Simply launching a new linear show is no longer enough for Cartoon Network, which is now creating multiplatform experiences—usually including a tie-in mobile or console video game—for all of its new series.
The network has unveiled its upfront slate for this year, which includes 13 shows (six new ones, and seven returning series) with more than 20 mobile and console games to better reach its kid audience.
“Whether it’s with the mobile experience, with the longform experience, with a gaming strategy, all of it is happening from inception. We’re looking at how we can deliver on that promise of, we don’t build just shows, we build worlds,” said Christina Miller, president of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang.
The network is now “playing a total consumption game, although we still lack a measurement for it,” said Miller. “We’re really looking at how kids are spending their amount of time and how we can deliver the best engagement across our brands and our platforms.”
Miller began implementing this strategy two years ago, with last year’s Mighty Magiswords—which launched last year with games and microcontent alongside the linear series—becoming the first new show “that was very deliberately designed to be a complete, immersive, total platform package,” said Miller.
The next multiplatform debut is OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, about the adventures of an optimistic boy. Premiering this summer, the show was inspired by OK K.O.! Lakewood Plaza Turbo, Cartoon Network’s first original standalone mobile game. It will be followed by a console game later this year, which the network jointly developed with game studio Capybara Games.
“We’ve created this very connected brand experience,” said Miller, adding that all of Cartoon Network’s new shows will utilize this strategy going forward. “We’re going to be wherever kids are, and pushing content out there in the places they want it and seem to be consuming it,” said Miller.
The network already has 44 digital and mobile apps, with close to 150 million downloads overall.
“Cartoon Network has cracked the code on how a leading media brand can engage with fans through true total consumption,” said Donna Speciale, president of Turner Ad Sales, in a statement. “Whether it’s VOD or gaming, or everything in between, plurals are connecting with this brand globally in ways most media brands haven’t yet experienced. That presents an incredibly powerful opportunity for our advertising partners this upfront.”
Cartoon Network is the most-watched cable and broadcast network on VOD, with 413 million “orders” last year. “We have not treated VOD as a place to just list stuff, but to actively look at how that space is being programmed: to do stunts and make sure that people can keep bingeing if that’s the behavior that they want. I think that has been very different than everyone else, and definitely at the forefront of a willingness to put more content there without worry about our linear ratings eroding,” said Miller.
In addition to OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, Cartoon Network’s new shows include Summer Camp Island, which is based on a Cartoon Network short about two best friends at a magical summer camp, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, based on the two theatrical films.
The network is rebooting its Ben 10 franchise, with the new series debuting in April. The show is about 10-year-old Ben, who travels the country while on summer vacation with his grandfather and cousin, and finds a strange watch that turns him into 10 different heroic aliens.
“He’s been around as long as I’ve been with Turner and Cartoon Network, and it’s a chance to bring that particular brand back and modernize it the way that kids are viewing now. Globally, it’s been an amazing brand,” said Miller.
Returning shows include its most popular series: Teen Titans Go!, Steven Universe and The Amazing World of Gumball.
Many of Cartoon Network’s new console games are spinoffs of its series, including The Powerpuff Girls Lego Dimensions, Ben 10: Up to Speed, Steven Universe: Save the Light and Surely You Quest (which is an offshoot of its Mighty Magsiwords integrated app MagiMobile).