The ripple effects continue unabated. Since 1966, there has not been a cartoon series scheduled during a regular season after 7:30 PM on network television. (4) Instead, web programmers have preferred periodic animated specials always telecast during the earliest prime-time hours, which affords a larger juvenile audience. With few exceptions, the cartoon specials adhere to subjects drawn from juvenile literature or are built around purely children’s themes and holidays, utilizing adaptations of popular TV cartoon, comic book and newspaper comic characters. And shortly alter the fanciful Stone Age comedy was rerun solely for children, viewers could watch Saturday mornings and scarcely see a living soul, except in the commercials.
In the mid-sixties, the networks discovered finally what local children’s show hosts had known for years, that juveniles and a few adults too, love animated cartoons. They had long been devoted, unanimousl)’, to a variety of adolescent and pre-adolescent entertainment, even though largely epcats of vintage cinematic cartoons and TV programs such as “The Lone Ranger”, “Fury”, “My Friend Flicka”, “Sky King” and ‘Dennis the Menace”, with a handful of new variety and educational programs. Encouraged by Kellogg’s and General Mills, foremost among the early sponsors using the syndicated all-cartoon show’s tremendous pulling power, CBS broke with tradition in 1963-64. For the advertisers, the network block-programmed two hours of cartoons on Saturday morning, ‘hammocking” the new “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales” and “Quick Draw McGraw” (from the syndicated ranks) between popular holdovers, “The Alvin Show” and “Mighty Mouse Playhouse”. In the following two seasons another hour was added, introducing among the repeats, “Linus, the Lionhearted” in 1964-1965, and after re-editing; “The Tom and Jerry Show” in 1965-1966. ABC followed suit in 1964 and NBC in 1965. In the latter season, ABC premiered “The Beatles” and NBC debuted “The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Shows” (5), landmark series which decimated all competition and affected cartoon content and programming formats into the seventies.
Silverman steps in
At age 26 in 1963, Fred Silverman, the CBS daytime programmer who expanded the network’s cartoon programming, reacted to the competition by wangling a $8 million kitty with which to purchase new shows. In a wholesale shake-up in 1966-1967, the wunderkind almost single handedly revolutionized the structure of children’s programming. Among nine cartoon half-hours, back-to-back, the newly appointed vice president scheduled six hard-action, daring-do fantasies featuring “The New Adventures of Superman” and “Space Ghost”, an original hit, launching the superhero vogue. (6) The overhauled line-up hit the air with a ratings explosion, catapulting CBS into first place in the Saturday morning ratings, a position it has seldom relinquished since. (7) ‘Variety’ chronicled his amazing exploit with the headline “Hi-Yo Silverman!” and ‘TV Guide’ credited him with putting “Zing” and “Profit” in Saturday mornings.
Among the several lessons learned was that the old shibboleth that children liked repeats and watching anything that moved was no longer valid. Growing ever more sophisticated with time and exposure, juveniles were responsive to new programming and the new cartoons delivered the largest audience. For the first time in the late sixties, Saturday mornings became “a jungle of competition from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM,” as ABC vice-president Edwin T. Kane characterized it.
Animated cartoons were also added on Sunday mornings starting in 1964 on ABC, increasing to four programs during two-and-a-half hours in 1966-1967. An hour was programmed also by CBS beginning tall 1967. But the audience had largely eroded a decade later. Also, the spiraling emergence of animated cartoons coincided with the full scheduling of programs in colour. In 1965,1966, NBC switched to the first full colour schedule. That season, CBS telecast virtually all its shows in colour, and ABC followed in 1966-1967.
At prices ranging from $48,000 to $62,000 per half-hour, the networks began fierce bidding for new animated cartoon shows. Generally, ABC and CBS bought 16 episodes over two years, rerunning each cartoon six times, while NBC usually purchased 13 episodes of a series over one year, repeating it four times. The practice continued virtually unchanged through the seventies, while costs mushroomed from $70,000 to $100,000 per thirty-minute program. But while much of the early success had to do with Silverman’s professional maxim, “familiarity breeds acceptance,” and his use of some popular, well-known properties, the rival networks joined the cartoon bandwagon sometimes relying on new animated product. In 1967-1968, thirty million Americans, largely juveniles, had their pick of twelve-and-one-half hours of cartoons on the three networks and the top-rated shows pulled in fourteen million viewers. On Saturday mornings alone, the combined web take was $50 million and by 1970 the juvenile take totalled $66.6 million. Animated cartoons were on Saturday mornings to stay.