NEW YORK — Cartoon Network is adding two new series and eight more from the Warner Bros. library as it steps up a challenge for kidvid viewers.
The tooner will debut “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy” and “The Powerpuff Girls” in fall 1998, adding to a cadre of original fare like “Dexter’s Laboratory” that has helped it gain both distribution and ratings momentum.
In addition, Cartoon has snared eight animated series from the vaults of sister company Warner Bros.: “Batman,” “Beetlejuice,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Waynehead,” “Road Rovers,” “The All New Gumby,” “The Fantastic Voyage of Sinbad” and “Super Friends.”
In addition, the 5-year-old channel, once entirely dependent on its Hanna-Barbera library from the 1960s and ’70s, has hired John Kricfalusi, the irreverent brain behind “Ren and Stimpy,” to produce a half-hour special that offers a surreal update of the Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and Ranger Smith characters.
Cartoon execs, led by channel prexy Betty Cohen, detailed plans for 1998 at a press preview of its first-ever advertiser upfront presentations, which begin Dec. 2 at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank and continue Dec. 8 in Chicago and Dec. 12 in New York.
The network has rapidly gained distribution, climbing to 45.3 million subscribers and projected to reach 55 million by next fall. That compares with fewer than 30 million at this time last year.
“There’s a sea change going on in kids’ television viewing overall,” Cohen said, “with a massive migration of kids from broadcast to cable. The broadcast world is having a hard time competing with a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week franchise like ours, where we’re promoting constantly what’s on the next day or the next hour.”
One sign of its coming of age is Cartoon’s plan to add a West Coast feed beginning March 2, allowing the channel to align timeslots for West Coast and Mountain timezone viewers.
Its ability to gain higher cost-per-thousand rates for shows, however, may be limited by substantial new ad inventory from other players.
Nickelodeon still remains supreme among cablers, reaching 70 million homes, and the relaunched Fox Family Channel also will aim for a slice of the audience next fall, with a daylong kid-friendly schedule. But while adults still account for 30% of its viewers, Cartoon has made substantial progress among kids, particularly in the 6-to-11 age bracket.
In primetime, where Cartoon has made its most substantial gains and Nick programs sitcom reruns, the channel will debut the two new series, and has decided to strip another original, “Cow and Chicken,” after ordering an additional 26 episodes.
“Powerpuff Girls,” based on two shorts produced by Craig McCracken, focuses on three 5-year-old preschool superheroes, while “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy,” from Danny Antonucci, chronicles three suburban boys and their “triumvirate of adolescent anguish.”
The network also has acquired a package of movies from Universal, including “Balto,” “Fievel Goes West” and the entire “Land Before Time” ouevre. And it will launch a new preschool block from 10 to 11 a.m. weekdays, consisting of half-hour episodes of “Big Bag,” produced by Children’s Television Workshop, and “Small World,” highlighting worldwide animation.