Imagine If... | Warner Bros. Bought Fox Kids Worldwide

Originally Posted by Jeff Harris

Actual Events: In 2001, News Corp and Haim Saban put their Fox Kids Worldwide unit for sale. Better known as just Fox Kids, the company owned cable networks throughout the world, numerous animated and live-action properties including the Power Rangers franchise, the Fox Kids block on Fox and the Fox Family Channel in the US. Among the two leading names to potentially buy the brand were The Walt Disney Company and Time Warner. Disney ended up buying the company, transforming Fox Family into ABC Family and transforming Fox Kids into Jetix throughout the world.

It was with great reluctance that Rupert Murdoch sold Fox Kids Worldwide to Time Warner. The Chairman of the company was his rival, Ted Turner, founder of CNN and Cartoon Network. Regardless, the photo-op alone of the two rivals shaking hands was worth the front page ink for weeks to come.

The Fox Kids/Time Warner deal was one of the biggest deals the company had made since, well, the Turner acquisition. Not only did they gain a cable network in Fox Family, now renamed Family WB, but they also acquired a massive library of animated and family-friendly programming to compliment their already massive library of animated and family-friendly programming.

Family WB, now under the management of Turner Broadcasting, became something Time Warner needed in the 21st century: a family network ala Nickelodeon. Sure, Cartoon Network was fine and all, but because it was an animated channel, there were a few limitations in programming. So, Family WB became "their Nickelodeon," and viewers noticed the changes in Spring 2002. Family WB was the home of popular cartoons, sitcoms, dramas, and family-friendly movies from Warner Bros, including Animaniacs, Family Matters, Full House, Batman, and others. Former Fox Kids shows like Eek! The Cat, Power Rangers, and The Tick also called Family WB home. In 2006, in an unprecedented move, Family WB presented the US television premiere of recent family-friendly films from Warner Bros., Charlie and the Chocolate Family, Corpse Bride (which aired during Family WB's 13 Days of Halloween), and The Polar Express (which aired during their 25 Days of Christmas).

Cartoon Network and Kids' WB also benefited from the Fox Kids purchase. Cartoon Network and Boomerang both got animated titles from Fox Kids, including X-Men, and Samurai Pizza Cats (all of which became standards on Toonami) and a "retro Fox Kids"-like block, which virtually recreated older animated Fox Kids-era lineups, on Boomerang. Kids' WB became the exclusive home for premiere episodes of Power Rangers from Fall 2002 until the present. It was during this period that the Pokemon/Power Rangers/X-Men Evolution/Yu-Gi-Oh! lineup became the most watched hours in Saturday morning television.

Cartoon Network and Family WB became sibling channels of sorts during this period. Animated shows were often shared between the two channels. In fact, in 2003, Cartoon Network created a Saturday-only action block for Family WB called SVES (Saturday Video Entertainment System), which was a late-afternoon three-hour block that showcased action titles from both networks, including Digimon, Dragon Ball, Spider-Man, Batman Beyond, Power Rangers, and Samurai Jack. The block became successful, but, uncomfortable with the name, it was rebranded that fall as Jetix.

Internationally, the Fox Kids channels became rebranded as Kids' WB Network, continuing to offer a mix of Fox Kids and Warner Bros. programming to an international audience. Kids' WB also produced international shows that eventually ended up stateside on both Family WB and Cartoon Network, including Totally Spies, Code Lyoko, Oban: Star Racers.

Nearly a decade has passed since the acquisition. Now, Family WB and Cartoon Network positioned as the top two family entertainment channels shockingly knocking out Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, which began to emulate some of Family WB's programming in recent years. As the digital era of television approaches, the tandem are busy developing digital subchannels, including a teen-based channel and an action channel built from the best of Toonami and the best of Jetix.

Back to reality:

Disney is doing a heck of a job with the Fox Kids Worldwide properties. But they could be doing so much more with them. Heck, Fox could have stayed around longer than they did, but they gave up early. Disney didn't really need to buy Fox Kids.

They bought them because they could.

Fox Kids, at the time, wasn't at the top of the ladder anymore, but they were in a position that they could have knocked down the so-called king, Kids' WB. But they gave up and gave Disney the opening they needed. I'm not saying that Time Warner could have been a savior, but they had more of a need for Fox Kids than Disney did. Disney already had a family entertainment outlet in The Disney Channel. Time Warner didn't (and no, Cartoon Network doesn't count). Only in recent years did Disney utilize the Fox Kids library titles in the US, but just the action titles, including the Marvel titles and especially Power Rangers, which has become their biggest boys property. Now, Time Warner has to three-pronged attack from Disney in the forms of the tween powerhouse Disney Channel, one of the fastest growing networks Toon Disney/Jetix, and another growing channel called ABC Family, the latter of which could have been owned by Time Warner themselves.

What's next?


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