Hoping for a Summer Repeat

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Disney Channel is banking on a slate of new movies and series as programming tent poles to help the kids-targeted network continue the summer ratings momentum it built last year.

The network, which posted a flat second-quarter 2004 primetime rating of 1.7, will be hard-pressed to match last year’s 1.9 third-quarter performance, which was bolstered by a 4.6 rating for its original telepic The Cheetah Girls.

But Disney Worldwide president Rich Ross said the network is up to the task.

Disney Channel will lean heavily on the performance of two original movies set to debut during the quarter — Stuck in the Suburbs, bowing this month, and Tiger Cruise, set for August — as well as two new series, Phil of the Future and Brandy and Mr. Whiskers.

“We will see certainly a strong performance — not nearly the growth that we had last summer which was dramatic,” Ross said. “Given the fact that kids’ networks do well in the summer, and with strong performances from the two movies, I can’t imagine that won’t motor us past our second-quarter numbers.”

The network is getting good Nielsen results from the live-action Phil, which generated a 2.4 rating in its June 18 debut, and then pulled a 3.5 mark during the subsequent week’s airing.

“We’re seeing Phil the Future jump out of the box really fast to build up to numbers that are greater than [That’s So] Raven’s numbers to second from first week,” he said.

Not that Raven is a ratings lightweight. The sophomore skein, which the network is now stripping weekdays, garnered a 1.7 rating for its June 25 episode, the first of six original episodes that will premiere this summer.

Ross is also bullish on Disney’s new animated series Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, slated to debut Aug. 21.

As for films, Disney hopes to continue its run of strong original movie performances with the July 16 flick Stuck in the Suburbs, as well as the Aug. 6 premiere of Tiger Cruise.

Unlike Surburbs, which appeals to its target tween audience, Ross said the network is taking somewhat of a risk with the more dramatic Cruise, which touches upon the events of Sept. 11.

“There may be parents that will say my kids are too young to watch it, but it will have more adult appeal than any other movie we’ve done,” Ross said.

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