‘Ferb’ reinvents animation launch

Disney's hit released simultaneously worldwide

LONDON Launching a kids animation show in a multiplatform, multichannel world in which your audience is as likely to be playing a computer game as watching the TV represents a challenge.

So why not adopt a completely different launch model? That appears to have been the thinking behind the global rollout of “Phineas and Ferb,” Disney Channel’s latest animation that, if current trends continue, may end up in the record books.

The show, which bowed Feb. 1, has proved a huge international hit after its simultaneous launch in some 150 territories, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia — a first for Disney Channel. The show has reached 23.5 million viewers worldwide — at least in territories for which the net was able to gather data. The launch involved a 10-day rollout of consecutive original episodes.

“Logistically and technically, that represented quite an achievement when you consider the kind of effort that was involved in areas like dubbing, promotion and marketing,” says London-based Disney Channel topper Jonathan Boseley, vice president of programming for the U.K., Scandinavia and emerging markets.

It also helps that “Phineas and Ferb,” based on a series of summer vacation adventures involving the two eponymous stepbrothers, is a cut above the average kids’ toon.

Its creators are Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, whose credits include “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” Unusually, it is traditional 2-D storyboarded animation, which, according to Boseley, helps give the toon its fluid feel.

“It’s a show that everyone at Disney Channel felt genuinely passionate about,” he adds. “So it made sense to launch ‘Phineas and Ferb’ simultaneously in as many markets as possible.”

In the U.S. the skein was the most-watched animated series debut on record in the 9-14 demo (1.6 million/6.4 rating).

In the U.K., Australia and New Zealand “Phineas and Ferb” was the No. 1 ranked series or animated series premiere on Disney Channel ever.

In Blighty — a highly competitive kids market dominated by the BBC and its two kids’ webs, CBeebies and CBBC — it grabbed a 244,000/3.0 rating among kids 4-15.

In Australia it preemed at No. 1 among kids 5-15 (56,000/5.9).

The daily blitz may be over, but “Ferb,” which will eventually settle into a pattern of airing new episodes on Saturdays with repeats on Sundays in the U.S., was still running new shows Fridays through Sundays until the end of February.

The question is, can “Phineas and Ferb” sustain its momentum?

“I don’t see why not,” Boseley says. “We are particularly skilled at nurturing shows so they can become long-term properties. We don’t take anything for granted and have a strategy in place to ensure that the kind of success we’re experiencing doesn’t burn out.

“People talk about the death of linear TV, but given the sort of figures that ‘Phineas and Ferb’ is getting, I’d say that view is somewhat premature.”

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