The One Surprise From the Cartoon Network Upfront

Although the recent Cartoon Network upfront presentation (they still have those?) didn’t reveal any major surprises as far as programming goes. Two new concepts and surfaced. The first is that the network is now ‘Always On’ but given the previous iteration of the idea, my money is that you have to be a cable or satellite subscriber to access. Boo. The second is a bit more interesting and is another attempt by an established network to figure out the teen mindset.


Called ‘Cartoon Network Anything’, the “micro-network” will:

serve an ever-growing stream of fun and funny content to mobile phones and other small-screen mobile devices.

Hmmm….intriguing. The content itself will be 10-15 seconds long and will be randomised so that the viewer won’t know what’s coming next.

I’m curious about this on two fronts. The first is how will content that straddles the divide between GIF and mini-episode resonate with consumers. Surely the easier thing would be to simply show an endless stream of the former; it’s what Tumblr practically is anyway.

The second is how they plan on monetising it, if at all. The old MTV model (a stream of short form content) was quickly discovered to have a rather glaring problem; namely that it was very difficult to keep people watching for any significant amount of time when the content changed every 4 minutes. Will kids and teenagers (short attention spans that they have) do any better with even shorter content? It would have to be truly superb if they are to hang around for anything longer than a few minutes.

The network is crowing about the possibilities of the platform for sponsorships and ‘native advertising’ but colour me sceptical. How many ads can be crammed into one minute of programming before viewers get jaded? Given American network’s unbridled lust for advertising, it’s quite possible that there are upwards of 20 seconds of advertising for every minute of programming.

The other question is whether they will be animated or not. It would seem like a natural fit and it would be possible to animate stuff like that fairly cheaply. FOX has already used GIFs for their marketing of the network’s ADHD block on Saturday night. Animation is Cartoon Network’s bread and butter and they should be easily able to adapt new and existing properties to work on this new platform.

In any case, with Stu Snyder’s recent departure, things will get interesting at Cartoon Network; we’ll see how these developments pay off.

4 thoughts on “The One Surprise From the Cartoon Network Upfront”

  1. What makes you surprised they’re still having Upfronts? isn’t that how they annually announce their plans for the upcoming year?

    1. An upfront is basically a presentation that outlines what will be shown on the network in the upcoming year with the hope that advertisers will buy commercial slots early.

      And yes, it is surprising that they’re still about but advertising on TV is still big business and there’s been little innovation in how it’s bought and sold for years.

  2. This is what happens when they take this “short attention span” thing that our generation has attached to it and run with it. What do they hope to accomplish in the span of 15 seconds that some guy in his bedroom can also do? This is a pointless endeavor. When you’re a multinational giant in the entertainment business, you should not be competing for people’s time with some guy in his bedroom with a single computer and an Internet connection.

    These things never catch on. Why would I look at what amounts to nothing more than a GIF meme for no reason other than the fact that CN’s name is on it? I would understand if it was promoting something else, but those things can’t stand on their own.

    1. There’s a juxtaposition going on. Yes, CN is competing with people in their bedrooms but, they will still be around long after the people in the bedrooms have had their 15 minutes of fame. They may not succeed with viewers today, but you can be sure that the next group of kids coming behind them will be ripe for harvesting because they don’t know any better.

      Look at MTV. Most adults at the time thought it was utter shite, but kids and teens lapped it up and turned it into a goldmine.

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