Tykes, Tweens and Teens

From the time kids can toddle on over to the TV set, they understandably find the medium mesmerizing. The bright colors, moving figures, happy music-it's enough to make a child want to just sit there all day.

And today, more than ever, children can sit and sit and sit. For example, PBS, Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Net-work, Fox Family, Fox Kids and WAM! all kick off their days with TV for kids. Most of them start with programming for the preschool set and set aside afternoons and early evenings for the older crowd, ages 6-11, 9-14 (the newly defined tween segment) and teens.

And there is money to be made. According to New York City-based ad tracker Competitive Media Reporting (CMR), The total ad spending on children's educational, children's and family entertainment and animation programming for 2000 was $1.138 billion, up $20 million from 1999. More specifically, $1.08 million was spent during educational programs, $277 million during children's and family entertainment, and $860 million during animated fare.

Fox Kids' Joel Andryc, executive vice president of programming and development for Fox Family and Fox Kids, says: "Children's TV is more competitive today and a much more lucrative industry. The entire ad industry realized that kids have funds of their own and that they influence the purchasing decisions of their parents."

John F. Wilson, senior vice president of programming, East, for PBS, says a big way children's television has changed over the years is how kids "watch up," or watch shows for bigger kids.

This offers an underlying challenge for children's programmers. Andryc says that it's tough today to make shows that kids want to watch and yet send out the right message. Fox Kids' Digimon: Digital Monsters is aimed at 6- to 11-year-olds yet garners preschool viewers, too.

"Kids are growing up more quickly as they see movies and prime time programming that skews older," Andryc explains. "And while Barney may have been appropriate for a 5-year-old in 1990, that doesn't hold true today."

While Nickelodeon provides seemingly one-stop shopping for children in the cable universe, the broadcast market has its own favorites. Ratings cover the period 10/2/00-2/18/01.