AT&T, Verizon Communications, Motorola Inc., the U.S. Navy and studios as regular advertisers. Maxim Hair Color for Men is also on board, and the network has customized creative to maximize the marketer's message, as one spot features a SeaLab
character with his hair dyed.
Similarly, AT&T spots have also showcased Swim characters interviewing Carrot Top and the top of a carrot, spoofing the company's use of the red-haired comedian in an ongoing campaign.
"You can get a little more creative and have some fun in this space," said Samples.
While the roster will continue to evolve, there are no plans for Adult Swim to try new lanes. "We want to be very specific here: kids are our primary audience," he said. "They get to stay up later on Friday and Saturdays because there isn't any school."
Asked about the network's interest in grabbing another Groenig show, Samples offered this sampler: "You have to ask them, but the proper cable home for The Simpsons
is Cartoon Network. Clearly, we love The Simpsons."