Warner Bros. Acquires HBO Max Kids, Family Programming
The top-down reorganization of WarnerMedia’s TV and streaming units includes a shift in oversight of children’s and family programming for HBO Max.
Responsibility for developing child- and family-friendly programs has shifted from the content group led by HBO and HBO Max content director Casey Bloys to the group led by Tom Ascheim, the Disney veteran who, as president of Global Kids, Young Adults came to Warner Bros. and Classic in June.
Ascheim came to Warner Bros. from Disney’s Freeform to lead a newly created content division that aims to transform the studio and characters from his vault into bigger players in the Kidvid universe. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Tom & Jerry, and others in the WB menagerie are underutilized in modern times compared to Disney and other classic toons.
Ascheim’s portfolio includes the linear cables Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies. He also controls Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation. In that capacity, Ascheim was seen as better suited than Bloys to focus on child-specific originals made under the Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. brands for HBO Max. Bloys’ HBO Max programming team will continue to oversee the young adult content and adult animation for the service, which has been sluggish since its debut on May 27th with subscribers.
One of the top priorities for Ascheim’s unit (known internally as KYAC) is developing preschool-centric programming to complement HBO Max’s investment in the Sesame Street franchise. According to Ascheim, pre-school television accounts for up to a third of the children’s television market. Its roots in the children’s television arena are deeply rooted. Prior to Disney, Ascheim worked with Sarnoff during Viacom’s Rapid Growth Years at Nickiadeon Cabler in the 1990s and 2000s.
“We want to expand the definition of children’s and family offers in the context of the Cartoon Network family tree,” said Ascheim diversity. “We’re going to be an animated company, but we’re not always going to be cartoons. We try to serve the children and family audiences as much as possible so that we can better serve HBO Max. “
Creating children’s programs is a challenge as the target audience is spread across digital and linear platforms. Cartoon Network and HBO Max need to bring their characters and brands to kids where they congregate, be it YouTube or Snap or gaming platforms and the like.
“We have more tools than ever before. We work so hard to make a great program for our linear networks. The other part of our work is to get into the nooks and crannies where children live, ”said Ascheim. “You have to find the best and first way to meet your audience and get them to come back and see your shows.”
HBO Max is also aiming to reach a wider area of the older kids and tween market with a wider variety of shows, including live-action tariffs presented under the Cartoon Network banner. He points to the new cartoon series “Unicorn: Warriors Eternal” in the work of Genndy Tartakovsky, prolific creator of “Powerpuff Girls” from Cartoon Network, “Samurai Jack” from Adult Swim and other franchises. “Unicorn” revolves around a group of “old teen heroes” who band together to save the world from evil. The anthology-style series is considered “inclusive for all ages” and is inspired by myths and folklore from around the world.
The Cartoon Network Studios series will air on HBO Max next year. “Unicorn” is in line with yet another ambitious Toon production in the works for HBO Max from Warner Bros. Animation and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV next year. “Gremlins: Secrets of Mogwai” is set in Shanghai in the 1920s, decades before the time frame of the 1984 live-action film “Gremlins” directed by Joe Dante.
WB’s KYAC has signed a contract for three more projects by well-known children’s author Mo Willems and Greg Silverman’s Stampede Ventures banner. There is an animated series based on Willem’s “Unlimited Squirrels” franchise, a music special “Naked Mole Rat Is Getting Dressed: The Rock Special” and a pilot contract for a live-action series “immersive” called “Cat the Cat’s Show the Show Show with YOU “That you!”
Also in the works is a revival of the animated series “Tiny Toon Adventures,” which Spielberg produced for the studio in the early 1990s when an earlier regime tried to revive Warner Bros. ‘Animation business. “Tiny Toons Looniversity” has won a two-season contract for HBO Max and Cartoon Network. Spielberg is back as executive producer with his Amblin Television banner.
Image: “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai”