Adult Swim Expands Primetime as Cartoon Network Develops Originals for Web

Turner Broadcasting announces an extra hour for its late-night block and digital-exclusive originals for its daytime animation hub, while sister network Boomerang officially opens up to advertisers in 2014.

Turner Broadcasting is making a big changes to its animation and young adult catalog, starting with the expansion of its top-rated Adult Swim.

The younger-skewing Adult Swim, basic cable's top performer among adults 18-34, which saw its best performance to date in 2013, will start airing an hour earlier beginning March 31. The network, home to originals Children's Hospital, Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, as well as a portfolio of successful off-net repeats of Family Guy and others, will now run nightly from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m.

Losing an hour of daytime occupant Cartoon Network's schedule will not hinder the company's own originals plan -- though it does redirect some of its resources. Turner Broadcasting announced that, in addition to the current lineup of TV originals, Cartoon Network will introduce a new portfolio of programs on its website and other digital branded platforms.

Additionally, classic cartoon destination Boomerang will be introduced officially this year for ad sales after more than a decade as a commercial-free network.

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"As Adult Swim continues to succeed with record ratings and connects with its audiences more than ever, it is imperative that we find a way to grow this part of the business that keeps the essence of what has made it successful and competitive,” said Turner Broadcasting’s president of animation, young adults and kids media (AYAKM) and COO Stuart Snyder. "Our original content also continues to expand, particularly in primetime, with creative and innovative shows such as Rick and Morty. An additional hour in primetime answers these needs and gives us the opportunity to develop more original content for primetime that will engage our audiences even further."

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Rick and Morty has been a particularly successful launch for Adult Swim. The most recent episode of the Dan Harmon-created toon averaged a 0.8 rating with adults 18-49, performing even stronger with younger viewers and men.

Adult Swim showed substantial improvement with adults under 50 in 2013. The evening arm of Cartoon Network jumped 14 percent with adults 18-49 to a nightly average of 768,000.

As for the changes at Cartoon Network, which shifts its two-hour primetime block to 6-8 p.m. in the shuffle, Snyder pointed to increased multiplatform interest from younger viewers in its decision to bulk up digital originals. Prompts to the online offerings will air on the network. "Cartoon Network will always be on when and wherever our audience wants to experience it," Snyder added. "Meanwhile, as audience appeal for classic cartoon programming on Boomerang has grown to critical mass, we’ve determined now’s the time to open the network to our partners as a new opportunity to reach family audiences, particularly parents with young children."

Boomerang, which started out as a nostalgia block on Cartoon Network in 1992, has been its own network since 2000. And while it has technically remained commercial free, some advertising has started to appear, primarily for Dish Network subscribers. The new advertising push will originate from the network and target family co-viewers.

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"As viewing habits continue to evolve, advertisers are looking for opportunities to engage and connect with audiences in a variety of ways that provide greater reach for their brands and messages," said Turner Entertainment's president of kids and young adults ad sales Donna Speciale. "These are distinct brands and this expansion will allow for additional opportunities for advertisers to reach a cross-section of demos across proven platforms."

Boomerang's ad push will take place later in 2014, while the Adult Swim expansion goes into effect in less than two months. Adult Swim will air back-to-back episodes of 20th Century Fox Television's King of the Hill at 8 p.m., followed by The Cleveland Show leading into originals.