Turner Broadcasting made the toons everywhere model part of its upfronts this week. During its presentations the company announced that live streaming of Cartoon Network programming would commence “shortly.” This will include access to the current programming content on the Web at the CartoonNetwork.com site as well as across the iOS devices already served by the CN app.
It is going to be a hit.
VOD cartoons have always been a quiet giant in mobile content. I got a personal glimpse of this in its very early days. Verizon sent me the first VCast phone with its small VOD trove of clips six or seven years ago. I passed it across to my daughter, hoping to get a dazzled response, but was met with disinterest. Okay, video on a phone -– tiny, tiny TV. What is the fun in that, was her response.
“Ooh, wow, SpongeBob,” she said when she finally drilled down far enough to find the Cartoon Network stash among the nests of folder. Old-timers may recall that the VCast and Sprint TV interfaces were as inviting as a row of file cabinets -– exactly what they were. At any rate, the prospect of having SpongeBob on demand was enough to turn her. She had discovered what many VCast customers with kids had already found -– these things are great babysitters.
Cartoons were a surprise early hit on mobile video because they were the perfect confluence of medium, content and use case. The shows themselves were by structure already short enough for easy sampling or full-length mobile rendering. The gadget was perfect for passing on to a kid. And the use case was, well, just about any airport, car back seat, or waiting room where kids get fidgety.
A live stream of Cartoon Network programming may not be as compelling as the streams in a news app like CNN’s, largely because the distinction between the on-demand and live programming is so slight. The existing CN app for iPad, for instance, is every bit as good as the Time Warner sister company’s HBO Go. Subscribers to the partner cable stations can unlock enormous back catalogs of cartoons and live programming. But even better than the HBO Go app, CN’s is a persistent promotion of the network even to non-subscribers. The app is filled with clips that for many kid vid mavens will be good enough.
The real killer use case for kids and CN’s live stream may well be as a spare TV in the house. When kids get pushed off of the other available screens by big brother playing "Mass Effect 3" or the parents insisting on watching those Big Bang reruns for the fiftieth time, the juniors will have an ever-ready extra TV.
I am all for it. Speaking as a dad who had to suffer through years of SpongeBob, Dexter’s Laboratory and Jimmy Neutron toons playing relentlessly on the family TV, this toons everywhere thing came a decade too late. But let’s hope it will save the next generation of parents from having to figure out -- what the hell is SpongeBob’s deal, anyway? I still don’t get it, and I had to watch (or ignore) all of those episodes at least fifteen or twenty times.