Turner Tosses Boomerang; Adds New Retro Toon Net
Targeting baby boomers and their young kids, Cartoon
Network will spin off a 24-hour retro-animation network named "Boomerang,"
airing classic cartoons like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound from Turner's Hanna-Barbera
Cartoons Inc. library.
The service -- the third new network announced by Turner
Broadcasting System Inc. this year -- will debut next spring. Cartoon Network Worldwide
president Betty Cohen will run the spinoff channel.
Boomerang, starting out commercial-free, will cater to two
audiences. Its first target is the so-called baby boomer generation -- parents and adults
30 and older -- who remember and still enjoy vintage cartoons like Quick Draw McGraw and
Top Cat. The second target is the boomers' younger offspring.
Most of the lineup will be from Hanna-Barbera, with some
Warner Bros. cartoons mixed in, according to Cohen.
"People grew up with Hanna-Barbera cartoons,"
Cohen said. "They have gone out, and we are bringing them back in. They have become
classic pop-culture icons."
Turner planned to unveil Boomerang at the Television
Critics Association gathering last Saturday in Pasadena, Calif., and to start seeking
analog or digital carriage from cable operators at this week's Cable and
Telecommunications Association for Marketing conference in San Francisco.
Cartoon, which has been on a ratings roll, created a niche
for Boomerang by airing acquired contemporary cartoons and more original animation.
Operators' big beef with new digital networks is that they
cannibalize programming that is already on analog services. But Cohen said about 90
percent of Boomerang's schedule would be unduplicated on Cartoon.
"We feel that this is a new network that people will
actually watch," she added. "It's not a cannibalized version of Cartoon
Network." The 10 percent overlap would come from programming stunts and marathons by
Cartoon that incorporate classic cartoons, she said.
Cartoon and Boomerang will aim for different audiences.
Cartoon targets kids six to 11 and young adults.
After a span in which it didn't launch any programming
services and it expressed distaste for digital-network economics, Turner has turned
In addition to Boomerang, Turner is debuting a regional
entertainment network, Turner South, in October, and a nonfiction women's network is set
to appear early next year.
Turner officials with both the women's channel and
Boomerang shied away from calling them analog or digital networks, saying operators would
decide how they carry them. Turner, of course, would prefer analog carriage.
TBS Inc. chairman Terry McGuirk has said that it costs less
now for Turner to risk launching new networks because of the infrastructure in place to
distribute them. Also, the new networks' Web sites turn profits quickly.
Boomerang will bring the Turner network stable to 20.
Boomerang will face competition: Disney Channel has a
24-hour animation service, Toon Disney, and Nickelodeon and Children's Television Workshop
launched Noggin, an educational kids' channel, this past spring.
Some operators last week wondered whether the animation
genre might be saturated.
Frank Hughes, senior vice president of programming for the
National Cable Television Cooperative, is waiting to see what Turner has to say about
Boomerang and how it will be distinct from Cartoon.
"My first question is: How different is it?"
Hughes said. "How many cartoon channels can we have? But I don't want to throw cold
water on it, because I would be the first to admit that I'm always surprised when I look
at the Nielsens [Nielsen Media Research ratings] at how Cartoon Network is doing
ratings-wise. So maybe there is some potential out there."
Turner officials declined to discuss Boomerang's rate card,
other than to say that its license fees would be reasonable. And they added that if MSOs
want Boomerang to run ads from the get-go, the network might accommodate that.
The Boomerang name is meant not only to allude to the
network's "boomer" audience, but also to suggest that Turner is "bringing
back" these classic cartoons the way a boomerang returns to its owner.
By spinning off Boomerang, Turner may risk fragmenting
Cartoon's audience and possibly weakening its strong franchise. But Cohen didn't see it
that way: She said fragmentation is a reality of television today, and Turner is better
off having two animation channels for viewers to choose from out of a lineup of 100 or
In addition, Cartoon is on such a ratings roll that now is
the time to do a brand extension, she added. In the second quarter, Cartoon tied with TBS
Superstation to rank No. 2 in total-day ratings, with a 1.1, according to Nielsen. Cartoon
ranked No. 5 in primetime, with a 1.6.
Cartoon is in the midst of a five-year plan that foresaw
spending $450 million on original programming. As a result, some viewers have e-mailed
Cartoon, and Cohen said her seatmates on planes ask why they aren't seeing as many Yogi
Bear cartoons on the channel.
One Turner official likened the situation to the transition
that Turner Network Television went through when it acquired and began airing contemporary
movies. Turner then created Turner Classic Movies to air the older films.
Boomerang will draw on a classic-cartoon library that
amounts to 8,500 to 10,000 half-hours of programming and includes 2,500 different
characters, Cohen said. MCN
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