Toon Net tunes sked with Kids WB

'Friends,' ' Ami Yumi,' 'Juniper' among new launches

Cartoon Network and Kids WB promised more new programming and more collaboration between the two Wednesday as the sibling channels unveiled their 2004-05 offerings.

Riding high on ratings growth and a 12% year-to-year increase in ad revenue, Cartoon Net will add six shows to the sked, more than in any past year. Top-ranked programs “Code Name Kids Next Door” and “Teen Titans” will be stripped weekly, a little more than a year after their debuts.

“By greenlighting more new shows faster, ramping up production of current hits and aggressively acquiring new series, we’ll have twice the amount of new programming this year than we did in 2002,” said Cartoon’s exec VP and GM, Jim Samples.

New launches include:

  • “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” from “Powerpuff Girls” creator Craig McCracken. Series is about a boy who continues to visit his imaginary friend, Bloo, after Bloo is sent away. A 90-minute feature will introduce the series July 16; skein officially launches Sept. 3.

  • “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi,” based on real-life Japanese pop stars as they travel from concert to concert. Series will include live-action segments starring the real Puffy Ami Yumi, and debuts in December.

  • “The Life and Times of Juniper Lee,” from “Real World San Francisco” star Judd Winnick, about a little girl whose secret job is to stamp out mischief.

  • “Justice League Unlimited,” which returns the familiar superheroes, along with lesser-known characters in more compact, half-hour adventures.

New series will debut on net’s Friday block. With the addition of two live hosts introducing shows before a studio audience of kids, Cartoon has seen Friday night numbers increase 22%.

Other new series are action comedy “Megas XLR,” focusing on a futuristic giant robot residing in a Jersey landfill, and “Atomic Betty,” about a seemingly ordinary girl with superpowers. Slate also includes the final 10 episodes of “Star Wars: Clone Wars.” Channel also plans to marathon all 20 episodes of the microseries this spring.

Cartoon Net will shuffle its action-adventure blocks, moving its teen anime Toonami block to Saturday nights and introducing its Miguzi lineup to target kids 6-11 on weekday afternoons. Miguzi slate will include acquisitions “Code LYOKO,” classic “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “TeenTitans.”

Programming changes to its older latenight block, Adult Swim, include the debut of comedy “Venture Brothers” and anime series “Wolf’s Rain.”

Returning series include “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” which will be stripped Monday through Thursdays, and Japanime import “InuYasha.”

Meanwhile, Kids WB, will stagger new programming over the year.

Biggest sked addition was announced earlier this month: “The Batman,” the newest iteration of the Dark Knight franchise (Daily Variety, Feb. 9, 2004). Show will take its place on the Saturday ayem lineup at 10:30, sandwiched between tentpoles “Pokemon” and “Yugioh.”

While Kids WB is in the middle of picking up its 14th straight sweeps victory, numbers are down sharply from year-previous season to date. John Hardman, Tadpole’s programming chief, acknowledged the “diminished results in the fourth quarter,” a side-effect of net’s commitment to year-round programming. Since Jan. 1, however, ratings have climbed 30% in net’s core demo of boys 6-11.

Other new Kids WB offerings include hip-hop sci-fi series “Da Boom Crew,” live-action hidden-camera prank show “Gagsters” and movie “Zolar.” Latter — Tadpole’s first original movie — follows three athletes who realize one of their teammates is an alien and needs to protected.

With culturally diverse shows such as “Jackie Chan Adventures,” “Mucha Lucha” and Static Shock” remaining on its sked, Hardman emphasized net’s commitment to diversity.

Other returning shows include “MegaMan NT Warrior,” “What’s New Scooby Doo,” and “Astro Boy.”