More about Cartoon Network

I received this email from a former Cartoon Network artist, who prefers to remain anonymous but has worked on a number of their projects and speaks frequently to people working there today (both execs and artists). He offers some perceptive thoughts about the network’s “swindling of the viewership” and why CN is adding more and more live-action to its schedule.

I would like to start by thanking you for your dogged coverage of Cartoon Network’s baffling new programming slate. This issue demands the exposure you are giving it. Bravo.

I’ve worked on and off for Cartoon Network for many years in Atlanta, New York, and LA, and I keep in touch with many friends at the Williams Street compound in Atlanta. Friends who have a front row seat of this swindling of the viewership. The troubling thing to me, at this point, is that I have not yet read the real logic fueling this hackneyed shift in programming.

It’s about money.

Cartoon Network is showing properties that they buy CHEAP and then broadcast sandwiched between original programming. Then they charge the same advertising rates. Buying cheap and selling at a premium is something that started on the Toonami program years ago. DragonBall Z and the other anime series they slotted were all purchased for next to nothing and yet still pulled in the highest ratings of their entire schedule when shown during the afterschool slot.

I do not know what residuals are due to the creators of shows from their past that are not being shown (Courage The Cowardly Dog, Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, etc), but the price of broadcasting Saved By The Bell repeats is less of a bill for them.

When everyone seems to be completely flummoxed at these changes at the network, I feel compelled to impart what I am quite sure is the real inspiration behind this programming boondoggle: Cartoon Network is simply not bringing in any real money at their channel. There is no merchandise on the market for their shows, there are no fast food toy promos, and there is not any national advertising. (Cartoon Network advertises in LA and NYC only with hopes that the advertising traffic agencies located in those two cities will assume it is nationwide.)

I don’t think it is mere conjecture to state that this newest move by the network is a grim sign of the state of affairs there. Expect a major shake up in the near future. They have been reeling since Betty Cohen stepped down.

UPDATE: Below is a comment from an artist currently working there. He counters that Cartoon Network is not trying to do things on the cheap, and that they are in fact spending a lot of money to develop original live-action shows.

The motivation is definitely money, but not for the reasons your previous source has stated. They’ve always licensed Cartoon shows and now they’re doing live-action, as an “introduction” to more live-action content. They are aggressively seeking original live-action content and have some in development. They are trying to compete with Disney and Nick, who own ratings with shows like Raven and Lizzie McGuire. But they don’t wish to copy the same type of shows, they are looking for something different.

As far as merchandising goes, Warners was in control of it and did little or nothing for the shows as far as toys go. Batman was more important. And now licensing has just recently gone back to Cartoon Network. They are making big strides with top licensing companies and had a good showing at the Licensing Show this year. Also there will be Burger King promos for Foster’s coming soon. I’m not defending their decisions, just trying to clarify what their motivation is, as someone who still works here and has heard it first hand.

UPDATE #2: Another reliable artist who currently works for Cartoon Network wrote in the following:

Your second insider is closer to the point regarding CN and their foray into the live action world. They’ve been getting their butt kicked in the ratings by Disney’s live action-shows like “That’s So Raven” and specials like “High School Musical.” It is all about money but rather than finding and making better animated shows, they continue to make the same old animated product or when they do stumble across new product, they don’t support it once it gets on air. So, much like the 2D vs. CG battle, it’s much easier to blame the medium rather than the management’s choices of content.

Earlier stories about Cartoon Network’s abandonment of animation are here and here.