Jul 26, 2005

Why Most Cable Operators Don't Carry Boomerang

Every now and then, I hear this question:
Why don't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The network's been around for five years, and yet, it's mostly on satellite and a few cable operators (nearly all Time Warner Cable). I just happen to live in a Cox Cable service area set up in Pat Robertson's backyard, so we're more likely to pick up the NFL Network or iLifeTV than Boomerang (by the way, these are some of the most recent additions to our lineup). So, why won't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The short answer:
Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing the network and marketing "retro" and cable operators aren't convinced there's an audience for "classic cartoons."

The long answer:
When Cartoon Network announced the creation of Boomerang, a retro animation network aimed towards baby-boomers and family audiences, in 1999, fans of these classic cartoons were thrilled. However, on April 1, 2000, when viewers (and cable operators) got their first look at the network, they were less than pleased. The lineup wasn't a linear 24-hour network but rather a rigid eight-hour rotation that repeated thrice a day. Not exactly something worth watching, let alone something worth carrying on cable lineups.

In 2001 and for a period of two years afterwards, the powers that be at Cartoon Network implimented a phase-out of classic animation (not unlike what TBS and TNT did when they got rid of all animation in the mid-90s) to convince cable operators to pick up their new Boomerang network, which, unfortunately, led to Cartoon Network dropping all Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Paramount, and non-Tom and Jerry MGM shorts and shows. The strategy backfired, as most cable operators ignored Boomerang, largely because of its non-traditional network lineup grid.

In late 2004, Cartoon Network publicly stated that they [i]might[/i] want to change Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network. Also around this period, Boomerang created a more linear network with a 24-hour lineup. Cable operators remain skeptical about the future of Boomerang and whether or not they want to actively pursue it. Some operators still believe that Boomerang has the eight-hour
"boomeranging" lineup, which is why they often tell customers that if they carry the network, it could only be on a VOD service.

But the lack of cable operator confidence is only half of the story. Cartoon Network has NO idea how to market nor operate a retro television outlet. Turner Broadcasting knows how to operate a classic movie network because, gasp, they actually have people who give a damn about classic movies. The people who currently run Cartoon Network have little reverence for classic animation. It's not even funny. Boomerang is often seen as an afterthought throughout Techwood Drive.

When was the last time you've seen an Boomerang ad on Cartoon Network for something ON Boomerang rather than the network itself? Seriously, Boomerang has had numerous events and premieres, and most of the general public is oblivious from it because THEY DON'T HAVE BOOMERANG! June Bugs, the Pink Panther event, the Fantastic Four event, Battle of the Planets, the recent premieres of Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, if you don't have Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, or Dish, and didn't have access to the internet, you wouldn't have known a damned thing about them since Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing Boomerang.

Cartoon Network should look at how MTV Networks manage TV Land for an example of how to manage Boomerang. TV Land has a very diverse lineup of classics, near classics, and retrospective/historical programming every day and night with a strong variety of choices. Boomerang could be an animated equivalent of TV Land, but neither Cartoon Network nor Time Warner would want to commit that much energy to something like that. It'd be so much easier to turn Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network than to, I don't know, make Boomerang something worth watching. Seriously, why aren't the remastered Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts on Boomerang right now? Why hasn't Boomerang aired more classic shows from the Warner Bros library nor acquired more shows and shorts from Classic Media, Sony, and Entertainment Rights?

Seriously, there's a classic sports network (ESPN Classic), a classic movie network (it used to be AMC, but Turner Classic Movies has seriously outclassed it), a nostalgia network (American Life [we ain't got that either]), and a classic television network (TV Land), and Boomerang, a classic animation channel, would fit in nicely, but alas, cable operators are oblivious to it.

Boomerang has so much potential and yet lack the bodies to actually see it through, which is a damned shame.

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