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Cartoon Network loses gamble

The LA Times has a huge front page story in it’s Business section today, reporting on Cartoon Network’s recent programming gamble on live action. From the article:

The new shows haven’t reversed the slide. In July, the network had the fewest viewers in that target age range since May 2000 and its least-watched month overall since June 1998.

There is internal tension as well, with many veteran animators either quitting or being handed their walking papers. There are even whispers inside the channel’s Burbank animation studios that the network might drop “Cartoon” from its name.

If the ratings on CN were bad before, they are worse now. As an example of some of the actual numbers, courtesy of Nielsen Media Research Data, here are final K6-11 Ratings for Saturday, August, 8, 2009, Cable Networks only (Live + Same Day Data):

NICKELODEON4.1/25 Avg. (7a-1p)
Jimmy Neutron 1.4/20; Jimmy Neutron 1.9/21; Fairly OddParents 2.8/24; Fairly OddParents 3.5/24; SpongeBob SquarePants 5.0/29; SpongeBob SquarePants 5.6/29; Penguins of Madagascar 4.3/21; Back at the Barnyard 4.5/21; Mighty B! 4.1/20; SpongeBob SquarePants 5.2/25; SpongeBob SquarePants 5.3/28; SpongeBob SquarePants 5.6/30

DISNEY CHANNEL2.1/13 Avg. (7a-1p)
My Friends Tigger & Pooh 1.3/19; Little Einsteins 1.3/15; Special Agent Oso 1.6/14; Handy Manny 1.8/13; Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 1.9/12; Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 1.7/9; Imagination Movers 1.8/9; Handy Manny 2.0/9; Phineas and Ferb 3.1/15; Phineas and Ferb 3.5/17; Cow Belles (100 minutes) 2.5/13

CARTOON NETWORK1.4/8 Avg. (7a-1p)
George of the Jungle 0.9/10; Chaotic 1.0/8; Secret Saturdays 1.3/9; Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl Galactic Battle 1.3/8; Star Wars: Clone Wars 1.3/7; Ben 10: Alien Force 1.7/8; Batman: Brave & The Bold 2.0/9; Bakugan 1.9/9; Thumb Wrestling Federation 1.2/6; Teen Titans 1.4/7; Teen Titans 1.6/9

To our friends at Cartoon Network, we want you to succeed. We know we’re not in your demographic, but I and hundreds of thousands of others like me actually care about what you’re doing. We love cartoons and we want them back.

To paraphrase 14-year-old Ashley Rosario, quoted in the LA Times article, we’re open to new things as long as they’re not crummy. Stop looking at market research and viewer surveys – you clearly don’t understand them. Or us.

What might work at AMC or SYFY or USA and TBS won’t work here. Cartoon Network is a niche channel and you must give the viewers what you promise. I don’t want mustard coming from my ketchup bottle. As long as you are content to follow your competitors, and to recycle worn out ideas, you won’t succeed. You must lead with new ideas, new concepts, new animation.

You are programming Cartoon Network as a run-of-the-mill cable kids channel, instead of using the incredible opportunity you have to lead and bond with the animation community – where there is a wealth of talented creators and an abundance of original ideas just waiting to happen.

I strongly believe in the potential of Cartoon Network – otherwise I wouldn’t post so much about it. I am heartened by the recent announcement of the two new animated shows and the ongoing production of Pen Ward’s Adventure Time. So until the day you drop the “Cartoon” from your channel’s name and dive completely into obscurity, I’ll be keeping tabs on you. And our readers will let you know what they think.