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Toons speak global language

Cartoon Network @ 20

There is pretty much nowhere in the world you can’t watch Cartoon Network.

Expansion began early in the cabler’s history, with both Cartoon Network Latin America and Cartoon Network Europe launching in 1993 and Asia Pacific in 1994. The network is now seen in 178 countries in 26 different languages across 27 separate feeds.

The newest addition is Canada, where Cartoon Network launched its own specialty channel last summer in conjunction with longtime Canuck partner Teletoon.

The success of Cartoon Network across borders comes down at least in part to the universal appeal of animation and kids shows, but it’s also become ingrained in the thinking of the executives at the network.

“We have, particularly in the last couple of years, really come together as a global content unit,” says chief content officer Rob Sorcher. “Things have really shifted in terms of our process, and thinking about shared content and how we think about our shows.”

While the network has never shied away from international content, its expansion into creating and producing overseas reached a watershed moment with “The Amazing World of Gumball,” which was created and produced out of the London-based Cartoon Network Studios Europe. The series preemed first in America, rather than its home market — and its success in that regard is groundbreaking, says Sorcher.

“The fact that a comedy could be created in the U.K. completely and be exported to the U.S. and be a hit — that’s the first time’s ever happened,” he says.

The show’s success has bolstered confidence in the network’s ability to generate hits from diverse sources, though Sorcher says that’s not always easy. Comedies like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” emerged from a scrappy, independent and even homemade aesthetic that raised questions about their ability to become big, global success.

“It took a little while to get everybody on board with that globally,” he says. “Now that they are on and so successful, ‘Adventure Time’ and ‘Regular Show’ are powering new territories and have renewed confidence.”

Digital has played a major role in Cartoon Network’s global expansion.

“There are national boundaries for networks, none for digital,” says Paul Condolera, senior veep of digital and Cartoon Network Enterprises. “The digital business has become much more internationally focused. You can have simultaneous launches worldwide with digital content in a way that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago, so we are collaborating very closely (with other parts of the company) on content planning and creations.”

Snyder says it matters little where a show comes from as long at it’s a good fit for Cartoon Network.

“It’s a matter of finding those shows and those partners that fit our brand,” he says. “And when we do, we embrace them on Cartoon Network and we embrace them on a global basis.”

That strategy has helped the network builds up shows like “Ben 10” into mature global franchises, paving the way for developing up-and-coming shows like “Adventure Time” into similarly strong global brands.

Snyder says he expects the future will hold more of the same for Cartoon Network. “I think we will see more penetration from the Cartoon Network brand with the audiences where we already are established,” he says.

Cartoon Network @ 20
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