Saturday-morning cartoon is a colloquial term for the original animated television programming that was typically scheduled on Saturday mornings in the United States on the major television networks. The genre's popularity had a broad peak from the late 1960s through the early 1990s; after this point, it declined in the face of changing cultural norms, increased competition from formats available at all times, and heavier regulations. In the last two decades of the genre's existence, Saturday-morning cartoons were primarily created and aired to meet educational television mandates. Minor television networks, in addition to the non-commercial PBS in some markets, continue to air animated programming on Saturday while partially meeting those mandates.
In the United States, the generally accepted times for these and other children's programs to air on Saturday mornings were from 8 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. Until the late 1970s, American networks also had a schedule of children's programming on Sunday mornings, though most programs at this time were repeats of Saturday morning shows that were already out of production. In some markets, some shows were pre-empted in favor of syndicated or other types of local programming. Canadian Saturday morning cartoons were largely defunct by 2002. At least one U.S. broadcast television network still aired non-E/I animated programs on Saturday mornings as late as 2014; among the "Big Three" traditional major networks, the last non-educational cartoon (Kim Possible) last aired in 2006. Cable television networks have since then revived the practice of debuting their most popular animated programming on Saturday mornings on a sporadic basis.
An animated feature film may use 24 different drawings per second of finished film, sometimes even more. Due to lower budgets, Saturday morning cartoons are often produced with a minimum amount of animation drawings, sometimes no more than three or four per second. In addition, the movements of the characters are often repeated, very limited, or even confined to mouths and eyes only. An exception to the 24-frames-per-second rule is when animation is "shot in twos" in which 12 drawings per second are used and the switch to 24 frames per second is for quick events such as explosions or "wild takes".
Although the Saturday-morning timeslot had always featured a great deal of children's programming beginning in the early 1950s, the idea of commissioning new animated series for broadcast on Saturday mornings caught on in the mid-1960s, when the networks realized that they could concentrate kids' viewing on that one morning to appeal to advertisers. Furthermore, limited animation, such as that produced by such studios as Filmation Associates, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Total Television, Jay Ward Productions and Hanna-Barbera Productions, was economical enough to produce in sufficient quantity to fill the four-hour time slot, as compared to live-action programming. While production times and costs were undeniably higher with animated programming, the cost of talent was far less (voice actors Daws Butler, Don Messick, June Foray, Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Jean Vander Pyl, Hal Smith, Howard Morris, Allen Melvin, Bill Scott, Dayton Allen, Janet Waldo, Paul Winchell, Hans Conried, Casey Kasem and, in later years, Jim Cummings, Frank Welker, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, Tara Strong, Corey Burton, Nancy Cartwright, Cree Summer, Maurice LaMarche and Tom Kenny became known for their ability to hold several roles at once, sometimes even on the same show) and networks could rerun children's animated programming more frequently than most live-action series, negating the financial disadvantages. The experiment proved successful, and the time slot was filled with profitable programming.
Until the late 1960s, a number of Saturday-morning cartoons were reruns of animated series originally made for prime time during a brief flurry of such series a few years earlier. These included Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat, The Jetsons and Jonny Quest, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.'s The Alvin Show, and Bob Clampett's Beany and Cecil.
Some Saturday morning programs consisted of telecasts of older cartoons originally made for movie theaters, such as the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons, the Tom and Jerry cartoons produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for that studio prior to establishing their own company; the Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle cartoons produced by Paul Terry's Terrytoons, and Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker cartoons. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was not uncommon to have animated shorts produced with both film and television in mind (DePatie-Freleng was particularly associated with this business model), so that by selling the shorts to theaters, the studios could afford a higher budget than would otherwise be available from television alone, which at the time was still a free medium for the end-user. Some of these legacy characters later appeared in "new" versions by other producers (Tom and Jerry by Hanna and Barbera for their own company, and later by Filmation; Mighty Mouse by Filmation and later by Ralph Bakshi, The Pink Panther by Hanna-Barbera with Friz Freleng as a consultant).
The remainder of the networks' Saturday-morning schedules were filled by reruns of black-and-white live-action series made in the 1950s, usually with a western background (The Lone Ranger, The Roy Rogers Show, Sky King, Fury, Rin-Tin-Tin, My Friend Flicka, etc.) and occasional first-run live-action series such as The Magic Land of Allakazam, the later color episodes of Howdy Doody, The Shari Lewis Show, Shenanigans, and Watch Mr. Wizard.
Independent stations (TV stations not affiliated with networks) often did not show cartoons on Saturday mornings, instead running feature films (usually B-Westerns or low-budget series movies such as The Bowery Boys or Bomba the Jungle Boy), chapters of "cliffhanger" serial films, comedy short subjects originally made for movie theatres (Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, and Our Gang/The Little Rascals), older live-action syndicated series like The Adventures of Superman, The Cisco Kid, Ramar of the Jungle, The Abbott and Costello Show, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Hopalong Cassidy, Flash Gordon and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle; and regional sports shows, often wrestling or bowling programs.
The mid-1960s brought a boom in superhero cartoon series, some adapted from comic books, (Superman, Aquaman, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four), and others original (Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, etc.) Also included were parodies of the superhero genre (Underdog, The Super Six, and George of the Jungle, among others.) Another development was the popular music-based cartoon, featuring both real-life groups (The Beatles, The Jackson 5ive, and The Osmonds) as well as anonymous studio musicians (The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats). Live-action series continued to some extent with Sid and Marty Krofft's H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Hanna-Barbera's The Banana Splits, Stan Burns and Mike Marmer's Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, ABC's Curiosity Shop (produced by Chuck Jones), Don Kirshner's widely popular The Monkees, and the British-made slapstick comedy Here Come the Double Deckers.
With the 1970s came a wave of animated versions of popular live-action prime time series, mainly with the voices of the original casts, including Star Trek, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, The Partridge Family, and The Dukes of Hazzard. Less literally adapted was The Oddball Couple, which turned Neil Simon's mismatched roommates into a scruffy dog and a fastidious cat. Other adaptations of familiar characters and properties included Tarzan, Planet of the Apes, Lassie, Godzilla, and Zorro. At this same time, the great success of Scooby-Doo spawned numerous imitations, combining Archies-style teen characters and funny animals with light-weight mystery stories (Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, etc.) Comedian Bill Cosby successfully blended educational elements with both comedy and music in the popular, long-running Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
Filmation, primarily a cartoon producer, also turned out several live-action Saturday morning series in the 1970s; including Shazam! and Isis (with animated sequences), Jason of Star Command, The Ghost Busters (not related to the later movie series, but a vehicle for former F Troop stars Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker) and Uncle Croc's Block.
A Hanna-Barbera adaptation of the Belgian comic strip The Smurfs became a huge success in the 1980s, bringing with it other series with fairytale-like settings (My Little Pony, Monchichis, Trollkins, Snorks, etc.) Most of the genres made popular in previous generations (funny animals, superheroes, teen mysteries, science fiction and live-action adaptations) continued to appear as well, with the exception of the musical band cartoons (only one of note, the syndicated Jem and the Holograms, emerged in the 1980s); by this time, the bands were engaged in making music videos of their own, and listeners looking for their favorite bands ended up migrating to MTV. CBS and the producing team of Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, acclaimed for their Emmy-winning prime time specials adapted from Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts, brought Schulz's characters to Saturday mornings in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show; later in the 1980s, the successful Garfield comic strip and TV specials were adapted into the long-running Garfield and Friends, also on CBS.
During the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, a glut of younger and junior versions of cartoon characters began appearing on Saturday morning cartoons.
Parents' lobby groups such as Action for Children's Television appeared in the late 1960s. They voiced concerns about the presentation of commercialism, violence, anti-social attitudes and stereotypes in Saturday morning cartoons. By the 1970s, these groups exercised enough influence that the television networks felt compelled to lay down more stringent content rules for the animation houses. By 1978, the Federal Trade Commission was openly considering a ban on all advertising during television programming targeting preschoolers, and severe restrictions on other children's program advertising, which would have effectively killed off the format; the commission ultimately dropped the proposal.
The networks were encouraged to create educational spots that endeavored to use animation and/or live-action for enriching content. Far and away the most successful effort was the Schoolhouse Rock! series on ABC, which became a television classic; ABC also had several other short-form animated featurettes, including Time for Timer and The Bod Squad, that had long runs. Just as notable were CBS's news segments for children, In the News and NBC's Ask NBC News and One to Grow On, which featured skits of everyday problems with advice from the stars of NBC primetime programs.
The decline of the timeslot somewhat began in the early 1990s for a variety of reasons, including:
- The rise of first-run syndicated animated programs, which usually had a greater artistic freedom and looser standards than those that were mandated by a network. These programs included G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Voltron, ThunderCats, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Ducktales, the first two seasons of Tiny Toon Adventures, and the first three seasons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Increasing regulation of children's programming content, including the Federal Communication Commission's introduction of the E/I mandate in 1990 and later made more explicit in 1996. This required all broadcast networks to air "educational and informational" children's programs for at least three hours a week. Concurrent with this, the Federal Trade Commission outlawed the advertising of both premium-rate telephone numbers and tie-in merchandise during children's hours. Both of these factors limited creative options and cut off large revenue sources for children's programs on network television, and would overrun Saturday morning cartoons.
- The rise of cable television networks such as the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which provided appealing animated entertainment throughout the week at nearly all hours, making Saturday morning timeslots far less important to viewers and advertisers. Cable channels have the additional advantage of being beyond FCC content regulations and do not have to abide by educational and advertising regulations; within a year of the E/I mandate being imposed, Nickelodeon shot ahead of all of the broadcast networks in Saturday morning viewership ratings. Currently, there are at least ten channels specializing in children's programming.
- The increased availability of home video services (both hard-copy and later through the Internet), which, just like cable, allowed children to watch their favorite cartoons at any given time.
- Beginning in the 1980s, video games offered an alternative entertainment venue for children.
- An increase in children's participation in Saturday activities outside the home.
- The gradual legalization of no-fault divorce in the United States over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, which prompted a spike in divorces, and a desire for parents to make more productive use of time with their children. In addition, visitation periods for the secondary custodial parent often occurred Saturday mornings and afternoons, changing the routines of children from a steady schedule every weekend.
Animation companies survived by shifting their resources: adult-oriented cartoons, many in prime time, experienced a revival in the 1990s as the Saturday morning cartoons were in decline, as did animated feature films (see, for example, the Disney Renaissance). Fueled by the continued requirement for educational programming, networks continued to carry some cartoons well into the 2000s; by this point, these consisted either of repurposed reruns from cable or outsourced blocks of cartoons imported from outside the United States. As the popularity of these blocks continued to decline and no hit shows emerged from them, by the early 2010s cartoons began an outright phaseout, with the major networks opting to fill their educational mandates by commissioning live-action, mostly documentary/human interest series that were far less labor-intensive and expensive to produce (and, more importantly for the networks, less restrictive in regard to commercials). Some of the space formerly filled by Saturday morning cartoons would be occupied by paid programming and expanded coverage of college football, both of which greatly expanded as the result of separate government rulings in 1984.
State of Saturday morning cartoons since the 1990s
A 1996 Federal Communications Commission mandate, issued in the wake of the Children's Television Act, requires stations to program a minimum of three hours of children's educational/informational ("E/I") programming per week.
To help their affiliates comply with the regulations, broadcast networks began to reorganize their efforts to adhere to the mandates, so their affiliates would not bear the burden of scheduling the shows themselves on their own time thus eliminating the risk of having network product preempted by the mandates. This almost always meant that the educational programming was placed during the Saturday morning cartoon block.
NBC abandoned its original Saturday morning cartoon lineup in 1992, replacing it with a Saturday morning edition of Today and adding an all live-action teen-oriented block, TNBC, which featured Saved by the Bell, California Dreams and other teen comedies. Even though the educational content was minimal to non-existent, NBC labeled all the live-action shows with an E/I rating and provided the legal fiction of a blanket educational summary boilerplate provided to stations to place in their quarterly educational effort reports for the FCC. Cartoons returned to the network in the fall of 2002, after cable network Discovery Kids (now Discovery Family) won the rights to the timeslot in an auction, beating out other children's television companies (notably Nickelodeon, which already programmed CBS's Saturday morning block as Nick Jr. on CBS).
CBS followed NBC's example in 1997 by producing CBS News Saturday Morning for the first two hours of its lineup and an all live-action block of children's programming. The experiment lasted a few months, and CBS brought back its animated CBS Storybreak series.
In 2004, ABC was the last of the broadcast networks to add a Saturday morning edition of its morning news program (in their case, Good Morning America Weekend) in the first hour of its lineup, mainly due to internal affiliate criticism of the lack of network coverage for the February 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster which occurred on a Saturday morning, forcing them to take coverage from other video wire services. Prior to that, and particularly in the early 1990s, it was not uncommon for affiliates to preempt part or all of ABC's cartoon lineup with local programming.
Fox carried little or no E/I programming, leaving the responsibility of scheduling the E/I shows to the affiliates themselves (although the network did eventually add daily reruns of The Magic School Bus to meet the E/I mandates from 1998 to 2001). Following the closure of its 4Kids TV block in 2008, Fox would not carry any children's programming at all for five years until the launch of Xploration Station. The WB was far more accommodating; for several years, the network aired the history-themed Histeria! five days a week, leaving only a half-hour of E/I programs up to the local affiliates to program.
Several channels, while not offering original animated series, do air reruns of older Saturday morning cartoons. Boomerang, a spin-off channel of Cartoon Network, specialized primarily in reruns of Saturday morning cartoons from the 1960s and 1970s (the majority of which come from Hanna-Barbera, which, like Boomerang, is owned by Time Warner). In the 2010s, the channel's focus shifted toward airing reruns of canceled animated series from the 1990s and 2000s (many of which were never intended for the Saturday morning programming block), and as of 2014, all earlier cartoons are relegated to graveyard slots. Hub Network owned the broadcast rights to rerun several of Fox Kids' most popular programs (this was a byproduct of former Fox Kids head Margaret Loesch working as head of the Hub Network at the time); the majority of that programming was dropped or relegated to early morning timeslots when Loesch left the network and the channel was relaunched as Discovery Family in 2014. A handful of digital subchannels also make use of Saturday morning cartoon reruns, including Luken Communications's PBJ and Ion Media Networks' Qubo.
In 2011, the major networks began to phase out weekend-morning educational programming aimed towards preteen audiences, in favor of live-action reality and docuseries outsourced to other producers. Litton Entertainment took over programming the Saturday morning children's blocks from ABC, CBS, The CW and NBC in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016 respectively. These programs are ostensibly aimed at teenagers and families, and networks have legally declared these new programs to be oriented towards viewers between the ages of 13 and 16. This distinction is important from a legal basis, as it removes the requirement for the programs to comply with the advertising limits imposed by the Children's Television Act.
Units of larger entertainment companies
By the mid-1990s, broadcast networks were now becoming units of larger entertainment companies. ABC was bought by The Walt Disney Company in 1996, which began airing all Disney-produced programming by 1997 and canceled programs produced by companies other than Disney (with the notable exception of The Bugs and Tweety Show, which continued to air until Warner Bros. discontinued the show in 2000). After being purchased by Disney, ABC's Saturday morning cartoons became part of a block called Disney's One Saturday Morning before switching to a block of live-action and animated programs under the banner ABC Kids in 2002. Many of the block's shows were produced by Disney and also aired on Disney Channel or Toon Disney. At one point, ABC Kids had only two animated shows on its schedule, while the remainder of the lineup consisted of live-action entertainment shows. By late 2008, all shows that were part of the ABC Kids block were reruns of older episodes that originally aired a few years earlier, this remained the case for the next three years, with no episodes added into rotation (thus, for instance, the first season of Hannah Montana was still running on ABC Kids in constant repeats even though several further seasons had aired on Disney Channel by the time the block ended).
Disney Channel (which, like ABC, is owned by The Walt Disney Company) launched a Saturday morning block of its popular animated programming, initially named Toonin' Saturdays, in June 2011. On August 27, 2011, ABC ended the ABC Kids block. ABC was the first network to outsource its E/I liabilities and Saturday morning program block to Litton; Litton's ABC block is known as the Weekend Adventure. Disney Channel quietly ended its Saturday morning cartoon block in 2014, then brought it back in 2017 as "Get Animated!"
In 1999, CBS was purchased by Viacom, bringing it under the same ownership as popular children's network Nickelodeon. CBS in turn ran programming from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. from 2000 until 2006, nearly a year after Viacom split into two separate companies (Nickelodeon went to a newly created company under the Viacom name and CBS became the flagship property of CBS Corporation). The two parties ended the Nickelodeon/Nick Jr.-branded block, which was replaced by the DIC Entertainment (now Cookie Jar Group) produced KOL Secret Slumber Party in September 2006. The block was rebranded as KEWLopolis, featuring an increased amount of animated series, in September 2007. On September 19, 2009, KEWLopolis was rebranded as Cookie Jar TV, with its target audience shifted toward preschoolers.
Cookie Jar TV ended its run on September 21, 2013, at which point Litton also took over programming CBS' E/I liabilities and Saturday morning programming. Litton's CBS block is known as the CBS Dream Team. This is the second time CBS has dropped animated children's programming from its lineup; the network had previously gone with an all-live-action lineup for one season in 1997–98 when the E/I rules took effect, but reverted to animation the following season. The Dream Team is also unusual among Litton's blocks in that it includes scripted programming (as of 2016, one scripted drama, The Inspectors, airs on the block).
From 1990 to 2002, Fox ran the Fox Kids block, which featured both animated and live-action series in the afterschool hours on weekday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:00��p.m. (outcompeting with syndicated afternoon children's programs on independent stations and affiliates of smaller networks). Among its notable series included animated series such as Taz-Mania; Batman: The Animated Series; X-Men: The Animated Series; Eek! The Cat; Bobby's World; Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Animaniacs, live action shows like Power Rangers; Goosebumps and Big Bad Beetleborgs; and Japanese anime series such as Digimon and Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Fox sold its children's division as part of its 2001 sale of Fox Family Channel (now Freeform) to The Walt Disney Company; the network then leased its remaining Saturday morning block to 4Kids Entertainment in 2002.
The 4Kids-produced block, which by that point became 4Kids TV, ended its run on December 27, 2008; Fox opted to drop children's programming altogether rather than lease the block to another company, becoming the third broadcast network (after Pax TV and UPN) to completely abandon children's programming, replaced 4Kids TV with a two-hour infomercial block called Weekend Marketplace; as with 4Kids TV and its predecessors, Fox has allowed several stations the option to decline to carry the block and lease it to another station in the market, especially those stations which had never carried Fox Kids following the affiliation changes resulting from Fox's 1994 affiliation agreement with New World Communications. Fox's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates instead hold the responsibility of carrying children's programming (generally through programs purchased off the syndication market).
On September 13, 2014, Fox's owned-and-operated stations (among some of their other affiliates, such as those owned by Tribune Company) picked up a new block entitled Xploration Station from Steve Rotfeld Productions. The three-hour block features E/I programs focused on science and space.
Kids' WB debuted on The WB on September 9, 1995, as a block on weekday mornings, weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. During the run of the weekday morning blocks, the network aired the animated series Histeria! to meet E/I content quotas for the network's affiliates. The Kids' WB weekday morning block ended in 2001, while the weekday afternoon block was discontinued on December 30, 2005 with The WB retaining the two afternoon hours to run a lineup of off-network syndicated reruns.
The CW begins airing children's programming
Kids' WB, now reduced to just the Saturday morning block that was expanded to five hours from four with the removal of the weekday afternoon lineup, moved to The CW (which is part-owned by The WB's former parent Time Warner) on September 23, 2006 (CW owned-and-operated station WUPA in Atlanta debuted the block the following day as it opted to carry the block on Sundays). The Kids' WB block ended its run on May 17, 2008, and was replaced on May 24, 2008 by the 4Kids Entertainment-produced The CW4Kids (4Kids already produced Fox's 4Kids TV block at that time, which would not end for another seven months due to a dispute with the network over distribution on Fox stations and compensation for the time lease). The CW4Kids was renamed Toonzai on August 14, 2010 (with the former brand being retained as a sub-brand to fulfill branding requirements imposed by 4Kids); Toonzai was replaced by Vortexx, produced under a time lease agreement with Saban Brands (which had acquired some of 4Kids' assets, including certain programs, in an auction earlier in the year) on August 25, 2012.
Vortexx ended its run on September 27, 2014, at which point the CW turned over its E/I liability and Saturday morning programming to Litton as well. Litton's CW block is known as One Magnificent Morning and, at five hours in length, it is two hours longer than the blocks Litton programs for ABC and CBS.
NBC entered into a partnership with digital cable and satellite network Discovery Kids to provide original programming from the channel on NBC's Saturday morning lineup in 2002; Discovery Kids on NBC ran on the network from September 14, 2002 to September 2, 2006. NBC replaced that block with Qubo, a three-hour "edutainment" block that debuted on September 9, 2006 (with accompanying blocks on co-owned Spanish network Telemundo on weekend mornings and on Ion Television once weekly), as part of a programming partnership between parent company NBCUniversal, Ion Media Networks, Scholastic Press, Nelvana and Classic Media, that resulted in the creation of a companion digital multicast network on Ion Television's stations; the Qubo blocks on NBC and Telemundo ended on June 30, 2012, leaving only the Ion block and standalone Qubo Channel.
On July 7, 2012, NBC launched a new Saturday morning block aimed at preschool-aged children, NBC Kids, under a time lease agreement with co-owned cable network Sprout (which NBC, through corporate parent Comcast, also owned a minority interest before purchasing it outright in 2012). NBC Kids, which was the only and final Saturday morning programming block to air animated programming, ended its run on September 25, 2016.
On February 24, 2016, NBC announced a new E/I block produced by Litton Entertainment, The More You Know—a brand extension of NBC's public service announcement brand of the same name, and it launched on October 8, 2016, resulting in NBC removing all cartoons from its Saturday morning lineups for the first time since September 1992.
On November 1, 2008, ThisTV launched airing a daily children's program block called Cookie Jar Toons, which was programmed by Cookie Jar Group. The block featured mainly scripted animated and live action series; Cookie Jar-produced programs that did not count towards E/I quotas aired under the sub-block This is for Kids. Cookie Jar Toons/This is for Kids was discontinued on October 31, 2013, effectively removing Saturday children's programming from the network; after Tribune Broadcasting assumed part-ownership of ThisTV from Weigel Broadcasting the following day, Tribune replaced the block with a three-hour Sunday morning lineup of exclusively E/I-compliant programs from various syndication distributors.
On May 2, 2017, Sinclair Broadcasting Group announced that it would introduce a new children's programming block named KidsClick, which airs on mainly CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates, and nationally on This TV, beginning on July 1, 2017. As it currently runs, no E/I programming is part of the block.
DiC Kids Network/Cookie Jar Kids Network
The Cookie Jar Kids Network (formerly DiC Kids Network) was a syndicated children's programming block that aired select animated (and some live action) series from the Cookie Jar Group program library on Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliated stations, and Independent stations to allow these stations to meet required E/I programming quotas. This block ended on September 18, 2011.
PBS has run daytime children's programming targeted at children between the ages of 4 and 12 since the network debuted on October 5, 1970. Its afternoon and Saturday morning children's programming was folded into a daily block called PTV (which aired weekdays from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon local time). On September 6, 1999, the block was rebranded as PBS Kids and spun off a 24-hour cable channel using the same name, which was turned into a joint venture with Comcast, HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop in 2005, becoming PBS Kids Sprout. The PBS Kids cable channel was funded by DirecTV.
Then, PBS Kids was divided into two sub-blocks and they were: PBS Kids Go! and the PBS Kids Preschool Block. An additional three-hour weekend morning block for preschool-aged children that was produced in conjunction with the Canadian production company Nelvana called the PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch debuted on September 30, 2000 and lasted until 2004. PBS Kids Go! debuted in 2004 and ended in 2013. The network continues to offer Saturday morning programming as of 2015, though as with most PBS programming, local member stations retain the right to refuse it outright for other programming such as instructional/DIY/cooking programming, carrying it on Sundays instead, or placing it on a subchannel. Also, other PBS member stations maintain full-time or half-time subchannels with self-programmed and slotted PBS Kids content which may share channel space with other networks such as Create or a local state political proceedings coverage network.
Retro Television Network's Saturday morning lineup consisted of classic cartoons from the 1960s through 1990s, most of which were produced by Filmation licensed via DreamWorks Classics. Due to corporate consolidation which led to the DreamWorks library being owned by NBCUniversal (which had been unpaid in the past by the network for older primetime dramas) in 2016, this lineup was eventually pulled for low-cost barter E/I content and other newer cartoons unable to find distribution otherwise.
Only one cartoon series that aired on Saturdays was Bill Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids during the early morning hours since moving from weeknights in 2012, having made it one of the only 3 subchannel networks that still aired cartoons without any advertisements aimed towards children and the only network that aired an African American cartoon since The Proud Family aired on ABC Kids from 2002 to 2005. Bounce TV still airs 3-hour E/I mandates on Saturdays. Fat Albert was discontinued on the network in July 2015 due to Cosby's assault allegations currently going through the court system, in concert with the network also removing his late 1990's CBS sitcom from their schedule.
TeleXitos airs both cartoons and 3-hour children's programming; however, only two non-E/I programming airs in the early morning and afternoon hours such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power. Like Retro Television Network and MundoMax, it doesn't air commercials aimed at children. It's the only Spanish-language subchannel to air cartoons on Saturdays.
- Animation in the United States in the television era
- United States network television schedules (Saturday morning)
- List of weekday cartoons
- Saturday morning preview specials
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