Fox affiliates are pushing the network to move the Fox Kids block back from its current 3pm to 5pm position to 2pm-4pm. The switch would allow the affiliates to air more adult programming, which theoretically at least would serve as a better lead-in for the local news hour. Though some sources close to the situation say that the time switch is a done deal, others say a number of different scenarios are still possible, including the complete elimination of the daily Fox Kids block.
Over the past few years the Fox Kids block has provided excellent exposure for the X-Men, Spider-Man, and more recently, Digimon cartoons. The upstart Fox network was at its innovative best when it proclaimed its youthful focus with Fox Kids -- a focused block of network programming during a time period that had traditionally been dominated by syndicated talk shows that ran the gamut from Oprah to Jerry Springer. But in the post-Pokemon era, the Fox Kids ratings are on the wane. The highest rated show in the block, Digimon is down roughly 25% in the ratings from last season. The live action Power Rangers is off even more, over 27%.
Fox isn't the only network with cartoon ratings problems. Pokemon, the mainstay of the WB network's kiddie programming is down a whopping 45% with an average 2.5 rating for kids 2-11 versus a 4.6 rating for the same group a year ago. Where are the kids going? On-line or outside perhaps, since overall ratings for children's programming on Saturday morning and weekdays are flat or trending downward.
The two exceptions to this trend are on cable. Nickelodeon's weekday afternoon block is up, as is the Cartoon Network, which thanks to Dragonball Z and its Toonami block is up by about 20%. But even this good news should be seen in the light of increased cable penetration since the Cartoon Network has added 8.3 million subscribers since last year, while the Nick has grown by 3 million. Given the choice it appears that kids are choosing the more action-packed anime of the Cartoon Network over Pokemon and its imitators.