Casting my damaged memory back 30+ years, I used to actually get up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons, where the animated fruits of the network’s imaginations were fed to kids like some national electronic breakfast. I especially loved the music cartoons like the Banana Splits, Archies, Beatles, Fat Albert, and on and on.
For a variety of reasons, the Saturday morning ritual is no more:
- Six key factors have led to children watching less Saturday morning cartoons: more recreational sports, the introduction of cable and satellite TV, the Internet and video games, a poorer quality of animation, and a greater emphasis on family time. These factors are rather self-explanatory with the exception of the latter: the divorce rate of Americans now stands at 49 percent, and time on the weekends has become more precious for children as many commute between parents’ houses. For parents who only have limited access to their children due to either divorce or career advancement, plopping them down in front of the television for five hours on a Saturday morning is no longer a viable option. Among most parents, divorced or not, there is a new emphasis on “quality” time. Consequently, taking one’s children to the theater, mall, museum, event, zoo or beach on the weekend is deemed more appropriate to being a “good” parent, than letting kids sit and watch cartoons.
….The success of Nickelodeon and the other cablers during the week has led to their own shortcomings on Saturday mornings. That is to say, Nickelodeon and the others are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; there is no draw card for children to watch at any specific time or on any specific day. It is always there! A child who never knew the phenomenon of Saturday morning cartoons sees no reason to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings rather than on Wednesday nights or Sunday afternoons. Nevertheless, according to some studies, when a child sees the color orange, the first word the child associates with that color is “Nickelodeon.” Today’s children are being raised as brand loyal to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network’s signature checkerboard. These brand loyalties form as early as two years of age.i Needless to say, this brand loyalty demonstrates that despite Nickelodeon’s not earning comparable ratings to broadcast networks in the ‘80s on Saturday mornings, Nickelodeon and the others are doing something right.
….Now the future of television is TiVo and other DVRs (digital video recorders). TiVo will cause the next great generational shift in the way children consume programming. Where cable TV facilitated viewers in watching a certain genre of programming anytime of day, DVRs will bring viewers one step closer to television on demand — watching a specific show at any given time. “Once TiVo takes off, it will force networks to come up with a new way of getting advertisers,” observes Simensky. Since viewers will then have the ability to skip watching commercials, how will networks function without ad dollars as the primary source of revenue? O’Neal realizes that, “There will be a change. The beauty of the medium is that it evolves. The business models evolve. As the advertisers and the broadcasters and the techno-wizards who come up with these devices get together, they will discover a way for everyone to make their money. There will be some kind of sponsorship associated with shows. For example, at the bottom of the TV screen, it might say, ‘Sony,’ with a banner running across outlining new Sony products.” Television may return to having specific products sponsor a show: for example, in a decade one may watch Kellogg’s Cornflakes Proudly Presents The Simpsons. The bottom line is that the way 30 year-olds remember Saturday morning cartoons, the current generation of children may remember Nickelodeon once DVRs and digital television arrive in the mainstream. [Animation World]