Cartoon Network Emphasizes Multiple Screens With 2015 Upfront
"You never want to be more than a screen reach away from your fans," GM Christina Miller says of kids. "Their expectations are different from adults or even millennials."
Nearly a year after slightly abbreviating its schedule to 6-8 p.m. daily, ceding another hour to sister net Adult Swim, Cartoon Network is enjoying some of its best ratings advantages to date among younger viewers.
Those ratings — it now ranks No. 1 among boys 6-11 and No. 2 among kids 6-11 — come as it continues to grow outside of the linear platform, upping its digital and mobile presence. Prepping for its annual upfront presentation for media buyers, the Turner network firmed up its 2015-16 slate on Thursday morning and, notably, slotted the revival of CN classic The Powerpuff Girls for next year.
“We are seeing great results with our platform-inclusive strategy to expand the definition of programming across all screens” said Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim GM Christina Miller, who assumed the network's top post just last summer. “Whether in short or longform there are no walls for how Cartoon Network can be consumed. Digital, mobile and TV have all come together for this new generation of kids, who are very comfortable with the sheer volume of choice; and when you deliver compelling original content and innovative ways of experiencing it, they will find it, engage with it and share it on every platform.”
The vehicle for their content, as Miller sees it, is no longer even the question. And the network is now looking at all platforms when thinking of its roster — which counts We Bare Bears and Mighty Magiswords among its new offerings. Mobile, in particular, is something that is vital to the kid audience. "It's their center of gravity," she tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They're good with choice, and they want to control it. You never want to be more than a screen reach away from your fans. Their expectations are different from adults or even millennials."
New event programming includes mini Long Live the Royals, a movie spin on series Regular Show and a miniseries of standby Adventure Time. There's also a crossover of series Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa that the network is pushing this upfront — and acquisitions Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, Transformers: Robots in Disguise and Supernoobs. Looking ahead, the 2016 return of The Powerpuff Girls is something Miller says everyone is welcoming. "It was a great series that appealed to a wide audience," she adds. "If you look at our current daytime, it's the perfect moment for that show to come back."
As network ad sales, marketing and programming execs starts taking meetings with key clients and promotional partners over the next two months, they'll be touting Cartoon Network's ratings growth, on-demand dominance and expanding digital output. One thing that remains is a metric to lump them all together, something many networks are anxious to have these days. "A universal metric that captures overall consumption, that's what we need," says Miller. "Because that's our focus: overall consumption."