Cartoon Network Boss Michael Ouweleen Opens Up About Company’s Rough 2022 And Why 2023 Is Already Looking Better
After a year of upheaval at Warner Bros. Discovery that raised countless unanswered questions, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, and Discovery Kids president Michael Ouweleen is speaking out about where the cartoon divisions find themselves after the first quarter of 2023.
Here, we’ve picked out five highlights from an interview that Ouweleen did with Deadline. As always, we suggest reading the full piece. Ouweleen has been with the Cartoon Network brands for 27 years and his insights into the company’s inner workings are nearly unparalleled.
1. Adult Swim Expansion
Ouweleen’s interview took place as Adult Swim announced it will be expanding its programming block by one hour starting on May 1. The news was also accompanied by a first teaser for Genndy Tartakovsky’s Unicorn Warriors Eternal, which will debut on Adult Swim on May 4 at midnight, before hitting HBO Max the following day.
2. WBD’s Rough 2022
In the article, Ouweleen admits that 2022 was hard for the company, which was also obvious to outside observers. However, he also said, “We’re all feeling more possibility this year.” According to the executive, one reason that 2022 was so rocky for the company was that it took time for Warner Bros. and its new parent company Discovery to learn how each other works. Those growing pains, he suggests, are now mostly behind them.
3. In Animation, Patience is a Virtue
One thing that Discovery didn’t entirely understand before the merger was how long animation can take to produce. The network is famous for its ability to turn around quick, cheap, and highly profitable live-action properties in scripted, unscripted, and reality programming. But that’s not how animation typically works.
Explained Ouweleen, “The one learning curve for them, and for me, conversely, is that most of Discovery’s content is very quickly made and they can make tons of it. Animation takes two years and hundreds of people. It’s still hand-made, though obviously, we have digital tools. … Our stuff takes longer to make, but also airs forever.”
4. An Animation Bubble?
Ouweleen explained that he’s never seen a year where the animation landscape was as competitive as it was in 2022.
“Now, I feel there’s been a correction,” he went on. “The animation bubble hasn’t burst but it’s certainly calmed down a little bit. We’re not having problems seeing projects or talent.”
Although things have calmed down some, he’s still confident there is a top-down desire for more animated content and that Discovery is excited by what it’s seen from Adult Swim. According to Ouweleen, he’s been told, “This thing you do is really good — please do more of it!”
5. Warner’s Big Competitive Advantage
Ouweleen believes that WBD’s mix of linear and streaming outlets gives the company’s properties a leg up in the fight to find an audience.
If we were launching Rick & Morty today, on any one platform, I don’t know that we could make it a hit. The benefit that we’ve had is, we can use linear and use Max over seasons to build fandom. Season two of Primal, the engagement levels both on linear and streaming jumped up quite a bit because we are serving a couple of different audiences.
There still is an audience for us in linear and it’s not who maybe people presume, but it’s never been who people presume. I joined four years in, in 1996, and even back then people were like, ‘Oh, you’re running cartoons, so it must be kids all the time.’ But we were [one] third adult, and without kids. And that’s why we launched Adult Swim. We still have people showing up, we still are bucking the trends.