Hollywood Reporter Ratings Note

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The following appeared in the Hollywood Reporter on October 2, 1996. The citation is Hettrick, Scott (1996-10-02). Two milestones for Cartoon Network. The Hollywood Reporter.

The Cartoon Network is celebrating its fourth anniversary with new carriage agreements that will bring the network above the coveted 30 million subscriber level by the end of the month. The number is significant in that Madison Avenue generally doesn't deem a cable network worth pitching to advertisers unless it reaches at least that many homes. In another sign of maturity for the network, a third animated series will be spun off from the network's award-winning nest of original shorts incubated at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. Johnny Bravo will join Dexter's Laboratory and Cow and Chicken on Wednesday nights next fall.

And Cartoon stands to gain from a potential influx of library and original programming from the Warner Bros. library and the Warner Bros. animation unit once Time Warner's purchase of Cartoon parent Turner Broadcasting System Inc. is completed in less than two weeks. Mike Lazzo, senior vp programming and production, said the 30 million threshold was one of the hurdles the network was eager to get over. But he said he thought it might take five years instead of four, since available channel space on cable systems dried up almost as soon as the network was launched in October 1992. We and the Sci-Fi Channel were two of the last networks to get in before the door was slammed shut, he said.

But the network still faces some viewership challenges, especially when kids go back to school and viewership drops by about half. Ratings have been lower this year than last, Lazzo said, but he attributes that to the rapid increase of about 12 million subscribers in the past year, which gave the network a bigger available audience but a smaller percentage of overall viewers who have had time to find the network. Original programming, such as Johnny Bravo, will take awhile to build an audience, Lazzo said. I can get the highest numbers by playing 'Scooby Doo' and 'Bugs Bunny' 24 hours a day, but that won't help me keep an audience over time, he said. The first 3 1/2 years we were just trying to present 'The Flintstones' in a new way. But we won't be able to grow our audience that way. We have to try new things.

The highest-rated programs on Cartoon Network, such as an original episode of the new Jonny Quest series last week, draws about 650,000 viewers. Lazzo said that he hopes that becoming part of Time Warner will give Cartoon the same first crack at original animated series from Warner Bros. as the network has with Turner-owned Hanna-Barbera. The Johnny Bravo series, which follows the adventures of a man with big muscles and big hair, grew out of the World Premiere Toons series of original shorts. Thirteen 30-minute episodes of three 7-minute shorts have been ordered.

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