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ABC Disney kid block revamped

Four cartoons skedded, live broadcast on hold

ABC will revamp its “Disney’s One Saturday Morning” kids block on Dec. 9, scrapping the lineup’s interstitial elements in favor of four, rather than three, half-hour cartoons.

The network has also put on hold plans to add a live broadcast during the block that would have emphasized interactive elements, guest celebrities and musical performances (Daily Variety, Oct. 26).

Up until now, “One Saturday Morning’s” three series — “Disney’s Recess,” “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” and “Disney’s the Weekenders” — floated around the two-hour block depending on the length of the interstitial elements (usually animated or live-action shorts).

ABC had already reduced the amount of interstitial time from 22 minutes to 11 minutes in October, adding in a pared-down 11-minute edition of “Recess” to the mix. The complete elimination of the interstitials will make room for a full new series and put shows on the half hour like the rest of the Saturday morning schedule.

“ABC has made a judgment call to expend its resources in producing an additional half-hour show,” said Jonathan Barzilay, senior VP and general manager of ABC’s children’s programming. “One advantage we get from this is we will be able to direct people to specific start times. ‘Recess’ is on at 9, ‘Teacher’s Pet’ at 10. That’s something we couldn’t do in the previous format because of staggered launch times.”

Newcomer “Disney’s Lloyd in Space” joins the lineup early in 2001 (Daily Variety, Nov. 1); until then, ABC will double-run “Recess.”

From a marketing standpoint, the revamp also eliminates confusion between the specific two-hour “Disney’s One Saturday Morning” block and the entire ABC Saturday morning lineup, which also had been branded “One Saturday Morning.”

“It’s fair to say ‘One Saturday Morning’ branding will be consistent throughout the five hours,” said Barzilay, effectively eliminating the two hour block’s separate identity.

ABC immediately rose to the top of the Saturday morning pack in fall 1997 following the debut of “One Saturday Morning.” The net has seen its fortunes drop more recently, however, due to the success of shows such as Kids’ WB’s “Pokemon” and Fox Kids’ “Digimon.” The network took an even bigger hit this fall when its kids aged 2-5 audience flocked to CBS’ new “Nick Jr.” block.

Additionally, ABC’s kids block lost the promotional push of the net’s Friday night “TGIF” sked this season.

Barzilay also blames college football and election coverage pre-emptions.

“We’re very eager to get to the first quarter both because the college football season is over and because the election has to be over,” he said.

As for ABC’s long-range plans to potentially relaunch Saturday mornings, “We have been considering and will continue to consider all kinds of options,” he said.

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