Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel ratings down again in 2022

Cable TV box

Last week, Variety covered primetime TV network ratings for 2022. Like 2021, ratings are continuing to drop across the board. Outside of live sports, news, and a few smaller broadcast networks/digital subchannels (like MeTV), things don’t look too great for linear television.

The ratings slide extends to animation. The “Big 3” channels—Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and the Disney Channel—all declined in viewers in 2022. The same goes for most of the secondary channels, though there are a few exceptions.

Below, I take a look at how animation-related cable channels fared. Note Variety’s figures are based on primetime viewing, but I assume daytime numbers wouldn’t change things too much.

Animation cable network ratings for 2022

SpongeBob SquarePants cast
“SpongeBob SquarePants.” (Paramount)

The figures below are based on all viewers (versus specific demographics). In parentheses: viewership ranking; average primetime viewer numbers; and viewership percentage change from 2021. For the sake of thoroughness, I also threw in the major sister channels, even if they’re largely live-action (such as TeenNick, which has aired cartoons occasionally).

  • Nickelodeon (#45, 287,000, -14%)
  • Nick At Nite (#47, 283,000, -21%)
  • FXX (#53, 246,000, +23%)
  • Adult Swim (#54, 245,000, -37%)
  • Disney Jr (#74, 183,000, -29%)
  • Cartoon Network (#75, 181,000, -12%)
  • Disney Channel (#77, 178,000, -25%)
  • Nick Jr. (#79, 169,000, -27%)
  • Nicktoons (#106, 65,000, -2%)
  • Disney XD (#118, 53,000, -36%)
  • Boomerang (#119, 52,000, -32%)
  • TeenNick (#126, 43,000, +19%)
  • Discovery Family (#132, 38,000, -14%)
  • Universal Kids (#139, 23,000, -34%)

Observations

Wabbit
“Wabbit.” (Warner Bros.)

The only channels with any improvement in ratings are FXX and TeenNick. Excluding Nick at Nite, the top three animation-related networks ratings-wise are: Nickelodeon; FXX; and Adult Swim.

Nickelodeon (and related channels)

Nickelodeon isn’t a surprise. “SpongeBob” and “The Loud House” are still popular draws, despite how long they’ve been on the air.

While it still gets plenty of viewers, Nick at Nite has fallen off big-time in terms of quality: from a variety of older reruns years ago to now just being “the ‘Friends’ channel?” I suppose MeTV has long since stolen its thunder. Variety ranks MeTV at #22 with an average of 688,000 viewers (down 8% from 2021), easily beating all the channels listed above. MeTV does air a block of cartoons on Saturday mornings (Popeye, Tom and Jerry, and Looney Tunes).

Nick Jr. also has declined, despite the presence of cash cow show “Paw Patrol.”

While TeenNick has risen in ratings, it still doesn’t seem very popular. Even Boomerang has more viewers?

Disney Channel (and related channels)

Disney Channel’s drop is particularly noteworthy; its preschool sister channel, Disney Junior, now has more viewers. Looking at Disney Channel’s schedule, as of this writing it’s mostly airing cartoons, instead of the live-action sitcoms it’s become known for in recent years. Meanwhile, Disney Junior offers “Bluey” and “Spidey and His Amazing Friends” at all hours.

Both channels, however are doing much better than Disney XD, which seems to be floundering. It doesn’t seem to have a clear direction, besides “whatever cartoons Disney Channel doesn’t have room for or wants to burn off?”

Cartoon Network (and related channels)

Cartoon Network has a smaller decline in 2022 versus 2021, even in spite of the chaos surrounding its parent company right now. Its lineup is still heavily dominated by “Teen Titans Go,” “Craig of the Creek,” and “Gumball”; they’ve also pared back the timeslots for Cartoonito. As of this writing, Cartoon Network did add a few other shows: “New Looney Tunes” (airing for an hour after “Bugs Bunny Builders”) and “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?.” Nice to see Looney Tunes still has a spot on the lineup in some form. However, I wonder why they don’t air “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” the current series of shorts?

Even without “Family Guy,” Adult Swim is still popular, probably thanks to “Rick and Morty.” 

Boomerang still… exists, even if it feels like it’s been forgotten by WB Discovery. (Given Warner’s current austerity-minded slashing-and-burning, that might be a good thing.) Looking over Boomerang’s current lineup, it’s almost entirely just “Tom and Jerry,” “Looney Tunes,” and “Scooby-Doo,” plus a few former Cartoon Network shows (“Ben 10”).

FXX

FXX’s schedule now mainly consists of the Fox animation lineup, from “King of the Hill” to “Family Guy” to recent episodes of “The Simpsons.” FXX also has the advantage of airing said shows 24 hours, save for a few infomercials and movies. All of that might have helped FXX narrowly beat Adult Swim in ratings.

Conclusion

Dipper from "Gravity Falls"
Dipper from “Gravity Falls.” (Disney)

While I tried to mention any positive aspects, the fact remains that cable channel ratings are still in a decline. I also don’t see any major turnaround happening in the foreseeable future. Kids and teens are more likely to turn to streaming services these days for their fill of cartoons. Cord cutting among adults means they’re also increasingly likely to turn to Netflix or Hulu.

At this point, the only reasons left to have a traditional cable subscription are for: live sports (and similar live events); cable news; and local over-the-air TV channels (if a TV antenna or streaming aren’t options). Even streaming cable replacement services like Hulu Live or YouTube TV are likely better deals than the cable box route.

It’d be cheaper to get these channels’ respective streaming counterparts than pay for cable. The cheapest ad-based tiers of HBO Max ($10), Paramount+ ($5), and the Disney+/Hulu bundle ($10) come to $25. (The ad-free tiers come to $45.) They also cover nearly all of the programming on Nick, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, and Disney Channel, from “Doc McStuffins” to “Rick and Morty.”

365: 04/20/2009.jpg” by uberculture is licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Flickr / cropped from original)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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