OTA broadcast possibilities - Forum.
Bradskey
  • Bradskey
  • Advanced Member Topic Starter
2021-01-03T19:53:50Z
TLDR; Just speculating about the potential for more classic cartoons returning to US broadcast television on various OTA diginets. I'm not an expert, not connected, have no real industry insight, and don't know anybody or anything. I have assumptions and things I think I know, but am likely wrong on some points.

With what has happened now with the first initial broadcasts of classic theatrical cartoons on MeTV, which is significant in several ways, I thought I'd explore where things could go from here if there were a true revival of airing cartoons, and particularly golden age cartoons, across the broader TV landscape the way they used to, especially via OTA broadcast. Packages of classic theatrical cartoons were part and parcel of broadcast TV for about 50 years, but have been almost entirely MIA for 20+ years until this weekend's MeTV cartoon broadcasts. So I'm just rambling about what the future could hold if MeTV were to somehow start a trend in broadcasting.

First and foremost there is MeTV, where all of this is actually happening, and in a lot of ways it is as much and more than anyone could have dreamed of happening. MeTV clearly has a relationship with Warner Bros for classic TV and now animation, based on the Flintstones beginning airing this past year and now the daily Toon In With Me and Saturday morning cartoons blocks. This has given them apparently broad access to probably the largest and best classic animation library by far, and they are taking pretty good advantage of it as evidenced by the two Toon In kick-off broadcasts and the first Saturday morning line-up. MeTV is doing what even Boomerang wouldn't do for years, airing B&W cartoons, mixing in more MGM and Tex Avery catalog with Tom and Jerry, and they are even willing to expand on Popeye with PD Paramount entries featuring Betty Boop. One might wonder if they'd be willing to air more classic Fleischer that is PD, perhaps mainly some of the Color Classics or Screen Songs, although the condition of available versions is likely to be an issue. For Popeye one would expect to see most of the previously restored B&W Fleischer cartoons and perhaps most of the Famous entries as they get restored. Available restored LT/MM material is already deep, but hopefully some unreleased gems will also make their appearance via MeTV's broadcasts. As discussed elsewhere Looney Tunes have been "off the air" for over 20 years. Even CN and Boomerang mostly stopped airing them in the early 2000s, with only sporadic comebacks or marathons (while airing T&J to death mind you), and eventually CN itself had no classic animation of any kind. A staple of ABC Saturday morning broadcasts for decades, the post-49 LT cartoons were last seen there in 2000. The pre-49 package aired for years on local broadcast TV stations and finally in various blocks on TNT/TBS/CN Turner networks through the late 90s at least. Except for briefly on Nickelodeon and CN primarily in the 90s B&W cartoons haven't been aired much at all since the 70s probably, so their unabashed return to OTA broadcast is also significant.

One remaining possibility for MeTV is the other massive branch of WB's classic animation library, the HB/RS/Filmation catalogs. This strays from classic theatrical animation of course, but most people here are interested in some of this material. Now, MeTV is a classic TV network , not a classic cartoon network - so they're not going to become 1990s Cartoon Network. However, considering that most of the broadcast industry has limited or totally eschewed animation over the past 20+ years, its pretty amazing when you think about it that MeTV is dedicating 8 hours a week to classic cartoons going forward. And if you include The Flintstones I think that's another 7 hours or more, for about 15 hours a week of animation. And this has been driven largely by MeTV listening to their viewers. Anyway, regarding the TV animation stuff I think it's likely MeTV would only be interested in perhaps the pre-'69 HB material. The possible exception might be the Scooby-Doo stuff (which you either enjoy or cringe at), but that's still a pretty active old franchise for WB, so it's not clear if they'd be willing to deal on that material. Still, one would think the added exposure at least for the early/classic SD series couldn't hurt. But could one dare to hope to see the likes of Yogi, Huck and Quickdraw McGraw airing on MeTV? Physical media release of much of this material has been encumbered for years with silly contractual rights technicalities, but broadcast seems to not have all these same issues. Condition of available elements for some of the most-requested series may still be an issue though. Already restored/released stuff like Jonny Quest or The Jetsons seem like good possibilities. That aside, like I said MeTV is not going to morph into old Cartoon Network. But it seems conceivable that they could dedicate a rotating hour or two perhaps on Sunday mornings to a selection of classic HB shows. They are actually already doing this with the Flintstones anyway. Flintstones was one of the few HB efforts designed and with production values for prime time, so it was a good fit, but a Sunday morning rotation could definitely support more of the library for a little variety.

That's my commentary and speculation on what is happening now with MeTV, but they have several competitors in the diginet space, some who have actually broadcast or dabbled in animation in the past few years and could conceivably do so again, especially if MeTV's efforts are seen as popular and successful. To my knowledge the most likely competing broadcast alternatives for airing cartoons would include AntennaTV, getTV, Cozi TV, This TV, Movies!, and maybe a half dozen other less likely diginets. The old major 3-letter broadcast networks will almost certainly never regularly broadcast classic cartoons (or much vintage content of any kind) again. A couple of the smaller ones (MyTV, CW) have some legacy or history with animation in general, but I don't really expect much from them either.

So what cartoon libraries could these other small networks end up airing if they tried to do so? I'm going to assume at this point that MeTV pretty much has dibs or has locked up the WB library in this space. Maybe that's not true, but I'll go with that for now.

The most likely alternative library to air on broadcast TV is the Columbia cartoon library held by Sony, consisting of the Color Rhapsodies/Screen Gems and UPA material. Indeed much of it, including most of the UPA material, is represented in the Totally Tooned In! package program which Antenna TV actually aired regularly for the first 3-4 years of the network's existence. If these cartoons do return it would likely only be in the form of this show, and most likely on AntennaTV or another Sony-owned network. The package does generally work okay, with the UPA cartoons carrying the show while allowing room for some of the older/obscure Columbia cartoons with more of a classic golden age full animation vibe. Sony is one of the better stewards of their library, having actively restored and maintained much or all of the Columbia library, including their animated cartoons and Three Stooges and other short subjects. Related to the UPA portion of this library were the old UPA TV series for Magoo and McBoingBoing, but I think they may have different ownership.

The second most likely theatrical cartoon library that could potentially air in my opinion is a toss up between DFE and Universal.

DFE, primarily Pink Panther, Inspector and Ant & Aardvark, has a long history in package syndication and Saturday mornings. The library has been "active" recently in the sense that Olive Films licensed it extensively and produced remastered blu-ray releases of most of it. I think that effort has petered out, but was surprisingly exhaustive and deep. I also think that some Pink Panther cartoons were airing on ThisTV in either a regular block or between movies in the past decade. I don't watch the network much, so I'm not sure if they still do or not. A few of the various DePatie-Freleng 70s series are bland stinkers, but the catalog is certainly large enough to support a weekly or even a daily block of entertaining cartoons. Golden Age they really are not, but they did keep the old production of theatrical short subject cartoons going the longest it seems.

Universal/Lantz cartoons really haven't been seen much via OTA or even on cable in decades AFAIK. But there is some hint of life in Universal animation. Subsequent to their New Woody Woodpecker series of the late 90s they seem to be producing a similar series of new Woody Woodpecker "webisode" cartoons again, shown primarily online via their Youtube channel. That channel also releases episodes of the 90s series and even classic Woody Woodpecker cartoons, primarily the older half of the Woody and Friends library (40s-50s) that was remastered for DVD about a dozen years ago. The latter half of the library (60s-70s cartoons often maligned as the Paul Smith junk, although much of it is still entertaining) has shown up in recent years as internationally recorded bootlegs that actually look pretty good in most cases. All of these cartoons were last running in the US in the old Program Exchange package through the late 80s or early 90s, which were slightly dingy old tape masters, and the bootlegs look marginally improved or at least no worse, so the total Woody Woodpecker library seems like it is in decent enough shape for broadcast at any time. I don't think any of it has every really been "restored" in the proper sense of the word, but they're not in horrible condition. The broader/older Lantz library, outside a few characters like Andy Panda, Chilly Willie or maybe Inspector Willoughby, would be in more dubious/unknown condition. Other than a few remastered entries for DVD the older Oswalds, Swing Symphonies, one-offs and older B&W cartoons would fall into this category and likely never be included in a contemporary package for broadcast anyway.

Then there's what remains of the Fleischer/Paramount library. Much of it, though not all, is public domain, but Paramount owns the original elements. They've shown little interest in this material. Olive Films somehow licensed and has/had access to it for home video, resulting in some decent releases of earlier Betty Boop cartoons. A lot of the rest of this material, while good, is probably considered too old or "not funny", with few recurring or well-recognized characters, and may be of little interest for broadcast, however much we might like to see it.

Related to this library and probably more accessible is the Harveytoons/Famous library. Through ClassicMedia sale to DreamWorks these are seemingly owned by NBCUniversal now. While Classic Media did a lot to release this library (rather imperfectly) on disc, I don't think much has been happening with it since the acquisition, although character use and licensing certainly continues. As to the cartoons themselves its questionable if they could be had in any format other than the edited Harveytoons Show compilation program. I don't know if they'd really be considered restored, but they are in good condition for broadcast. Presumably a broadcaster would go to the same source for either Harveytoons or the Lantz library, so the likelihood of this material airing again may be on par with or even exceed that of the Lantz library.

Obviously Disney classic shorts have never been widely available outside of Disney-controlled media and channels. The past few years I think Leonard Maltin has been able to host a small few of them occasionally on TCM, but at this point they only seem destined for Disney+, where I believe they remain largely incomplete. HD home video release never really materialized either, with a few limited exceptions like the Celebrating Mickey blu-ray. Those that are on Disney+ or will eventually appear there will be HD, but I'm not clear if they'll be unedited. Suffice it to say, I don't think anybody expects this library playing on some low-rent broadcast network at any time.

Probably the most dormant library for decades now is the Terrytoons library, consisting of silent and sound random cat, mouse and farm animal cartoons of the late 20s-30s (similar to Aesop's Fables), the 40s-50s character series including Mighty Mouse, Heckle & Jeckle, Gandy Goose and others, and the later Deitch and Bakshi cartoons. Originally produced for distribution by 20th Century Fox Studios, Terry sold the studio to CBS in the 50s. The ownership has meandered slightly through the years but have effectively landed with Paramount and CBS Television Distribution. There have been only a few abortive attempts to revive the characters, with only Deitch's 1980s Mighty Mouse The New Adventures succeeding and surprisingly being released to disc by CBS a few years ago. It's unclear to me what condition any available materials and elements for the classic Terry cartoons are in. Some prints of them are passed around among collectors, often in rough shape. The originals may be in need of restoration, and such restoration may remain unlikely. Given Paramount's ownership and general lack of interest in their classic animation properties. The situation is only marginally better than if the cartoons had somehow gone to Fox and ultimately to Disney with their purchase of 20th Century Fox studios, as certain things once Disney gets their fangs in them by acquisition are as good as dead and buried. Regardless I think we are unlikely to see these on TV again any time soon, if ever. I'm probably at the tail end of the last generation (gen 😵 to have had much exposure to or memory of these cartoons. Mighty Mouse seems to still have some cultural visibility, but I last remember seeing them air in syndication packages on local broadcast stations in the mid-80s alongside old "a.a.p." packages and Three Stooges shorts. Millennials and younger are probably almost wholly ignorant of these cartoons. They were never the best cartoons, but they were competently churned out most of the time and they have their moments.

Then there's the rest. The classic theatrical cartoon leavin's. We're talking Iwerks, Van Beuren, some Mintz, old independently produced cartoons, old silent cartoon libraries with sound and effects added, mostly 20s and 30s stuff, and then the few PD entries from some of the likes of Famous or Lantz. Some of this, like the PD Famous color Popeye cartoons, has actually aired between films on the Movies! network in recent years. The rest of this material was common fodder in the earliest TV era of the 40s-50s and maybe lasted on TV in some form through the 1970s, but would likely be of no interest to broadcasters today. A lot of it has been PD and commonly available in compilations for years, though some of it is officially or nominally owned by the likes of Blackhawk Films. The simple reality is that almost anything older than the 1940s or very late 1930s, with the exception of Popeye, Disney shorts and maybe Betty Boop, is of no general interest for airing on TV today.

To sum up, I think MeTV has a lock and some possibilities going forward to broadcast LT/MM, T&J/MGM, Popeye et al, and maybe some more HB series. Hopefully they see a lot of success with it. One of the Sony diginets could bring back Columbia/UPA, most likely as TTI. If there are other networks interested in showing classic cartoons then I think the DFE, Universal/Lantz and Harveytoons libraries retain at least athe possibility of returning to air and still have popular/recognizable characters. The rest all seem very unlikely to me.
HeySteve
2021-01-03T20:39:53Z
Just a few short years ago, Light TV was airing "The Pink Panther Show" on Saturday mornings.

Sadly, the station in my area that carries Light TV, along with 11 other diginets, is no longer receivable as their FCC Repack channel assignment moved them from UHF channel 20 to low-VHF channel 3. Those of us who get their TV OTA will know that most antennas now-a-days are not good at picking up the low-VHF channels, which are 2-6.
nickramer
2021-01-04T04:01:31Z
I recall the Columbia shorts were on the Sony owned Antenna TV under the Jerry's "Totally Tooned In" show from 1999. Not sure why it's not on right now.

Looney Turtles
2021-01-04T12:29:02Z
Boomerang still airs Looney Tunes regularly. It's just that they always air the same handful of shorts.

What I do wonder if we'll see any Speedy Gonzales on MeTV. The Speedy shorts haven't aired on TV in the US consistently since 1999, as far as I remember.

I would also like to see more Hanna-Barbara cartoons (like Top Cat and Yogi Bear) and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.
Feel free to check out my new Looney Tunes board here: http://s15.zetaboards.co...ooney_Tunes_Board/index/ 
Bradskey
  • Bradskey
  • Advanced Member Topic Starter
2021-01-06T04:38:36Z
Originally Posted by: HeySteve 

Sadly, the station in my area that carries Light TV, along with 11 other diginets, is no longer receivable as their FCC Repack channel assignment moved them from UHF channel 20 to low-VHF channel 3. Those of us who get their TV OTA will know that most antennas now-a-days are not good at picking up the low-VHF channels, which are 2-6.



That's unfortunate. Low VHF has basically been untenable since the digital transition, you have to live practically underneath the transmitter to pick it up. Even High VHF is pretty bad for anyone living any appreciable distance from the tower. Admittedly I'm in fringe reception territory about 70 miles out from the main broadcast location in Dallas, but I pick everything most of the time except for our major ABC affiliate WFAA because they stayed on a high VHF channel these past 10 years. I even bought a special high VHF loop antenna that can pick them up sometimes, but it was never reliable. However a couple of months ago WFAA struck a deal to buy the UHF broadcast channel of a Spanish language channel and now after the move to UHF I receive them clear as day almost all the time. DFW is pretty well loaded with all the major networks and most of these cool diginet sub-channels pretty evenly distributed across major UHF frequencies. There really hasn't been any negative impact from the repack like I'd feared. Luckily MeTV comes in here on KTXA's particularly strong signal.

Bradskey
  • Bradskey
  • Advanced Member Topic Starter
2021-01-06T04:41:49Z
Originally Posted by: nickramer 

I recall the Columbia shorts were on the Sony owned Antenna TV under the Jerry's "Totally Tooned In" show from 1999. Not sure why it's not on right now.



Yes I recorded all of TTI when it ran on AntennaTV via OTA a few years ago. There was only one episode in the series over the course of a year my DVR tried 3 times to pick it up and there was bad weather or reception issues every time so I never got it, but all the rest of the episodes are in my collection. Hopefully AntennaTV will consider bringing the series back again, it's about time.
nickramer
2021-01-06T05:13:57Z
I got them all on tape somehow.
Looney Turtles
2021-01-06T08:28:22Z
I've been recording these shows to DVD myself. I want to preserve them.
Feel free to check out my new Looney Tunes board here: http://s15.zetaboards.co...ooney_Tunes_Board/index/ 
HeySteve
2021-01-06T10:35:53Z
Originally Posted by: Bradskey 

Originally Posted by: HeySteve 

Sadly, the station in my area that carries Light TV, along with 11 other diginets, is no longer receivable as their FCC Repack channel assignment moved them from UHF channel 20 to low-VHF channel 3. Those of us who get their TV OTA will know that most antennas now-a-days are not good at picking up the low-VHF channels, which are 2-6.



That's unfortunate. Low VHF has basically been untenable since the digital transition, you have to live practically underneath the transmitter to pick it up. Even High VHF is pretty bad for anyone living any appreciable distance from the tower. Admittedly I'm in fringe reception territory about 70 miles out from the main broadcast location in Dallas, but I pick everything most of the time except for our major ABC affiliate WFAA because they stayed on a high VHF channel these past 10 years. I even bought a special high VHF loop antenna that can pick them up sometimes, but it was never reliable. However a couple of months ago WFAA struck a deal to buy the UHF broadcast channel of a Spanish language channel and now after the move to UHF I receive them clear as day almost all the time. DFW is pretty well loaded with all the major networks and most of these cool diginet sub-channels pretty evenly distributed across major UHF frequencies. There really hasn't been any negative impact from the repack like I'd feared. Luckily MeTV comes in here on KTXA's particularly strong signal.



The station I referred to is WHNE in the Detroit market. WHNE carries nothing but 12 diginets, and admittedly, I don't care for the majority of the content that they carry, but their first 2 sub-channels, Light TV and Get TV, really should be relocated so that they get more carriage due to the move to VHF channel 3. Luckily, I do reliably get all the major broadcast affiliates with an indoor antenna, even the local Fox affiliate WJBK which is broadcast on VHF channel 7. Sometimes I am even able to pick up a few channels from Windsor, right across the border in Canada, but not reliability. I live in a first floor apartment which limits me to an indoor antenna. From what I understand, where I live, a rooftop antenna will reliably pull in the Windsor stations in addition to all the Detroit locals, minus WHNE.
Bradskey
  • Bradskey
  • Advanced Member Topic Starter
2021-01-06T15:03:50Z
Originally Posted by: HeySteve 

Originally Posted by: Bradskey 

Originally Posted by: HeySteve 

Sadly, the station in my area that carries Light TV, along with 11 other diginets, is no longer receivable as their FCC Repack channel assignment moved them from UHF channel 20 to low-VHF channel 3. Those of us who get their TV OTA will know that most antennas now-a-days are not good at picking up the low-VHF channels, which are 2-6.



That's unfortunate. Low VHF has basically been untenable since the digital transition, you have to live practically underneath the transmitter to pick it up. Even High VHF is pretty bad for anyone living any appreciable distance from the tower. Admittedly I'm in fringe reception territory about 70 miles out from the main broadcast location in Dallas, but I pick everything most of the time except for our major ABC affiliate WFAA because they stayed on a high VHF channel these past 10 years. I even bought a special high VHF loop antenna that can pick them up sometimes, but it was never reliable. However a couple of months ago WFAA struck a deal to buy the UHF broadcast channel of a Spanish language channel and now after the move to UHF I receive them clear as day almost all the time. DFW is pretty well loaded with all the major networks and most of these cool diginet sub-channels pretty evenly distributed across major UHF frequencies. There really hasn't been any negative impact from the repack like I'd feared. Luckily MeTV comes in here on KTXA's particularly strong signal.



The station I referred to is WHNE in the Detroit market. WHNE carries nothing but 12 diginets, and admittedly, I don't care for the majority of the content that they carry, but their first 2 sub-channels, Light TV and Get TV, really should be relocated so that they get more carriage due to the move to VHF channel 3. Luckily, I do reliably get all the major broadcast affiliates with an indoor antenna, even the local Fox affiliate WJBK which is broadcast on VHF channel 7. Sometimes I am even able to pick up a few channels from Windsor, right across the border in Canada, but not reliability. I live in a first floor apartment which limits me to an indoor antenna. From what I understand, where I live, a rooftop antenna will reliably pull in the Windsor stations in addition to all the Detroit locals, minus WHNE.



What I've gradually seen in our market is that some of the better diginets have moved around and are now carried by the major network stations with good strong UHF signals. Ten years ago none of the major 3-letter stations here had digital sub-channels (or only had like a weather-scroll sub-channel), and the diginets were either on subchannels of independent or small-network broadcasters or worse, on LPTV stations. GetTV being Sony owned or backed is a little more popular and is likely to get picked up elsewhere, which is what I saw here with it moving to the local FOX affiliate I think. LightTV is newer and not as well-known. MeTV was originally broadcast here as a subchannel of a relatively weak upper UHF Spanish language channel, and they used to run horrible scam fake-televangist programs all night instead of the MeTV programming, but MeTV thankfully moved to its current home after a year or two. I don't know how dynamic the Detroit market is, but here I need to rescan about every 3 or 4 months to find diginets have either moved or new ones have been introduced. So there's always hope I guess, it just may take time.
S. C. MacPeter
2021-01-06T18:29:04Z
I remember on Stu's show Jerry mentioned he soon has a meeting with the PlutoTV people which could convince them to restore the Screen Gems library (apparently they own the rights). If the meeting goes well there is a chance the Screen Gems library could return to broadcast as well, but I doubt it.
Toonatic
2021-01-06T23:25:46Z
Since we're talking about OTA TV (which I LOVE and fully support by the way), Disney needs to consider doing the same thing for at least Disney Junior; airing classic cartoons as filler. Not the Have A Laugh! versions though.\

Also, with MGM having a deal with MeTV, perhaps they can consider about having the Pink Panther and the UA DFE shorts join in on Toon In With Me.

And Antenna really needs to bring back Totally Tooned In while we're at it.