The Venue: The Allen Room at Lincoln Center, New York
Key Execs: Mark Lazarus, president, Turner Entertainment Group; Beth Goss, exec VP-ad sales, marketing and enterprises, Cartoon Network; Michael Ouweleen, senior VP-programming and development, Cartoon Network; John O'Hara, senior VP-ad sales, Cartoon Network
The Food: A healthy assortment of fresh fruit served both a la carte and as part of a granola/yogurt cocktail. Mini English muffins with egg and sausage also were distributed quite frequently across the floor of the dining room before the 10 a.m. presentation.
The Swag: Not one to ignore its holiday timing, Turner distributed heart-shaped boxes of chocolates etched to resemble Cartoon Network's best-known characters.
The Ratings Game: Cartoon Network's kid-friendly lineup -- college-targeted Adult Swim notwithstanding -- still ranks third in all children's TV categories except boys 6-11, where it edged out Disney in 2006 with 295,000 to the Mouse's 193,000.
Buyer's Verdict: Bruce Jay Cohen, director-local broadcast for Mediaedge, said Cartoon Network is wise to keep targeting boys but shouldn't turn a blind eye to girls. "Any media outlet is going to look to get the broadest possible audience," he said. "They're good partners. I've done stuff across a couple clients, and they think do a great job from a target standpoint. They talked properties with a pro-social message, and I think all that stuff is a step in the right direction."
No cable network has gotten as much media attention as Cartoon Network these past two weeks -- but you'd never know it from its upfront event in New York this week. The Turner network paid Boston $2 million in reparations to city workers to compensate for an "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" marketing snafu in Boston, which prompted network president Jim Samples to resign from his post of 12 years last week.
"Aqua Teen" airs on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's college-friendly nightly programming lineup, which will host its own event later in March. So the closest anyone came to addressing the event was Turner Entertainment President Mark Lazarus' explanation of his appearance in place of Mr. Samples: "Our business changes very quickly."
Instead, the network plugged its strength in programming and its impressive reach among boys 6-11 (particularly in the online-gaming circuit, where its gets 2 billion game plays a week).
It also was sure to emphasize its social-responsibility efforts, such as a recent nutrition awareness campaign with the FDA to help prevent childhood obesity. Luckily the kids weren't around for the free Valentine's chocolate the network distributed immediately following the presentation.