It took some time to process this news; as far out as it is. Last month, CNN announced that they were rebranding their other cable news network Headline News as HLN and giving it a complete makeover too. Borrowing more than the idea of a three lettered name from MTV, HLN is now gunning for the teen demos, and is banking on animation to help them grab it. The only question that is really raised is: why?
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The part of the announcement that is of concern to this blog is that Frederator will be producing a half-hour show called ‘I Can Haz NewsToons’. Aside from the inexplicable name, the show will:
scour the internet to present the most original e-cards, caricatures and doodles, and for the first time bring people’s favorite political and social cartoonists from the world of print to TV.
On the one hand, the idea is great, and should hopefully see animation play a greater role in factual programming in addition to entertainment. There’s no shortage of animation being produced on the internet even if plenty of it is of dubious quality. The nature of the actual content itself remains to be seen though and there have been plenty of similarly dubious efforts to mingle media sources before; without much success I should add. There is also however, just one problem: Next Media Animation.
The crazy Taiwanese studio (that does a lot of things right) pretty much has the animated news market sown up at the moment. While you might be most familiar with their wacky re-enactments, they also produce accurate reproductions of events and distribute them worldwide. They’ve built their business on integrating animation into the news, and they’ve built up a considerable lead in expertise and experience that will be hard to top.
So while there really are a lot of questions surrounding the idea of trying to get teens to a) watch the news, and b) do it on a TV screen, the bigger question is will trying to use animation to make a success of it risk alienating the technique from the very demographics that are needed to ensure its long-term success?
We’ve already seen what happened when animation was shuffled off to be something for kids and created a dearth of quality content for decades that followed. If HLN similarly pigeonholes animation as some sort of immature teenage nonsense, could it suffer again as adults turn away and distance themselves from the technique?
That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, we’ll soon see what kind of magic spell that animation holds over the teens of today.