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Cartoon Network Launches Micro-Network for Smartphones (Exclusive)

Cabler's Cartoon Network Anything apps serve up stream of 15-second videos, games and other activities geared toward mobile devices

Turner’s Cartoon Network has debuted Cartoon Network Anything, a recasting of the network’s brand for smartphones stocked with micro-bursts of snackable content — an effort to hang on to its core audience of kids as they increasingly shift toward mobile and watch less traditional TV.

Cartoon Network Anything, available for iOS and Android phones, features a stream of bite-size content ranging from 10 to 15 seconds. The mix includes video snippets from the net’s shows, including “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show,” “Gumball” and “Teen Titans Go,” along with an array of games, videos, polls, quizzes, trivia and puzzles.

The new micro-network is targeted at Cartoon’s core demo of boys 6-11. One of the goals is to drive kids back to the core TV channel by promoting on-air properties. But there’s also an opportunity to grow digital revenue through the offshoot, according to Cartoon Network VP of digital Chris Waldron.

“This is more focused for that smaller time window — it’s for a different moment,” he said.

Cartoon has signed McDonald’s as the launch sponsor for the free app, released Thursday on Apple’s iTunes App Store and Google Play.

Particularly for kid-focused TV networks like Cartoon, such digital initiatives remain a critical bridge to the future. Average time spent viewing live TV among kids 2-11 fell 4% in the second quarter of 2014 from a year earlier, to just under 103 hours per month, according to Nielsen — while time spent viewing Internet video for the demo over the same period shot up 87%, to an average of 6 hours and 16 minutes per month.

All told, Cartoon Network Anything at launch has more than 400 individual pieces of content, and the network will add more in the weeks ahead, including original video segments created exclusively for the apps, Waldron said. “It’s very different from the on-demand model. It’s more like a linear feed: You don’t know what’s coming next,” he said. “We want to make it feel like every time you open it up it’s something fresh.”

The cabler already offers Watch Cartoon Network apps, but those are geared around consuming longer-form content. “It doesn’t really work well as on a phone,” Waldron said. “We had the idea of taking content and miniaturizing it.”

Initially, launch advertiser McDonald’s will have “sponsored by” messaging in the app along with interstitial banner ads. Down the road, Cartoon expects to produce native ad content, Waldron said, noting that Cartoon Network Anything could include 15-second branded-content segments featuring the network’s characters.

It remains to be seen how popular Cartoon Network Anything proves to be. Post-launch, Waldron and his team will analyze usage stats to adjust the kinds of content that go into the feeds. But he said initial feedback has been strong, as focus-group testers “kept coming back” to use the app in repeat visits. “If we find a large number of people are consuming a lot of content, we’ll dial it up,” Waldron said.

In another digital extension, Cartoon Network this summer launched CN Sayin’, an app that prompts fans to record their own versions of catchphrases from the network’s series with a chance that their videos will end up on TV.

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