Hoping to capitalize on -- but not cannibalize -- the
success of its parent Cartoon Network, the retro spin-off Boomerang launches this
Boomerang, which will primarily feature classic cartoons
from the Hanna-Barbera library, will debut on April 1 -- April Fool's Day.
As of last week, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. officials
didn't have an estimate of how many subscribers would see Boomerang's debut. So far, it
appears there won't be many.
The 24-hour retro-animation channel said it has two
carriage commitments, both with direct-broadcast satellite providers: EchoStar
Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. Boomerang hasn't announced any affiliation
agreements with MSOs yet, not even its sister company, Time Warner Cable. But Turner
officials said they're optimistic about closing some deals this week.
"I'm hopeful we'll have some cable distribution as of
April 1," said Andrew Heller, president of domestic distribution for TBS Inc. "I
don't have a number [of subscribers at launch] yet."
EchoStar will launch Boomerang as part of its new expanded
"America's Top 150" package on April 1. The DBS provider will roll out that new
offering and start selling it to Dish 500 subscribers, on April Fool's Day, the same day
as Boomerang's launch.
DirecTV plans to carry Boomerang, a DirecTV spokeswoman
confirmed. DirecTV expects to announce sometime in April which package will offer
Boomerang and exactly when the DBS company will add it, she said. Heller expects Boomerang
to be on DirecTV within 60 days.
TBS Inc. is talking to cable operators such as Time Warner,
Cox Communications Inc., AT&T Broadband and Cablevision Systems Corp. about Boomerang,
Boomerang is the second network that Turner Broadcasting
System Inc. has rolled out in the past six months, and the 20th in the
programmer's portfolio. In October, TBS Inc. launched Turner South, a regional
Boomerang would like as much analog carriage as possible,
but officials concede that they initially expect it to get digital berths. Digital
services such as Do It Yourself, Noggin and Fox Family Channel's boyzChannel and
girlzChannel launched during the past year, with little or no carriage.
New networks that are pressing for analog carriage have
done better out of the gate this year, in terms of distribution. Oxygen had about 10
million homes when it premiered in February. The Walt Disney Co.'s SoapNet kicked off with
in January with about 1 million subscribers.
Boomerang will pull the switch and go on-air Saturday at 8
a.m. with three classic Yogi Bear shorts. It will start with Pie Pirates, one of
the first cartoons to introduce viewers to the furry Jellystone National Park resident.
TBS Inc., part of Time Warner Inc., this Saturday will use
"the mother ship," Cartoon Network, with its 61.7 million homes, as a platform
to promote Boomerang. From noon to 4 p.m., Cartoon will offer viewers a sneak peek at the
new cartoon network, so they can see first-hand how the network's programming and
packaging is different from Cartoon.
Boomerang will not only feature animation that is largely
diffeerent than parent Cartoon Network. It will also have a totally distinct on-air look
and is targeting a different demographic, according to Boomerang senior vice president and
general manager Mark Norman.
First of all, Boomerang will have 90 percent unduplicated
programming when compared with Cartoon Network, whose schedule features contemporary
acquired and original cartoons.
The spin-off Boomerang is targeting both baby boomers, who
remember classic cartoons such as Magilla Gorilla and Huckleberry Hound from
their childhood, and young kids two to five years old. Cartoon's target audience is older
children, six to 11, and young adults.
"Boomerang really bookends Cartoon," Norman said.
"The two networks combined really cover the spectrum of ages two to 52."
Boomerang's on-air packaging, like its interstitials, will
also look different than Cartoon, which incorporates animation and program clips, Norman
said. Instead, Boomerang searched through the Hanna-Barbera archive of merchandise -- such
as vintage toys and lunchboxes, based on the animator's cartoon characters -- to find
items to shoot and use for its on-air packaging.
"Our on-air look is all built around the idea of
toys," Norman said. "Hanna-Barbera has hundreds of boxes of this stuff. We only
dipped into 5 percent to 10 percent of it all. So our on-air looks so different than
Cartoon. We wanted to highlight the characters as pop-culture icons."
Boomerang is offering cable operators one or two years of
free carriage, followed by a monthly license fee of 3 to 5 cents per subscriber. The rate
card doesn't penalize cable systems for offering Boomerang on digital.
One of the cable-operator groups the network is now talking
is the National Cable Television Cooperative, which already has a deal to carry Disney's
24-hour animation channel, Toon Disney, on analog. Toon Disney now has 15 million
subscribers and expects to reach 20 million by September.
"When you look at Cartoon and the success of that
network, I guess they're building off the strength of that," said Frank Hughes, the
NCTC's senior vice president of programming.
Boomerang will debut without any national or local
advertising, waiting for several years until the network hits a critical mass of 5 million
to 10 million subscribes. Originally, Boomerang planned to offer two minutes of local
avails at its launch, but then changed that decision.
"We decided to hold off on local [avails] until there
was national as well," Norman said.
Boomerang's weekday program schedule each day will
spotlight two different cartoon characters, dedicating three-hour program blocks to each.
Boomerang is also stripping four half-hour series on weekdays.
On Saturdays, the retro network will devote the day to
cartoons that were created or aired during a specific year, such as 1962. Sundays will be
dedicated to classic action-adventure animation series.
Boomerang will try to give viewers a telescoped or
compressed version of that lineup on its first weekend, using two-hour program blocks. For
example, the network launches with a half hour of Yogi Bear, while 8:30 to 9:30
will be dedicated to 1963, with Huckleberry Hound and Top Cat. At 9:30 a.m.,
the action genre will be featured, with Jonny Quest.
Boomerang has two events going that will help celebrate its
This Tuesday, March 28, Cartoon will sponsor the
festivities when the Los Angeles Museum of Television & Radio gives William Hanna and
Joseph Barbera a lifetime achievement award. And about 300 people are invited to a pajama
party at TBS Inc.'s headquarters in Atlanta for the 8 a.m. Saturday kickoff, with a
breakfast that includes giant Fruit Loops.
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