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Cartoon Network looks beyond animation for its future

August 17, 2009 |  6:58 am

The Cartoon Network has decided it's not cartoons that are crucial to its future.

The Time Warner-owned cable channel, which has seen its ratings slide over the last several years, is making a big bet on reality and live-action shows aimed at boys. So far, though, the move hasn't paid off as the handful of shows it already has launched have failed to catch on.

Rob.Soarcher.kohf5mnc But the executives at Cartoon and its parent, Turner Broadcasting, are in this for the long haul. 

"I'm not going to make any rash decisions about a strategy after three months," said Stuart Snyder, who oversees the channel for Turner. There have even been discussions about changing the channel's name, although that's not in the cards for now.

There are myriad reasons why Cartoon Network is shifting its focus. For starters, it has become a perennial also-ran to Viacom's Nickelodeon and Walt Disney Co.'s Disney Channel. Also, advertisers, particularly in the food and beverage categories, that used to spend heavily on networks aimed at children are cutting back. Cartoon Network wants to skew older in the hopes of luring new advertisers of products including video games and consumer electronics.

But the new direction has left many animators out of work, and others there are frustrated.

"All these changes are painful," Rob Sorcher, the head of content for Cartoon, acknowledged. But Sorcher, who also oversaw AMC's transition from an old-movie network to a home for critically acclaimed dramas such as "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," is confident he can do the same for Cartoon.

For more on Cartoon Network's big gamble, read the whole story in today's Los Angeles Times.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Rob Sorcher. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times