Monday, October 07, 2013

TV 'Toon Ratings, and TV Toons

It's really unsurprising that the Yellow Family has been renewed for another season:

... The Simpsons matched last week's 2.9 adults 18-49 rating. Bob’s Burgers garnered a 1.9, down three tenths from last week's 2.2 adults 18-49 rating. Family Guy notched a 2.5, down a tenth from last week's 2.6 adults 18-49 rating. American Dad was even with last week's 2.1 adults 18-49 rating. ...

After all these years, The Simpsons remains Fox Broadcasting strongest animated performer. Sure, football is through the roof, but animation competes well with all the other scripted entertainment, and has high syndication value.

But The Simpsons' renewal is symptomatic of television animation's overall success. In the past few weeks, Bob's Burgers has been picked up for a new season, and Fox Broadcasting is greenlighting new prime time animated half-hours.

But it isn't just prime time. In the last six months, hiring at many television animation studios has continued to be robust.

Disney TVA is ordering new shows. Warner Bros. Animation, though its series work is at low ebb, will be producing more Scooby Doo direct-to-video features, (because the nation and world can never get enough of the Scoobster.) And DreamWorks Animation TV, new player on the block with fresh money in hand, has only started hiring staff.

So here in October, the Guild continues processing numbers of new employees at studios around town because the sector is hot. But nobody should get smug, because the good times are never constant. Consider where tv animation was five years ago:

... Why is employment for teevee animation so sucky?

I think there are several answers, and I'll start with the recent and specific:

1) The Time-Warner animation companies (Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation) have cratered in terms of employment, and they now have way fewer projects going than in earlier years. (There are bright spots. Fred Seibert informs us that "We're just about to start Adventure Time at Cartoon Network, started Fanboy & Chum Chum at Nick" ...)

2) Universal Cartoon Studio has only one series, and that series employs a limited number of people.

3) Nickelodeon, while somewhat busy, is down from previous employment highs.

4) Animation aimed at 'tweens and teens is close to non-existent. At the moment, most animation series target the pre-school and early elementary set. The older demographics are enfolded by live-action, due to Disney's success with Miley Cyrus and the "high school musical" franchise.

5) Business models have morphed as licensing fees shrink. Every studio is tight with a dollar.


And this was at a time when overall industry employment was up. Then, feature animation was expanding, and small-screen cartoon employment shrinking. The opposite of five or six years before that.

Which only goes to prove an axiom about the animation business: If you don't like Cartoonland's present business trends, wait a few years, because it will change direction. The same way a roller coaster changes direction.


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