The end of Saturday morning cartoons

WASHINGTON – Sometime between the rise of cable television and the ubiquitousness of video games today, American kids fell out of love with Saturday morning cartoons.

With the announcement that the CW will swap its Saturday morning children’s line up for a mix of programming aimed at teens and their parents, there will be no more dedicated children’s programming on any broadcast network on Saturdays, according to ToonZone.net.

“It’s obvious what happened,” says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “Cable TV.”

Since the introduction of cable networks like Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel in the 1980s, Saturday morning cartoons slowly began to disappear from the airwaves, Thompson says.

For decades, afternoons and Saturday morning were the only timeslots dedicated to children’s programming. Today, there’s programming 24 hours a day, Thompson said.

Changes in advertising have also hurt cartoons. Advertisers targeted children with sugary cereals, toys and dolls during those limited hours of programming. Program-length commercials, better known as infomercials, weren’t allowed until the 1980s, according to Thompson.

But once allowed, networks preferred to run infomercials instead of more expensive children’s programming, he says.

A cultural shift has also contributed to the demise of shows like “He-Man,” “Smurfs” and “Scooby Doo, Where are You.”

“When we got up on the weekend morning, we stayed in our pajamas sometimes til noon. And Saturday morning cartoons were perfect for that,” says Thompson, who is 55. “I think a lot more kids get up on Saturday morning now and actually do stuff like play soccer, that would the optimistic thing, or maybe they’re just playing video games.”

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