New York -- Fox Family Channel has one-dozen new
children's series on its programming slate for the new season -- 10 new animated
shows and two live-action offerings -- officials said at the network's kids'
upfront presentation here last week.
Fox Family president Rich Cronin also told Madison Avenue
that his network had ordered 93 new episodes of six returning series, including Donkey
Kong Country and The Three Friends and Jerry Show.
So with the new shows and returning series, Fox Family will
be producing 327 new episodes of kids' and teen programming for the 1999-2000 season.
The new series that Fox Family has ordered include: Angela
Anaconda, a cutout-style animated series about an eight-year-old competing with an
archrival; Billy the Cat,about a 10-year-old who is turned into a kitten by
a magician; Freaky Stories,an anthology of animated shorts that tell
stories once heard sitting around the campfire; Ripley's Believe It or Not! The
Series, about a trio of young adults who embark on an adventure and discover the world
of the strange and bizarre; and Weird Ohs, about a world where cars rule, done in
The new shows use a variety of production styles, from
stop-action to cutout animation and computer-generated 3-D, to try "to get kids to
stop channel-surfing," according to Cronin.
"Kids have seen A Bug's Life," Cronin
said. "The bar has been raised."
During the presentation, Cronin appeared in a bathrobe and
pajamas in a breakfast-kitchen setting. Haim Saban, chairman of Fox Family Worldwide Inc.,
did a walk-on as a milkman who was accompanied onstage by a frisky calf that started
nipping him in the butt and goosing him.
"See what they make me do for a few shekels from you
guys," Saban told the audience, which was comprised of advertisers and media buyers.
At the upfront, Cronin disclosed that in September, Fox
Family will start airing programming in its preschool "Captain Kangaroo's
Treasure House" block uninterrupted by commercials, and only running spots --
essentially sponsorships -- between shows, which Nickelodeon does now.
"It will make preschool programming more attractive to
moms," Cronin added.
Cable operators' local avails will also air between
preschool shows, he said.
Cronin said he is making a focused attempt to distinguish
the Fox Family and Fox Kids Network brands. Fox Family is being positioned as
"quirky, contemporary family entertainment," according to Cronin, while
broadcast's Fox Kids Network is meant to represent "action, adventure, prankster
comedy." Fox Kids, which Cronin is also in charge of, is adding seven new animated
series to its lineup.
He also described the two digital networks -- The Boyz
Channel and The Girlz Channel -- that Fox Family will debut in October.
"We've done a lot of research with kids,"
Cronin said. "We didn't start this gender-specific thing."
At a press conference following the upfront, Cronin added
that he has no affiliation deals with cable operators for the digital networks so far, but
he's talking to them and they're enthusiastic.
"They need these channels to help move digital
boxes," he said. "Our strategy is to be there from the beginning."
During this upfront, Fox Family Worldwide will sell
advertising on all four of its Web sites, including the new Boyz Channel and Girlz Channel
sites, which will debut in June. In fact, Rick Sirvaitis, president of advertising sales,
will be pitching advertisers multimedia packages that include the Web sites, Fox Family,
Fox Kids on broadcast, Fox Kids Magazine and a nationally syndicated radio show, Fox
The radio show had previously been called Fox Kids
Countdown, but that will change April 4. The radio show airs on 200 FM stations and
reaches 3 million listeners per week, Cronin said.
Fox Family, which relaunched this past August, took a hit
in household ratings in January -- down 40 percent from a year ago, to a 0.9, according to
Nielsen Media Research. But Cronin said the network, with its repositioning, has succeeded
in drawing a younger audience and more kids. Fox Family's household ratings last year
included a large portion of viewers 50 and older, he added.
"We're looking for the demo ratings," Cronin
said. "We think that we're on the right track."
As part of its tweaking since the relaunch, Fox Family is
cutting back on the time that it allocates for hosts during its kids' and teen
daytime block, said Maureen Smith, executive vice president of Fox Family Channel. She
described the move as "tightening up the schedule."