The Player: Cartoon Network
The Date: April 3, 2008
The Venue: Terminal 5, New York
Key Execs: Stuart Snyder, president-COO of Turner Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media; Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks; David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting Sales; Beth Goss, exec VP-ad sales, marketing and enterprises, Cartoon Network; John O'Hara, senior VP-ad sales, Cartoon Network; Rob Sorcher, chief content officer, Cartoon Network
The Surprise Guest: George Lucas, who showed up for a Q&A with Turner Animation President Stuart Snyder about the exclusive partnership with Time Warner to launch the "Star Wars: Clone Wars" movie in August and full-length series on Cartoon in the fall.
The Food: An inspired selection of scones for the morning presentation, including man-friendly bacon-and-cheddar.
The Drinks: Exceptionally tasty coffee.
The Swag: Two collectible "Star Wars" toys from Lego and Hasbro.
The Pitch: Cartoon Network is beefing up its resources to become a stronger player in the increasingly competitive kids' entertainment marketplace. The network is pairing exclusive rights to tentpole series like "Star Wars: Clone Wars" with new prime-time programming blocks of strong-performing new shows "Chowder" and "Ben 10"; TV rights to feature films like "Hoodwinked," "The Ant Bully" and "Open Season"; and live-action fare like Will Ferrell's "Kicking and Screaming."
After a bumpy 2007 filled with failed marketing stunts and the arrival of a brand-new executive team, Cartoon Network is poised to make a splash in this year's upfront. That starts with this fall's exclusive broadcasting rights to "Star Wars: Clone Wars," the latest chapter in the "Star Wars" saga and part of a larger marketing blitz around the accompanying movie from Warner Bros. in August. The "Star Wars" founder himself, George Lucas, appeared to explain how the project ended up with Time Warner. "We were looking for a multi-faceted company. We had taken it to a lot of companies who would say, 'I don't know what to do with this,' " Mr. Lucas said. "Cartoon Network lands in where it's targeted: 12-year-old boys. Cartoons are targeted to 12-year-olds, but we can go to adult humor or younger humor. We wanted to be able to push it forward from there and with extra-wide reach."
Mr. Snyder added that the "Star Wars" marketing blitz will be the largest effort in Cartoon Network history, and advertisers can of course come along for the ride. To illustrate this, he then posted a headshot of Cartoon sales chief John O'Hara on the screen and flashed his office number for clients to call.
In other programming efforts, Cartoon's new chief content officer, Rob Sorcher, said he has taken immediate action to get the network organized around more event- and prime-time-based programming. Thursday nights will now be a tentpole for the network's comedy series such as "Chowder" and the new "Marvelous Adventures of Flapjack," while a new Batman series, "The Brave and the Bold," will join the schedule later this summer, piggybacking on the release of Warner Bros.' latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight."
Last Year's Take: $293.2 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence
The Ratings Game: Cartoon's sweet spot is with boys 6 to 11, who made "Ben 10," "Chowder" and "Code Name: Kids Next Door" the network's highest-rated shows last year. Teens 12 to 17 tune in for "Goosebumps" and "Dragon Ball-Z," while adults 25 to 54 appear to be a mix of parents and nostalgic viewers tuning in to catch "Tom and Jerry" or "Scooby Doo" reruns and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
The Digital Play: CartoonNetwork.com is touted as a gaming destination for young boys, who spent 77 minutes per month on the site in 2007, totaling nearly 2 billion game-plays for the year.
The Buyer's Take: Chris Boothe, chief activation officer for Starcom, had high praise for the network's aggressive new positioning as a destination for premier kids' content. "We totally felt the presentation and dialogue demonstrated Turner and Time Warner's commitment to this network and the audience of this network," Mr. Boothe said.
"They have a dynamic new team and a lot of increased resources for content. We felt their new programming really will deliver their core audience -- 'core and more,' as we call it. ...They delivered the sizzle with the steak," he added.
In short, the network will still be firing on all cylinders when it comes to its target demo of boys 6-11. And that's how they should continue to strategize, said another major children's-media buyer. "The focus for them should still be on boys," the buyer said. "Disney is mopping up on girls, Nick does a great job in straddling the line on stuff boys and girls like. They're not necessarily ostracizing girls, either. Their programming is edgy, it's not offensive. I think 'Chowder' is the perfect model."