Next month Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network will celebrate a quarter of a century since its US launch in October 1992.
It launched in Australia and New Zealand three years later, and the man now in charge of keeping Cartoon Network the number one international kids pay-TV channel and in 135 million homes in the Asia Pacific region is former Seven Brisbane employee Mark Eyers, Turner International Asia Pacific’s senior vice president and chief kids content officer.
Talking about Cartoon Network’s success, he says, “If there’s a secret to be shared, it’s that we’ve always stayed true to our mantra of original, fresh, forward-looking and funny content that you haven’t seen before.
“Cartoon Network’s unique style of development means that there’s usually a creator or an artist at the centre of it all – someone who ‘has a show in them’.
“We have definitely stayed true to that philosophy and I can’t see it changing any time soon. One thing that will increase, though, is productions from within the Asia Pacific region.
“We have been able to expand the reach beyond pay-TV with launches of branded blocks and other platforms in countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. This is in addition to new digital destinations such as the apps: Cartoon Network Anything and Cartoon Network Watch and Play.”
Hong Kong-based Eyers added, “Cartoon Network’s sister channel Boomerang – home to the likes of Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo and Tom and Jerry – has witnessed growth in the past few years in Asia.
“Turner has had particular success with the brand in Thailand, where it’s the clear leader in the kids space.”
Eyers began his brilliant TV career after graduating from the Queensland College of Art in 1989.
“After graduating college with a BA in Film and Television, I worked on a number of pilots and freelance editing on shows and production companies,” he says.
“The way I ended up working at BTQ 7 was the old-fashioned way. Back in the 90s my business partner Noel O’Riordan and I cast the popular Australian celebrity Pascall Fox as the host and produced a pilot for a movie show called Popcorn.
“We pitched it to David Franken, Seven’s then programming director for Brisbane who has now retired, and he greenlit the show. It continued for many years.”
His job at Seven led to a Singapore-based job with Walt Disney Television International, where he worked for almost eight years.
“At the time, Seven was responsible for looking after the Disney Club, which meant I became familiar with a number of the cast, crew and Disney executives,” he says, “Including Marc Buhaj (now SVP& GM Disney XD Worldwide) based in the US, Eileen McCarthy, now a colleague in Turner EMEA senior programming operations based in the UK, and Gary Mathisen, who was the original programming director that launched Disney Channel Australia.
“Taking the opportunity was a natural one. It’s something that I’ve always advised colleagues over the years – and Jamie Meldrum from your recent article was one of them – that you should always take any opportunities when they present themselves.”
Walt Disney Television International ceased operations in December 2003 and reviewing his Disney time, Eyers says, “Aside from working with and assembling a great team, one of the things that I was very proud of was a campaign called Hidden Mickeys, which I think is still running even now.
“We created live action content by shooting at the Disney theme parks after it had started off as an interstitial thus becoming a bigger production over time, winning many awards. The aforementioned Jamie Meldrum’s voice acting work, along with all the in-house creative team at Disney, contributed greatly to the success of the project.”
On leaving Disney, Eyers decided to take a year off from the workplace, but after eight months he signed on with Turner.
“In Asia Pacific, we’ll be continuing our march for new original content,” he said. “We’re progressing well with properties like Lamput, a show that started off as a microshort (about 15 seconds long) and is now greenlit as a second series with two-minute shorts.
“We’ll also be announcing soon a full, long-form original series that has originated from APAC as well.
“The show Mighty Magiswords is another one to look out for. It’s a new, multiplatform Cartoon Network Original that brings together great video content with apps, games and collectability between those platforms. Elsewhere, we are currently making significant upgrades to Cartoon Network Watch and Play app and our regional websites.
“In terms of games, we have an increasing stream of game and apps for all our shows. A recent highlight is the release of Adventure Time Run: The Ooo Expedition, which was a mobile game developed in Korea and now launching all around the world.”