Welcome to the first In-Depth article of 2017! In-Depth articles serve to provide a case study on a certain subject, using research and the historical record to give a solid explanation. And this month’s topic is one that has been a long time coming.
Cartoon Network. The channel that broadcasts Sonic Boom and hosts a bunch of original content, such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe. In the past few years, Cartoon Network has made a lot of questionable decisions which have contributed to poor ratings for Sonic Boom. Which leads me to the first half of this article.
Sonic Boom ratings have dropped. Significantly. A show that could bring in nearly 2,000,000 viewers can now get just 150,000. And I know what some of you are thinking. 2,000,000 is still bad. Other shows can do better, like Teen Titans Go. Here’s the thing. As of the last few years, they haven’t. And ratings like Sonic Boom’s are much more common on Cartoon Network than you think.
Teen Titans Go is a show Cartoon Network is obsessed with. This is something I’ll be pointing to a lot in this article. But with how much the show had been promoted, it never reached 3,000,000 views in ratings (ratings data for this and latter examples come from the same source I’ve been giving you guys every week, TV By The Numbers). In fact, its peak ratings had been reached three years ago. The majority of the episodes get rating numbers around 1,100,000 to 1,900,000. Do those numbers sound familiar? These are the exact same numbers that Sonic Boom gets when the show is actually promoted. A show placed in a poor time slot with poor promotion can rake in similar numbers to a show that is heavily promoted and in a better time slot. So ratings are not Cartoon Network’s problem with Sonic Boom. Want more examples? Okay, here’s ratings for Adventure Time. Overall, the show did slightly better than Teen Titans Go in its peak. It even topped 3,000,000 a couple of times. But there are a lot of episodes that didn’t even break 2,000,000. In fact, the show hasn’t reached 2,000,000 in 2-3 years! Once again, I remind you that Sonic Boom has been able to reach these same numbers with less promotion than these shows. How about Regular Show? Overall, it did better than both shows. And yet again, the show has largely gotten ratings between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000. Its peak was roughly 4-5 years ago. And just like Adventure Time, the show hasn’t been able to get above 2,000,000 in 2-3 years! How about the Powerpuff Girls reboot? It is the worst ratings performance of them all. In fact, it can be argued that, with half of the show’s ratings being below 1,000,000 views, Sonic Boom has done better with ratings than a reboot of one of Cartoon Network’s most successful original shows! That is insane! One more, here’s Steven Universe‘s ratings. It has only surpassed 2,000,000 in ratings 9 times out of more than 100 episodes. It also gets ratings in the 1,000,000-2,000,000 range. So Sonic Boom’s 1,000,000+ ratings, despite a poor time slot and poor promotion, has been able to get ratings that rival Cartoon Networks own original content. And before you say “well, the shows were able to get past 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 viewers and Boom wasn’t”, that’s not the point. These weren’t consistent ratings. In fact, 3,000,000+ were very rare achievements with Cartoon Network’s shows. And Cartoon Network has continued to treat shows like Teen Titans Go with lots of love and pampering, despite these shows losing half of their audience for a few years now. Cartoon Network clearly has no issues with shows that don’t top 2,000,000, and clearly sees them as successful with these ratings, even to the point that they treat them well and renew them for multiple seasons. So if Sonic Boom can rake in ratings that rival the network’s own original content, without even getting promoted and getting placed at an early time slot, that’s a success. Sonic Boom has managed to achieve nearly 2,000,000 views with absolutely no help from Cartoon Network, where as their own original content can’t even get that with heavy promotion and better time slots. Imagine if the show had gotten a better time slot, and it had been promoted throughout the season! Whether you like Sonic Boom or not, the show has done extremely well. In its first season, anyway. The second season has gotten even worse with ratings and mistreatment. Which leads me to the second half.
Cartoon Network’s treatment of this show has been god awful. It all started when Cartoon Network did not promote the show once all year, opting to wait until just a few days before the premiere to promote it. They also placed it at a very poor time slot, early in the morning. Then, they simply stopped promoting it again. Remember that unannounced winter hiatus that went from December to January? And remember how Cartoon Network told no one when the show would be back either? Cartoon Network doesn’t announce anything. Case in point, it was just discovered today that Cartoon Network won’t be doing an Upfront this year. Upfronts are basically television’s E3 conferences. You find out about the future of their channels, which includes content. Nickelodeon and Disney have one scheduled, but not Cartoon Network. So we don’t even know Cartoon Network’s future. But I digress. Back to Sonic Boom. They randomly decided in July 2015 to give the show noon time slots each day for two weeks. Randomly. It was an improvement, but again, it was a decision that came out of nowhere. They promoted the show again. But as soon as those two weeks were up, the show migrated back to a 7am slot with Pokemon XY (more on that show in a bit). Yet again, Cartoon Network told no one. An audience cannot tune into a show if they don’t even know it exists. Even worse, an audience cannot tune into a show if you just randomly screw with the schedule and hide it. Sonic Boom is a ghost show. It spent all of season one invisible, which contributed to ratings dropping in the latter half of the season. The season finishes. No more episodes. Then we get to season 2. We’re not even 10 episodes in, and already there has been even more mismanagement than the previous season. The show was randomly pushed to Boomerang, where the audience is significantly smaller. They spent an entire episode completely bombarding the audience with Teen Titans Go promotion, so much so that times the episode would get blocked or scrunched by Teen Titans Go graphics. They randomly decided to stop airing reruns on Cartoon Network in the final few weeks of the year, and they haven’t returned yet. Boomerang, nor Cartoon Network, have promoted the show in a year and a half. In fact, the show has not been promoted once in season 2. Boomerang has not even mentioned it. Nothing. At all. The only thing done right is a 6:00pm time slot.
As bad as this has been, it’s not even limited to Sonic Boom. Remember the Pokemon XY cartoon? It aired immediately after Sonic Boom’s morning premieres during season 1 and got just as little promotion. The new Pokemon cartoon for Sun & Moon? It now airs on Disney XD. That wasn’t all. I’d like to tell you about two shows that aired before Teen Titans Go. I specifically mention Teen Titans Go again, because this was a show that helped replace these two shows and their time slots. Those two shows were Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Cartoon Network never outright said they were cancelled. They were simply unmentioned in a press release and dropped from the schedule. It wasn’t until last year that we even found out why it was cancelled, and it didn’t come from Cartoon Network. Instead, Cartoon Network promoted their replacements: Teen Titans Go and Beware The Batman. They both took their time slots. So Teen Titans Go had already gotten off to a bad start. It is a show that, since the beginning, has peeved a lot of people. It’s a symbol of all that is wrong with Cartoon Network, quality-wise and mismanagement-wise. But I’m not even done listing examples of shows. 7 years ago, The Spectacular Spider-Man was also cancelled out of seemingly nowhere. They had even planned a third season, but before production could begin, there was cancellation. And once again, Cartoon Network didn’t explain why. But guess what? It wasn’t even “cancelled”! It just “couldn’t go on with production”. And we, once again, got an explanation from someone not from Cartoon Network! I’m still not done listing shows, either. And if you can believe it, not even their own original content is immune to this mismanagement. How about blatantly lying about Uncle Grandpa’s fate, and splitting up that and Steven Universe’s fourth seasons into 2 seasons to “claim additional seasons”? Cartoon Network said in a press release that both shows had been renewed, then randomly announced that Uncle Grandpa was “ending production” 1-2 weeks later. And here’s another example: Tower Prep. Once more, Cartoon Network didn’t actually say it was cancelled. In fact, an entire year had passed before we learned what happened. And once more, it wasn’t Cartoon Network that did it. In fact, as of late, Adventure Time and Regular Show were the only shows that Cartoon Network have actually announced cancellation for. That says a lot. And even then, they’ve hardly promoted their final seasons. So much so that you’d think they were cancelled ages ago. So it’s not just Sonic Boom. It’s a ton of others. A decade of mismanagement, poor scheduling, poor PR, and incompetence. And this isn’t a Christina Miller-only thing either. In fact, she has been running Cartoon Network as long as Sonic Boom has been airing on it. This has been happening for years, even when Stuart Snyder was running the channel. It’s been a stream of mishandling from people, not the deeds of one person.
In conclusion, this is not a ratings problem. This is not because the show is bad. This is poor mismanagement. SEGA hasn’t been much better, having hardly discussed the show themselves. But every single thing that has gone wrong with the Sonic Boom cartoon, and quite a few others? Cartoon Network’s doing. SEGA isn’t the one airing the show. Cartoon Network is. Cartoon Network isn’t dealing with the Sonic Boom brand as a whole. SEGA is. I expect Cartoon Network to give proper treatment to all of their shows, no matter what it is. Do not obsess over a single show, offer it many many airings, giving it taglines like “Your New Favorite Show” when it hasn’t been that way for years, then outright ignore it. This is a disgrace, and a missed opportunity. I cannot stress enough how much ratings potential Sonic Boom has. And I cannot stress enough how badly Cartoon Network is treating this and many other shows. And it shows no signs of stopping.