A trio of intelligent bears, a reboot of a cartoon favorite from the late ’90s and early 2000s and an emerging emphasis on miniseries are all part of Cartoon Network’s pitch to Madison Avenue for the year to come, the first salvo in the annual bid for advertising dollars known as the upfront.
The Time Warner-owned network said it would launch two new series and its first digital series as well as two new limited-run programs as part of its next programming cycle. Cartoon Network is also selling Boomerang, a sister cable network that has been revamped in the last year to focus more broadly on family viewing. The reworked network launched in January and has been accepting advertising for the first time in its history.
“We are really looking at a very deep array of content and extending it across multiple platforms,”said Christina Miller, president and general manager of Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, all operated by Time Warner’s Turner unit, in an interview.
Cartoon Network’s announcement heralds the start of the TV industry’s effort to secure advertiser support for its programming. TV outlets with younger audiences typically are first to present their lineups, and Viacom’s Nickelodeon is expected to hold a presentation next Wednesday at which it will unveil details of a new broadband-distributed service that will be marketed under a different name. The so-called kids’ upfront, typically dominated by Time Warner, Viacom and Walt Disney, aims to capture what is believed to be as much as $800 million in advance advertising commitments.
The kiddie outlets could face some headwinds. Volume of ad commitments in the 2014 kids market was estimated to be down in the low to mid single-digit percentage range, while ad commitments for cable fell for the first time in four years. Toy makers and food marketers pulled back while technology and telecommunications advertisers showed interest in the category.
Cartoon’s new series consist of the following:
• We Bare Bears: This comedy about three bear siblings, Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear, follows their awkward attempts at assimilating into human society, whether they’re looking for food, trying to make human friends, or scheming to become Internet famous. Created by Daniel Chong and produced by Cartoon Network Studios.
• The Powerpuff Girls: Slated for a 2016 launch, this reboot of a series that started in 1998 will include an all-new television series produced by Cartoon Network Studios and a full licensing program slated to roll out across all regions. The series centers on three superheroes — Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup — whose mission in life alternates between going to school, fighting crime, winning at hopscotch and saving the world before bedtime. Nick Jennings will serve as executive producer.
• Mighty Magiswords: Cartoon Network Studios’ first original digital series is about a brother and sister team of “Warriors for Hire,” who go on funny adventures and intriguing quests in order to collect magical swords.
Cartoon’s new special programs consist of the following:
• Long Live the Royals (miniseries): A royal family holds many parties and feasts as its members struggle to balance ruling a kingdom and life as a typical family. From Sean Szeles of “Regular Show.”
• Steven Universe/ Uncle Grandpa Crossover Special “Say Uncle:” Two Cartoon Network series, “Steven Universe” and “Uncle Grandpa,” join forces. A long-lost relative of Steven’s comes to town to aid him in unlocking the power of his mother’s gem.
• Regular Show: The Movie: From the creators of the hit Cartoon Network series Regular Show, comes a time-traveling longform special. After accidentally creating a “Timenado,” slacker groundskeepers Mordecai and Rigby go back in time and battle an evil volleyball coach in order to save the universe… and their friendship.
• Adventure Time Special (miniseries): In this multipart series, Finn and Jake face a new threat to Ooo when Princess Bubblegum’s experiment unleashes ghosts from Marceline’s past.
Among the network’s returning series are “Adventure Time,” “Clarence,” “Regular Show,” “Steven Universe,” “The Amazing World of Gumball,” “Teen Titans Go!” and “Uncle Grandpa.”
As part of its pitch, Cartoon Network will be touting its ratings among boys between the ages of 6 and 11 and new growth in female viewers 6-11. The network will also cite a growing offering of digital apps and the popularity of its programs in on-demand venues.
Turner executives have been meeting with ad buyers and clients since late January, said Joe Hogan, executive vice president of ad sales for Turner’s “emerging consumer” networks. The network has been getting queries about potential partnerships several months earlier than expected, he added, a signal that advertisers are showing more interest in partnerships that often require more work to tie them in to specific programs.
Hogan indicated he is seeing new categories start to show interest in the young-consumer market. “We are seeing some nontraditional advertisers begin to work with us in order to access our fanbase,” he said.