Cartoon Plays With Block

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Cartoon Network will throw its hat into the crowded preschool cable-television ring next April with the launch of a two-hour weekday-morning block targeted at two- to five-year-olds.

The yet-to-be-named block, created in association with sister company Warner Bros. Television Group, will feature animated and live-action programming without commercial interruption. The network, though, may look to offer show sponsorships similar to the PBS model, said Cartoon vice president of development and programming Alice Cahn.

The block’s shows will run no longer than 11 minutes in length, she said.

The block will also feature a live “host” that will introduce each show/segment. Cahn would not reveal a budget for the ambitious undertaking, which marks Cartoon’s first foray into the pre-school segment currently occupied by Nickelodeon (Nick Jr.), Disney Channel (Playhouse Disney), Noggin and PBS Kids.

This is also the space that Comcast Corp. may enter with a 24-hour network through a joint venture with PBS, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment plc. Reports concerning the commercial-free service, which could get off the ground as early as next year, surfaced in June. None of the parties would comment about the network or its progress last week.

Cahn said Cartoon’s preschool block would place emphasis on developing, nurturing and valuing a child’s sense of humor, a tack that will help differentiate it from the competition.

“I think we’ve defined a unique curriculum area — one that is important to us as parents and one that’s important in the television landscape,” she said. “I don’t have a fear that we will provide something that parents and kids will find valuable and entertaining.”

Among the shows slated for the pre-school block include Krypto, a Warner Bros. Animation series that follows the adventures of Superman’s faithful canine companion, Cahn said.

Other programming will be announced at a later date.

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