No, Nickelodeon Were Right To Release The Legend of Korra So Soon After the Leaks

Writing for Forbes.com at the end of June (and escaping my attention until know), Merrill Barr postulates that Nickelodeon were wrong to alter their marketing plan for Book 3 of Legend of Korra after the Mexican arm of the network inadvertently let a few episodes from the season get loose on the internet, and are beholden to internet ‘pirates’ as a result. I say that’s poppycock.

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Which American Kids Network Online Store is the Best?

Funnily enough, it never crosses my mind that they three major kids networks here in the US actually have online stores of their own (the Hub has no store of their own, yet). My default destination for online shopping is Amazon, and not just because they have everything. So I thought it might be interesting to actually visit said stores and have a nosey around in there to see what they sell and how well they’re doing it.

Nickelodeon

NIckelodeon online shop screenshot

Starting with Nickelodeon, the homepage greets us with some featured shows, some specials some top sellers and an advertisement (because we all go to shops to buy stuff. In fairness to Nick, they’ve got merchandise for a good chunk of their shows (no Teenage Robot though) and actually go pretty far back too, Alex Mack anyone?

What they’re actually selling though is up for debate. Setting aside SpongeBob as the exception, Nick is a bit odd when it comes to certain things. For example, men’s apparel; which consists solely of skateboard decks. Yup, that’s a new one for me too. Naturally the kids apparel and toys are well catered too, but adults are going to feel distinctly left out.

Interestingly enough, Nick does have a ‘Nickelodeon U‘ section of the store that contains four pieces of apparently random SpongeBob merchandise. Yes, you can buy SpongeBob golf balls, golf club socks, a hamper and a shower curtain. Surely this wins as the most amusing thing I found on there.

The site itself is horribly difficult to navigate and is clearly not intended to be kid-friendly. It seems to be more of a token effort than something that is given serious attention by Viacom.

Disney

This one is a clear winner. Selling merchandise has been the cornerstone of the Disney empire since its foundation and their current online outlet continues the tradition. You can buy anything and everything there (including some fabulously overpriced fine art) and the company isn’t shy about leveraging the entire organisation either. You can buy Disney Channel, studio and park merchandise all in the one place. In other words, if it’s Disney-related, you can buy it. The store itself is easy to navigate and with tons of products, its possible to find something you want.

What I did find to be the interesting part of the store is the homepage itself. Take a look at it. Who’s it targeting? Kids obviously, but if you scroll just a wee bit further down the page, it becomes clear that the Disney Princess brand is being flogged for all its worth. You’ll also note that girls come before boys in the menu bar. Now that is not to say it’s a bad thing, but like Rebecca Hains, I just tend to take a dim view on how Disney targets girls in particular.

Cartoon Network

Lastly, we come to Cartoon Network, long the dark hose of the three but now enjoying either top or second billing. The network has really improved its online store over the version I visited a couple of years ago. Now instead of nothing, there is a ton of stuff, but not just any old crap.

All three networks have the now-obligatory iPhone cases but only CN puts them on the front page. Behind the facade there is a very well-designed and laid out store that could easily be navigated by anyone.

Besides the clear groupings of shows and types of merchandise at the top of the screen, the stuff itself is perhaps the best of all the networks. It would seem that Turner has gotten its act together as of late with a really good variety of products. I mean, OK, there still is the odd dodgy article and the usual toys, but how about not one, but two choices of Powerpuff Girls canteens? Or the fact that they sell stuff for a good many of the classic shows that have been off the network for maybe 10 years or more?

Of course as good a job as CN does, it could do better. Plenty of the shirts that are available elsewhere aren’t available here. So anything in Hot Topic or WeLoveFine isn’t there. A loss for sure on CN’s part because as good as their stuff is, the most exciting stuff is being done away from corporate control.

Overall

Overall, the winner in terms of range is clearly Disney. However in terms of actually creating a great looking shop that will appeal to their audience, Cartoon Network is on top. The loser in all of this is Nickelodeon, although they sell so much through traditional channels, they are likely not as worried as they should be.

The Ritual Of Renewing TV Shows Is Obsolete

The Animation Guild blog has been reporting over the last few weeks and months as the various McFarlane shows on FOX waited for the venerable “renewal” notice. They finally came this past week with everyone returning in the autumn. The only thing that made me think about all of this is that the process for renewing a show is hopelessly obsolete.

Why do studios and networks wait for a certain date before “announcing” whether a show is coming back or not? Oh yes, they have to decide whether to continue a show or not, but there seems to be this almost perverted ritual where networks come forward to say what the story is. Of course good shows get renewed a the drop of a hat and bad shows get the axe immediately. However, it’s the shows on the bubble that get run through the wringer.

Having said all that, this process will soon disappear. Online viewing has much better metrics than traditional broadcast or cable metrics and once it is firmly established, it will be much easier to gauge audience sizes. Indeed, networks may find that just because a show gets low numbers on first broadcast, it may have substantial numbers viewing it after the fact. Why on earth FOX and the rest aren’t using Hulu to its full advantage for this kind of stuff is beyond me

If viewer numbers hold up fairly well in the off-season, then surely a show should continue, right?

To go a step further, why even have “seasons” at all? Sometime in the foreseeable future, that concept will also disappear. Hopefully then, orders will be continuous with no need to have crews get shuffled around to save costs.

All in the future though, unfortunately.

A Look At Nickelodeon

Sorry Viacom, as someone whose getting ever closer to becoming an old fart, I have a tough time accepting change for the sake of change.

As a joke, I thought about titling the post, “The SpongeBob Channel” but that wouldn’t be completely accurate even if it is uncomfortably close to the truth.

The yellow one has done well for the channel and it is still quite hard to believe that he’s been around for a full 10 years. He seems to remain fairly popular but it must be said, he’s drifted dangerously close to the cabre of shows that use “DVD specials” to stick around past their best by date.

Of course Nickelodeon does have a lot more programming than SpongeBob, and like Disney, it utilises multiple channels to broadcast them. Besides the main channel, Nickelodeon also has ones for the pre-schoolers (Nick Jr.), the teenagers (Teennick) and it’s library of old cartoon shows (Nicktoons).

Focusing on the main channel, Nickelodeon shares an idea with Cartoon Network in that its programming changes in the evening. The difference is that Nick at Night is aimed at a far broader audience than [adult swim].

Like Disney, Nickelodeon airs a mixture of animation and live-action. Current shows include T.U.F.F Puppy, The Adventures of Fanboy and Chum Chum, Winx [check] and more than one offshoot from a DreamWorks film (think Penguins of Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda).

Nickelodeon was (until very recently when it lost to the Disney Channel) the clear winner when it comes to audience numbers and it managed to do so by not chasing any particular segment. It didn’t go exlusively for boys or girls but it has played safe with programming that appeals to both genders and laughed all the way to the bank.

Nickelodeon also has huge brand recognition that even Disney can’t match and they have been very good at having their well-oiled marketing and merchandising machines continually backing up hit shows.

The only area where Nickelodeon has been a bit weak is getting their older content out on DVD or even streaming. That is changing as I see more and more old shows work their way onto services like Netflix. They’ve also improved access to more recent stuff too, T.U.F.F. Puppy is now available to stream or buy via Netflix and Amazon.

Overall, Nickelodeon may have lost the crown, but it is still the best overall network. They may not have as much animation as Cartoon Network or the vast libarary of Disney to draw on, but they more than make that up with the quality of their shows. Something they are surely aware of, and work hard at as a result.

A Look at Cartoon Network

Via: Wikipedia (yes, I’m old school)

Today’s the turn of Carton Network, a channel that I used to watch religiously at my friend’s house back it had a lot of Wacky Races on it.

There’s a few hardcore folks out there who feel that calling it “Cartoon Network” is now false advertising considering that it has live-action as well as animation on it. That’s missing the point though, because when compared to the other networks, it still has by far the most and broadest range of animation of the lot.

While there are the channel’s current offerings in Adventure Time, Regular Show and the Amazing World of Gumball, it’s somewhat dismaying that the network seems to banish slightly older shows like Billy and Mandy and Foster’s from the schedule. They then remain in limbo before they’re considered ‘old’ enough to be broadcast on sister channel, Boomerang (which by they way, features the likes of The Secret Saturdays and Johny Test if that didn’t confuse you enough already).

In fairness, there’s nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with the network, it just seems to be all over the place when it comes to the programming. I mean, who are they targeting? Yes, they’re gunning for 6-14 year old boys but how well do they compete with Disney XD, a channel created for and devoted solely to, boys? My guess is they’re coming up short.

They had a massive hit in the original Ben 10, but they’ve been riding that horse for years now with nothing similar appearing to replace it. On top of that, there was/is the bizarre situation where the network is in the same corporate family as Warner Bros. and DC (comics) yet the content of those divisions are more often seen on other channels owned by competitors!

That doesn’t make an awful lot of sense as CN could be leveraging those libraries, and those that it owns; think Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. Yes, there is the new Looney Tunes Show, but that simply updates the characters to the modern era in a manner that keeps the characters alive but in no way endangers the viewing numbers with Baby Boomer content.

Cartoon Network has been lurching from hit show to hit show as of late but in fairness to them they’ve been on the ball for Adventure Time when it comes to merchandise, an area they’ve traditionally been spectacularly weak in.

It would be nice to see some more cohesion between shows as well as a more robust lineup that doesn’t skew so hard towards different tastes.

Overall, Cartoon Network remains the best choice of all the channels for animation, but it has been slipping of late, and it is still uncertain how far that will continue.