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ABC, Disney net in kiddie synergy

Quartet to announce p'gramming skeds

Disney’s kiddie nets will make their upfront presentation this week as easy as “ABC+D.”

Pitch to media buyers today and Friday will reinforce the combined strength of the ABC Kids Network, which encompasses four platforms: ABC Family, Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC’s Saturday ayem block, ABC Kids.

“From a partnership perspective, the marketplace has been responsive,” said Disney Channel prexy Rich Ross. “It really understands that you can’t look at our ratings and relationship with kids and not include us when you are looking to market.”

Quartet of nets reaches every conceivable kiddie demo, including preschool. With the exception of ad-free Disney Channel, the platforms are all marketed and sold by one ad sales department.

Although competitor Nickelodeon announced plans Tuesday to make digital tween channel the N ad-supported, Ross said it had no plans to follow suit. Channel is commercial-free, although it has accepted select sponsorships in the past few years.

“We’re contractually committed not to be ad-supported,” Ross said. “We’re not headed in that direction, although our ratings growth has helped jumpstart partnership conversations.”

Year to year, Disney Channel posted a 37% increase in kids 2-11. It remains tops with kids 6-11 and tweens in primetime and tied for second among basic cable channels in 2003 in total viewers during primetime. Playhouse Disney block is up 11% this year and exhibiting gains in the boys 2-5 demo.

ABC Kids benefits

Channel’s strength has paid off for sibling ABC Kids. Saturday block leads in all the girl demos for broadcast, propelled by the strength of Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire,” “Kim Possible” and “That’s So Raven.”

ABC Kids and Disney Channel programming highlights:

  • Live-action “Phil of the Future,” in which a teen from 2121 gets stuck in the present day. Skein will bow on Disney in June and join ABC Kids’ fall sked at 11 a.m., airing concurrently on both channels.

  • Animated series “Disney’s Brandy & Mr. Whiskers,” about mismatched pets in the vein of the “Old Couple,” and “American Dragon: Jake Long,” a teen who is both human and a protective dragon. Pair will be added to Disney’s 2004-05 sked.

  • Original Disney Channel film “Stuck in the Suburbs,” about small-town tweens who teach a pop star to stay true to himself. Production has just begun.

  • Returning Saturday lineup including “The Proud Family,” “That’s So Raven” and “Power Rangers DinoThunder.”

Jetix gets promo pump

Nets will also aggressively market the newly launched Jetix slate. Action-adventure block launched last month during evenings on Toon Disney and on ABC Family in the morning. Among boys 6-11, ratings have shot up 56% on Toon Disney and 30% on ABC Family.

Toon Disney will expand Jetix to 19 hours this fall, up from 12; ABC Family already carries 20 hours of Jetix programming a week.

For 2005, series to be added to Jetix including the newest iteration of “Power Rangers”; animated epic “W.I.T.C.H.,” based on Disney’s European comic; anime actioner “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go,” featuring warrior monkeys; and Alliance Atlantis-produced “Dragon Booster,” set in a world where men and dragons co-exist.

While several shows air on multiple platforms, Ross said each delivered an audience without cannibalizing the other.

“We discuss our schedule,” said Ross about the interchannel strategy. “We look at our library, and if we can see different dayparts that will reach different audiences, we’ll program to that. If that isn’t the case, then we stay away.”

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