Network Decay: Unique Situations
The channel’s decay either is in a situation where it doesn’t fit any of the other categories, or is constantly fluctuating between decaying and recovering.
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Cartoon Network's Situation
- If a channel can be given the title of "the MTV of the Internet Generation", that dubious honor would very likely belong to Cartoon Network, originally used as a showcase for classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers cartoons, but these were eventually replaced by an increasing number of original productions and anime; the Boomerang network was created to serve the original purpose of its parent network. The decision to run original programming created an era that is largely perceived as the network's Golden Age as well as becoming a major contributor to the The Renaissance Age of Animation, as it generated popular shows that broke out of the Animation Age Ghetto (like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexters Laboratory) and helped fuel the anime boom at the turn of the century (thanks to Toonami and [adult swim]).
The good times were not to last, sadly. Although complaints of decay begun as early as 2004, when Cartoon Network changed its logo to the abbreviated "CN", it didn’t became much of an issue until 2007, when a major executive change in the network occurred when then-current president Jim Samples resigned over the controversy of the Boston Bomb Scare. Shortly thereafter, then-Vice President Jennifer Davidson passed away due to a sudden illness. This resulted in Cartoon Network’s two head honchos both being replaced by Stuart Snyder and Robert Sorchernote . Complete with Williams Street head Mike Lazzo committing a Face Heel Turn towards animation, it was clear that the once famed network was never going to be the same.
The network eventually (and randomly) phased out original series that were very popular; this was somewhat justified, however, as many of those series were out of first run. The problem is that they replaced these popular series with mediocre shows and fewer original series; they even began running a small amount of live-action movies (though at the time, they were mercifully rare). The network fell deeper and deeper into Network Hell as its executives tried to turn it into a generic kids' network to compete with Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel — they killed Toonami (and its replacement, Miguzi) in complete defiance of what the viewers wanted, then replaced those blocks by starting to show live-action films on a more frequent basis. The decay also forced Adult Swim and Boomerang to decay as well, to heavy disdain by their fanbases; while also causing tension within the network, with many veteran animators either quitting or being handed their walking papers. This attempt to rebrand the network came to a head when CN Real, a block of live-action reality shows and scripted series, was created. To the surprise of nobody except the network higher-ups, CN Real tanked harder than anything the network had ever done before.
Realizing where they went wrong, the network has made a strong effort to return to their roots with reruns of Tom And Jerry, Looney Tunes, and the like as part of their regular weekday morning lineup, and they've been pitching high-quality new animated series to cater to a variety of interests, like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Adventure Time, and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated among others. The revivals of Cartoon Planet and Toonami also brings a silver lining in the clouds that Cartoon Network can return to its former glory in the fans' eyes. On the other hand, Executive Meddling is still very prevalent, as evidenced by the network's constant timeslot-shifting shenanigans and swift cancellations of highly acclaimed action shows such as Sym-Bionic Titan and Thunder Cats 2011 as well as DC Nation's Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. In addition, live-action shows still exist on the network, as evidenced by Level Up, Hall of Game, and the upcoming Incredible Crew; but at least they are mercifully low in amount and not advertised as heavily as the newer animation projects. So, at this point, it's not completely out of its Dork Age yet, but it's getting there.
In the end, Cartoon Network is one of the most insane examples of this trope, if only because of how much of a rollercoaster ride the network's ridden in regards to the trope. CN could spend as much as eighteen months showcasing live-action shows, only to go back to animation the next day as if nothing happened — and just when you get comfortable with that, it'll return to live-action. This is likely due to the network's top executives being firm believers of the Animation Age Ghetto, which leaves one to wonder why they want to be in charge of a network devoted to animation in the first place.
- [adult swim], Cartoon Network's late night block, originally consisted of adult-oriented animation including seinen anime and animated comedy, as well as unedited versions of titles from the original Toonami block. While the block received some concerns about having an adult-oriented block on Cartoon Network, not to mention the weirdness of some of its programming, Adult Swim was well received and helped contribute to the "Golden Age" of Cartoon Network, as it generated popular and well acclaimed shows that broke out of the Animation Age Ghetto which includes strange but often hilarious original programming such as Robot Chicken, The Venture Brothers, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Home Movies, and Mission Hill, helped fuel the anime boom at the turn of the century with titles such as Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, The Big O and InuYasha, as well as being a haven for shows that were previously Too Good to Last and Screwed by the Network such as Family Guy and Futurama, and even helped boost their popularities to the point that they are now beloved by their parent companies again.
Unfortunately, these days were not to last. When Cartoon Network began to decay and sister block Toonami was canceled as a result, it was inevitable that Adult Swim was going to decay with it. Heck, the Boston Bomb Scare started out as an Adult Swim ad campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force so one can arguably say in an Unwitting Instigator of Doom, Adult Swim started this whole mess. One of the earliest instances of the decay was when Adult Swim ran Saved by the Bell for a week as a joke, inspired by complaints about their cheesier retro programming at the time. Fans were not happy about this and hoped it was just another one of Adult Swim's jokes, as Adult Swim has been a notorious Trolling Creator. But unfortunately, their fears were realized. The block's emphasis began to increasingly move into both original and imported live-action shows such as Childrens Hospital, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Delocated, and the UK version of The Office. While the live action Adult Swim shows have better critical reception than their Cartoon Network counterparts because they aren't just Discovery Channel ripoffs, these works and the decision to air live action has (not surprisingly) divided or enraged much of the fandom.
It didn't help that these live action shows were pushing out a number of animated shows; with (much like the main Cartoon Network) less animated originals being presented, along with an increasing over-reliance on FOX Acquisitions for viewership and filling timeslots. And that's not even the worst of it: mirroring Cartoon Network's decision of ending Toonami, the most glaring example of the decay has been the block's move away from anime. Once one of the main reasons to watch the block; if not the main reason why Cartoon Network had the guts to make Adult Swim in the first place, it's since been relegated exclusively to the Saturday Night-Sunday Morning timeslotsnote and has been considered to be an almost legendary example of not just the decay of Adult Swim, but Cartoon Network as a whole. Suddenly, the block that saved shows from being Screwed by the Network were now screwing its own shows over.
The "live-action instead of animation" slope; combined with their increasingly vocal disdain towards anime; as well as their insults to their fans about the decay in their ad bumpers have been enough to push many of its fans away. In fairness though, it's nowhere near as bad as a lot of the networks listed on Network Decay, as the presence of strong anime and animated comedy shows have managed to keep the block out of Total Abandonment and their fans clamoring for more.note Adult Swim might have it worse than the rest of Cartoon Network when it comes to the "rollercoaster ride" the block rides in regards to this trope, due to the same constant schedule switching that has screwed over many of its titles, what's decaying one week can be on the upswing the next. They have also called Cartoon Network's decay out in the past, and even lampshade their own strange programming choices at times, so they're at the very least aware of their own "decay". On April Fools' Day 2012, Adult Swim briefly replaced their normal Saturday night block with Toonami to rave reception, and and after a huge fan campaign, brought back Toonami on a regular basis on May 26, 2012 note , which is a very good sign that the block could be returning to its roots. We’d all love to know if Adult Swim is more on their way to Total Abandonment or Recovery; or if their executives are becoming advocates of the Animation Age Ghetto for that matter, but in the end, it’s really hard to make a call.
- Boomerang, Cartoon Network's classic animation channel, isn't running live-action programs (unless you count The Banana Splits) but it has apparently begun dumping its rules on how old a cartoon has to be in order for them to show itnote , and has also become rather hypocritical about which ones it shows. They're willing to run Baby Looney Tunes and Duck Dodgers (2002-05), but not the 1990s Looney Tunes spin-offs Taz-Mania or The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries the same unfortunately also goes for other 1990s Warner Bros. Animation fare like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Histeria!, despite this network having previously shown Batman The Animated Series and Superman The Animated Series. This could be justified for some when you consider that many shows CN axed in the last decade were extremely popular, and Boomerang is a channel with a tendency to show popular cartoons that CN doesn't (Although this doesn't excuse why they won't show stuff like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, which are still extremely popular to this day and have tons of fans wanting them back on air - in fact, they end up getting licensed to rival networks, such as The Hub in the case of Animaniacs). Not to mention this will only become fairer over time, since Boomerang is meant to show Cartoon Network’s classics and Time Marches On along with the cut-off date.
To add insult to injury, there has recently been an influx of commercials on the channel. There's only two types of commercials that they do show about their own programming: "Boomer-Royalty" and a random commercial about a show they air. Everything else is promoting (mostly) live-action shows on Cartoon Network, which isn't helping. They never promote the airtime for shows if they AREN'T on CN. And if there's a special event coming up on CN, expect the parts between and after the show air the commerical at least once or twice.
- Latin America got it worse. It totally abandoned the classic shows format and became an equivalent of India's POGO, now showing programs aimed at teenage girls, including CN Real shows and many MTV shows like Parental Control and Date My Mom. Fortunately, they created Tooncast, which fulfills Boomerang's purpose.
- In the UK, CNX began as a channel devoted to shows that appealed to the American equivalent of shonen in the mornings and afternoons, with uncensored anime and kung fu movies later at night. However, its Toonami block, aimed at a younger audience, quickly expanded to take over the entire channel, which still fit the channel's original mission until they started showing live action. It mutated into CN Too, which is actually marketed as a second Cartoon Network.
- If you live in Asia, you may have noticed that Cartoon Network Asia and its sister channel Boomerang Asia are both very confused about their reasons of existence as of late. It has gotten to the point where all new shows premier on Boomerang Asia while Cartoon Network Asia only airs old classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Ben 10 (which they air about 10 times a day), and the occasional original rerun, with about only one new show every now and then (as in, one every year). Heck, even many shows on their current list has premiered on Boomerang years before being finally put on Cartoon Network. Rubbing salt on the wound is that Boomerang Asia is not as widely available and yet it gets all the best shows does not help. Shouldn't those old reruns be on Boomerang while new shows be on CN instead?
- Meanwhile Cartoon Network has been stabilizing in the States in the last few years, sadly in Latin America this is not like this and it is making its way more properly into the Slipped and even in the Abandonment categories. During their earlier years, the channel was a reflection of its parent channel in the USA, until middle and late 90s when it started to became a little more different on their programming choices and adquiring other rights of what to air. Even around earlier 2000s they started to adquire many other fresh series of other interests such anime series as Pokémon, Card Captor Sakura or Rurouni Kenshin (it is a common say in Mexico that these series with those that were on the free networks, Fox Kids and even Nickelodeon went to aired, were what started a second rise of anime in Mexico), and some others to add in the progamming blocks before they went forward to add its own Toonami block in the programming.
Sure it is quite debatable when exactly it started to become into a Network Decay: for the animation fans, it was right away when anime entered into the schedule; for the otaku, when anime started to dissapear from the programming; or when all the attention of the channel went directly into their Cash Cow Franchise, Ben10.
First, it needs to be noted that the Latinamerican subsidiary has four different signals: one for Mexico, one for Argentina, another for Brazil, and one for the rest of the latinamerican countries. Around late 2003, in Mexico, the anime programming in Toonami moved into late hours at night with some of the then new episodes of series like InuYasha because of complaints from parents that the channel was showing violence at the time it was airing the block (because it was the time that kids were just getting at home from school and/or doing homework), but not only that, the Mexican sponsors of the commercial breaks had a good regulation and patrol of this block, so rumors say that they were the ones who mandated to move the block until 1 AM. In late 2004, the rest of the latinamerican signals followed its example and moved the block late at night.
In 2005, it was obvious that their licenses of anime started to decrease more and more, especially when Animax started to air. Around late 2005, CNLA announced that they were going to add [adult swim] into their weekend's late programming to fill the "dead" hours of Saturday and Sunday, however it also started some debates in internet sites and forums when people started it to compare with its original parent block that at the time they were still showing anime regularly. Of course, the guys behind the latinamerican AS went into their way to laugh about this and people didn't like it. However, the destiny of the block went into the sewer when in some latinamerican countries like Argentina, the block was censored by some cable operators and even separated from its own channel. One of the reasons was that kids were staying up so late to see AS when the programming was obviously not directed at them, but parents permitted them to see it. Eventually the block dissapeared completely from programming in 2007, and it was moved into their sister channel Isat (and eventually the block was ended for good in 2009).
When Ben10 started being aired, it was obvious that the reception the cartoon had was enormous, even bigger than The Powerpuff Girls, so the channel decided to focus their attention to it and practically they went into airing it the most times they wanted. But the attention to only one series like Ben 10 affected others of their original shows as well, even when the schedule wasn't so full of it: the finals of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Codename Kids Next Door and EVEN the 10th anniversary of The Powerpuff Girls were passed almost without a rerun that wasn't in their morning's Cartoon Cartoons block. And adding salt into the wound, the leftovers of Toonami went to be programmed even more further into the morning with even shows that were clearly not for 3 AM in the morning (4Kids' One Piece, and Ashita No Nadja to mention some examples), until the moment that only Pokémon and Naruto were left in the programming.
By 2008, the channel was reflecting its parent's Network Decay in the States. The schedules were made a mess, and though it had CN's original series and even showing Looney Tunes at late hours at night, no one left the note that Ben10 was in the whole schedule, at almost 10 times by day (and even it still has a whole hour dedicated for it some times in the same day, in the present). The programming then started showing live-action movies in their own spaces of movies and the reception was bad because it was completely abandoning its original concept. However, the presence of live-action was mostly limited to the movies and even then with the premiere of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, Unnatural Historyand EVEN, El Chavo del ocho (former CN Real shows like Destroy Build Destroy or Dude, What Would Happen? were released FOUR years after their premiere in the original channel). And let's not even start with the commercial breaks. For some reason or another, the commercial breaks started to become more longer than usual, airing in blocks of 15 minutes each, and even showing shorts in the middle of them.
At the time the channel passed into their own Noods era (Toonix era, whose characters conveniently are being used in merchanising and even in some other places as CN Japan) and a little bit before the Check It one (the Latin America signals were the LAST ones to get into it), the programming schedules were at least somewhat stabilized until the airings of Adventure Time and Regular Show... and all went into the drain again, when the channel started to be beaten up in ratings by kids channels like Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. CNLA, especially in 2012, to compete against them introduced other live action series (such as Level Up and even an original Latinamerican co-production with Televisa, called La CQ...) in the roots of the rise of tween sitcoms being more popular with kids these days.
As of 2013, the channel has been really in a rollercoaster since apparently it doesn't look like they know who is really their demography anymore... or The Powers To Be THINK they know who to appeal. Compared to CN in the States, it seems that they aren't going to come out of their own Dork Age yet...
Other "Unique Situations" examples:
- By their very nature, sports channels which consist of nothing but college and high school sports (such as the Fox and CBS college sports channels and the Big Ten Network) must decay in the summer due to the lack of college and high school sports being played. This means that they either carry minor league summer sports or some programming which strays slightly from the format, or air rerun after rerun of football and basketball games played months ago and with all of the drama of a live event removed with a simple check of the team schedule or even looking at the event's guide listing, along with reruns of coach's shows which could be awkward if said coach has been terminated since the first airing of an event.
- Tennis Channel is in a similar situation. During major tournaments, particularly the four Grand Slams, it features nearly round-the-clock coverage, but at other times has to fill out its schedule with original programming — Tennisography, "classic" matches (sometimes cut down to half an hour), Best of 5, Destination Tennis (a travel show), but all tennis-related. The farthest the channel has drifted from its actual subject (except for the requisite late-night/early-morning filler of infomercials) is an occasional flirtation with badminton or ping pong, but as those are net sports they still easily count (since there will never be a market for The Badminton Channel in the States).
- CBS College Sports mutated into the CBS Sports Network, and still shows all their college programming, joined mostly by Jim Rome's show (after he got Screwed by the Network by ESPN) and sports leagues too tiny to be taken by any other network like pro lacrosse and the NBA D-League.
- German TV station "Das Vierte" started as a channel that would show a long range of shows and movies from the sixties to eighties. As time went on the channel became poorer and now there are only a few advertisers willing to pay them, forcing the channel to change the schedule in 10am Living gospel church broadcast for an hour, 8pm random movie for two hours and 10pm for Ghost Hunters for an hour and the rest of the programm being constant Home shopping and infomercials. They just have no other choice and I am sure that they will be cancelled sooner or later...
- which is ironic considering "Das Vierte" means "The fourth" as in "the fourth channel" that they originally wanted to become (with other longer running networks having been called after numbers, too). More specifically, those networks are ARD, branding itself as Das Erste (The First), and ZDF (Das Zweite, The Second), which are the two long-established public broadcasters, and Die Dritten (The Thirds), a collection of public regional channels affiliated with ARD. With its choice of name "Das Vierte" essentially aspired to become the most-prominent private station, ahead of all the others that have been started (the oldest among them 20+ years earlier). Needless to say, it hasn't quite worked out that way...
- Another note of comedy is that some TV-magazines completely ignore the drastic changes and have the programs of "2pm commercials, 3pm homeshopping, 4pm infomercials" being listed in every issue. Really gets annoying when they have you favourite culture channel having only the 8-10 PM programs being printed in favor of knowing which type of commercial you can watch on "Das Vierte".
- The Lifetime Movie Network (now known more by their catchy initials, LMN) used to exist to air nothing but Lifetime Movies of the Week, which also included TV movies that aired on the Big Three networks. With the broadcast networks completely ditching TV movies outside of Jesse Stone, the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Wal-Mart/Proctor & Gamble films which have to get on TV as if they were paying for an Infomercial, and their mother channel's new A&E ownership deciding to invest more in reality shows and Ripped from the Headlines TV movies which will age horribly in only a couple years, LMN has long since begun to air Hollywood films that fit the channel's focus group and take it out of the all-Damsel in Distress-all the time rut it was in for many years.
- Bauer Media's "Place Network" of stations fluctuates between Network Decay and being local; in any case, it's networked 12pm-6am on Saturdays and 1pm-6am on Sundays on 96.6 TFM, on 97.4 Rock FM all late show 10pm-1am is shared with Key 103, and now Radio Aire, Hallam FM and Viking FM are all going with the now cliched "Best Variety of Hits" slogan and playlist, which has been widely criticised on social networking and news sites - e.g. radiotoday.co.uk. The addition of a new head of music probably contributes.