WarnerMedia Unveils Ambitious Preschool And Kids Blocks On HBO Max, Cartoon Network; Preschool Slate To Reach 50 Originals By 2023

WarnerMedia is announcing a stepped-up commitment to preschool and kids programming across Cartoon Network and streaming service HBO Max, with a goal of reaching 50 original preschool shows in the next two years.

The company made the announcement of the fall programming plans ahead of a virtual upfront presentation to media buyers. HBO Max is ramping up its offerings for advertisers ahead of the launch of an ad-supported tier of its service, which WarnerMedia expects to launch by June.

Cartoon Network, designated as the central kids and family brand for WarnerMedia, has adopted a new tagline “Redraw Your World.” The aim of that message, a press release said, is “to empower kids to feel comfortable with who they are, embrace their uniqueness and believe in their own ability to impact change.” The network said it has also made its first kid-musician-in-residence deal with Nandi Bushell, a 10-year-old viral music star.

On the preschool front, the major initiative is called Cartoonito, a new preschool programming block designed to “support each child’s unique potential,” the company said. The fall slate includes 20 new series, including Bugs Bunny Builders (working title), Mush-Mush & the Mushables and Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go. Within two years, the company said, the slate of originals will reach 50 shows.

Competition for preschool and elementary-school viewers and their families used to be, at best, a two-horse race between Nickelodeon and Disney. But that was in the linear age. With digital and streaming continuing to explode, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and YouTube have all made significant forays in the kids arena, to varying levels of success. Disney has successfully pivoted into direct-to-consumer streaming, with Disney+, and HBO Max is the latest multi-billion-dollar streaming effort with a kids component.

The kids push is being overseen by Tom Ascheim, a former Nickelodeon and Disney executive who joined WarnerMedia last year as president of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics. “Cartoonito is our biggest commitment to preschool programming in 100 years,” he said. “Our educational philosophy coupled with the incredible caliber of innovative, educational content that will comprise this offering is second to none.”

Cartoonito is based on the proprietary preschool educational framework of Humancentric Learning, encouraging empathy, respect, and fairness. Humancentric Learning was developed in partnership with  educational psychologist Dr. Laura Brown, who has a long resume of helping shape preschool programming.

Cartoonito is designed to be a thoroughly modern preschool brand, both by leaning into our iconic content and by inviting fresh new voices in. We’ll make high-quality, authentic stories that kids and parents can enjoy together,” said Amy Friedman, head of Kids & Family Programming, Warner Bros and a former colleague of Ascheim’s at Nickelodeon. “Grounding everything we do in Humancentric Learning will ensure that kids embrace and celebrate their differences and everyone else’s.”

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