The CW is getting out of the Saturday morning kids business and is making a deal that would have 4Kids Entertainment program the time periods.
4Kids will sell the advertising during the WB Saturday morning time periods and the CW will "participate" in those sales, said John Maatta, the CW's chief operating officer.
4Kids has been providing four hours of Saturday morning children's programming on Fox affiliates through a leasing arrangement since 2002. "Fox recently exercised its option to extend its deal through the end of the 2008-2009 season," 4Kids said in a statement.
When the WB folded and CBS and Warner Bros. formed The CW last year, the new network continued to run kids programming under the Kids WB banner, which for a while was the top-rated kids block on Saturdays. In its heyday, 4Kids’ “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh” were among the network’s top-rated kids shows. A few years ago, Kids WB cut back on its after-school block, returning that weekday time to affiliates.
Shows on Kids WB now include “Tom and Jerry Tales,” “Shaggy & Scooby Doo Get a Clue,” “Legion of Super Heroes” and “The Batman.”
Some of those shows might continue to air on the WB after 4Kids takes over, Mr. Maatta said.
The once-lucrative kids market has become a difficult one for the broadcasters. Viewing has shifted to cable, where the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network provide a 24-hour destination for young viewers.
At the same time, ad dollars for kids programming have stagnated; the market is expected to turn even more difficult as governmental pressure on food marketers forces them to curtail advertising from products that can’t be described as healthful.
“The kids business in broadcast is a business where we’ve got to be very smart,” Mr. Maatta said. Teaming up with 4Kids allows the WB to offer kids programming and provides an ad sales force that’s dedicated to that market.
The WB has about 10 people dedicated to the kids business, he said. The department will be disbanded and the company will try to absorb its staffers.
The move would take Warner Bros. out of the broadcast arena for kids. The company has a formidable history of kids programming and a strong lineup of characters, including Bugs Bunny, Batman and Superman. But despite potential synergies with Cartoon Network, apparently the economics didn’t work out.
4Kids’ portfolio includes high-profile children’s brands Yu-Gi-Oh!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cabbage Patch Kids.
The 4Kids lineup on Fox includes “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward,” “Viva Piñata,” “Sonic X,” “Winx Club” and the new shows “Dinosaur King,” “Yu-Gi-Oh! GX” and “Adrenaline Project.”
4Kids Entertainment manages ad sales for the kids programming block on Fox and retains all advertising revenues.
Corrected spelling of Mr. Maatta's name at 5:45 p.m.
Corrected Mr. Maatta's title at 6:35 p.m.