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Adult Swim’s starting an hour earlier as Warner Bros. Discovery makes a play for older viewers

Adult Swim’s starting an hour earlier as Warner Bros. Discovery makes a play for older viewers


Adult Swim president Michael Ouweleen is confident that the animation bubble has ‘certainly calmed down a little bit’ since 2022.

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A muscular, bald man with glowing red eyes wearing a toga and standing in what seems to be the void of space surrounded by floating rocks.
Tseng from Unicorn: Warriors Eternal.
Image: Adult Swim

Though it once seemed as if Cartoon Network might end up taking quite a bit of damage as a consequence of Warner Bros.’ merger with Discovery, Adult Swim president Michael Ouweleen says that’s far from the case as the network gears up to expand its adult-oriented content block.

Deadline reports that Cartoon Network plans to start shifting over to Adult Swim programming one hour earlier — up from 8PM ET to 7PM ET — beginning in May as the network makes a more concerted play for viewers older than 18. 

Speaking to Deadline, Ouweleen said that while the animation industry definitely went through a tumultuous period that lasted throughout 2022, there’s since “been a correction” and emphasized that “the animation bubble hasn’t burst but it’s certainly calmed down a little bit.” Ouweleen, who oversees Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang, said the networks have had little issue sourcing new projects and talent and stressed that the Discovery merger’s been beneficial because Discovery understands “strong brands.”

“The DNA we share with Discovery is, they fully understand certain genres, so they understand how we operate in that way,” Ouweleen said. “The one learning curve for them, and for me, conversely, is that most of Discovery’s content is very quickly made and they can make tons of it. Animation takes two years and hundreds of people. It’s still hand-made, though obviously we have digital tools … Our stuff takes longer to make, but also airs forever.”

As Ouweleen sees it, that last point is of particular importance as it plans to debut new series like Genndy Tartakovsky’s Unicorn: Warriors Eternal on both Adult Swim and HBO Max, a strategic decision meant to expose the show to as broad an audience as possible. As resource-intensive as producing animation can be, once it’s in the can, the network can theoretically run it indefinitely and potentially cultivate new followings in the process. Unicorn: Warriors Eternal and Rick and Morty are very different kinds of shows, but Ouweleen pointed to the latter’s success as something Warner Bros. Discovery wants to recreate by launching new shows on multiple platforms.

“If we were launching Rick and Morty today, on any one platform, I don’t know that we could make it a hit,” Ouweleen said. “The benefit that we’ve had is, we can use linear and use Max over seasons to build fandom.”

As Deadline notes, Aqua Teen Hunger Force was responsible for pulling in about 4 percent of Adult Swim’s viewership in 2022 despite the fact that the show hasn’t produced new episodes since 2015. While this reality might have come as a surprise to Discovery’s executives, it’s also a big part of why the company is so “bullish” about going bigger with its Adult Swim programming. Adult Swim is set to begin airing at 7PM ET on May 1st.