Genius Brands Expands Kartoon Channel! on The Roku Channel

Following the success of the Kartoon Channel! app on the Roku platform, Genius Brands International April 18 announced that it would offer a dedicated Kartoon Channel! on ad-supported The Roku Channel — further expanding the channel’s presence on Roku.

The Roku Channel reached U.S. households with an estimated 80 million people in Q4 2021. Users now have access to Kartoon Channel!’s full slate of original programming and children’s brands, including “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; the new fast-paced trivia original gameshow series for kids, “KC! Pop Quiz,” hosted by Nickelodeon star, Casey Simpson; and “Rainbow Rangers,” as well as classics such as “Baby Genius,” “Pac-Man” and much more!

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“As we begin rolling out the new Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse, we’re excited … that in less than two years we are fully distributed in the U.S.,” Jon Ollwerther, president, Kartoon Channel!, said in a statement. “We are now…significantly expanding our presence in the digital marketplace,” commented Genius Brands.”

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Genius Hires Former Disney Exec Todd Steinman

Genius Brands International has appointed Todd Steinman to the Kartoon Channel! executive team as chief revenue and marketing officer of Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse.

Todd Steinman

Steinman most recently served as VP in the Direct to Consumer and International division at The Walt Disney Company, which included Disney+ during its launch. He helped create solutions to leverage the Walt Disney Company’s  portfolio of linear and digital brands, including Disney, Hulu, ESPN, ABC, Freeform, FX and Nat Geo, while setting strategy for ad sales and revenue teams. Prior to his role at The Walt Disney Company, Steinman co-founded the digital media agency M80, and then led the NBC Universal media team for WPP after they acquired M80. He negotiated multi-million-dollar annual media deals with Google/YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Disney, Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify and others, while managing an annual budget north of $1 billion. 

Steinman will report to Jon Ollwerther, president of Kartoon Channel! and KC! Kidaverse.

“Todd has a history of driving growth for the most important names in entertainment,” Ollwerther said in a statement. “With the announcement of the KC! Kidaverse, and the acquisition of Ameba TV, Kartoon Channel! has reached a new inflection point, and I could not be more thrilled to welcome an executive of Todd’s caliber to help take our business to the next level.”

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“There is an electric excitement about the Kartoon Channel! and KC! Kidaverse in the kid’s and family market,” Steinman said in a statement. “It’s a breakthrough concept, and I’m looking forward to bringing all my expertise to help drive it forward.”

Genius Brands Launching ‘Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse’ SVOD Service

Genius Brands International Jan. 13 announced it would bow the subscription-based Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse on April 15, priced at $3.99 per month. The platform will be anchored by backend technology from the acquisition of Ameba TV.

The SVOD will include all the programs of the Kartoon Channel!, while adding exclusive content in a phased rollout. The platform will feature a fully integrated design, including custom avatars and emojis for kids, exclusive games, branded VR goggles, immersive content and NFTs for kids.

The new platform will also feature collectable digital cards based on the channel’s characters, including those from the upcoming Stan Lee Universe, debuting in the fourth quarter, and a digital currency for kids called Kidaverse MetaBuck$. Additionally, the Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse is planning to introduce child-safe messaging, podcasts, music and games.

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Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brand, said the SVOD is in response to a consumer need for safe over-the-top video destinations for children.

“The single strongest message we receive from parents is the concern about safety for children on screens, whether it is program content or roaming around the internet and various apps,” Heyward said. “The premise of the [platform] is to provide children with fun, positive, engaging digital media, and to provide them with a safe and parent-controlled product.”

In addition to Kartoon Channel! programming, the SVOD will include “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Rainbow Rangers,” “Peppa Pig,” “PJ Masks,” “Minecraft,” “Surviving Roblox,” “My Little Pony” and “Yu Gi Oh.”

Kidaverse will add another 13,000 episodes under license to Ameba, including “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Donkey Kong Country,” “Gummy Bears” and “Rescue Heroes.” The platform will also become the home to the several thousand hours of animated content available through Genius Brands’ recent acquisition of Canada’s WOW! Unlimited Media and strategic investment in Germany’s Your Family Entertainment (YFE). The company believes this will make it the largest single children’s portal of animation in the world, with over 20,000 animated titles under license.

“As Kartoon Channel! has grown, many of our viewers have asked for a commercial-free version of the experience,” said Jon Ollwerther, president of the Kartoon Channel! “While our free, ad-supported platform will still be available to consumers, the SVOD will address that market need, while also building the 360-degree kid’s digital media platform of the future. We believe it will be a unique entertainment experience that simply cannot be had anywhere else.”

Ollwerther will oversee the development of the SVOD and its rollout across North America. Former managing director of Disney Channels Worldwide, and now managing director of Kartoon Channel! Worldwide, Paul Robinson, will lead the launch throughout the rest of the world.

Chizicks Exit Genius Brands, ChizComm Companies

ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media founders Harold and Jennifer Chizick have left Genius Brands, ChizComm and ChizComm Beacon Media.

“We are extremely disappointed to be leaving Genius Brands and ChizComm after less than a year of being with Genius Brands,” they said in a statement. “However, our vision on how to best grow the company does not align well with Genius Brands.

“Last week, Genius Brands imposed organizational changes that reduced our role in the company and was a breach of our agreement with Genius Brands. Efforts to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion have been unsuccessful. We believe that we have been terminated on a without cause basis and now have no choice but to depart the company and explore options for how to recoup the considerable sums remaining due to us.

“ChizComm staff is at the heart of everything we do. We want to thank this phenomenal team — past and present — that have contributed to building a great organization that prioritizes integrity, drive and passion. And to the ChizComm client base, it has been an honor working in partnership to unlock opportunities and drive growth. Stay tuned for what we do next.”

Genius Brands International issued a statement in response: “Harold Chizick and Jennifer Chizick, employees of the company’s ChizComm subsidiary, have been terminated for cause. The company believes this decision to be in the best interest of its shareholders and customers. Business will continue as usual under current management, with Donna MacNeil as President of ChizComm and Kathleen Campisano as Global Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager of ChizComm Beacon Media subsidiaries. The company is fully invested in the success of these subsidiaries and believes it will be more fully realized under Ms. MacNeil’s and Ms. Campisano’s leadership.”

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Harold and Jennifer Chizick in 2013 founded ChizComm Ltd., a marketing communications and media buying agency in the lifestyle, family, entertainment, toy and gaming spaces.

In February 2021, ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media were acquired by Genius Brands. Harold Chizick served as CEO of both companies and Jennifer Chizick as COO of ChizComm Ltd. Additionally, Harold Chizick was named president of marketing, content sales and consumer products for Genius Brands.

In the past year working with Genius Brands, Harold Chizick secured a master toy partner for “Rainbow Rangers,” led the partnership to have Kartoon Channel! stream on Pluto TV, and led the marketing to deliver over 70 million views on “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” according to a statement from the Chizicks.

Genius Brands’ ‘KC! Pop Quiz’ Trivia Game Show Debuts on Kartoon Channel!

Genius Brands International’s “KC! Pop Quiz,” a trivia game show series for kids, debuted with two episodes Oct. 12 on the streaming service Kartoon Channel!

It’s the second original series and first live-action program for Genius Brands.

“KC! Pop Quiz” is a daily game show based on pop culture hosted by Casey Simpson, star of the “Nickelodeon” series “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” and an influencer across TikTok, Twitter and YouTube, with a social media following of more than 12 million.

Kartoon Channel! will debut new episodes daily after school.

In “KC! Pop Quiz,” aimed at kids 6  to 11 years old, two kid contestants (aged 9-12) compete head-to-head, answering questions correctly to earn points, which are redeemable at the end of the game for prizes selected from a virtual prize room. The winner returns to play again the next game.

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Question topics come from pop culture, such as music, movies, social media, sports, toys and gaming. There are also general knowledge questions in categories that include geography, history, language, science and technology. In each episode, contestants are given the opportunity to win kid-centric items ranging from Macbooks to Xbox consoles and iphones to a chocolate fountain and a giant gummy worm. Nobody goes home empty-handed.

“There is simply nothing like this show out there for kids and families today,” Kartoon Channel! president Jon Ollwerther said in a statement. “‘KC! Pop Quiz’ is a high-energy game show that offers kids a highly engaging entertainment experience with cool prizes, that speak to today’s kid in their own language. Where else can kids test their knowledge of Roblox, Justin Bieber and JLo all in one place?”

Kartoon Channel! is accessible on Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LG TVs. Kartoon Channel! can also be streamed through mobiles devices by downloading the app or on desktops by visiting www.kartoonchannel.com.

Kartoon Channel! Gets New Spanish-Language Content

Genius Brands International has announced a new Spanish-language content service for children — ¡KC! En Español — on its streaming platform Kartoon Channel!

Kartoon Channel! also announced Oct. 5 that it is now available on Pluto TV.

With ¡KC! En Español, Kartoon Channel! expands its current  platform to serve the Latino children’s community in North America. The new Spanish-language children’s program service will reside on the main Kartoon Channel! platform and function as a sub-brand of Kartoon Channel!, similar to Kartoon Classroom!, which premiered in September 2020. The offering will launch with Genius Brands’ “Rainbow Rangers,” in addition to “Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab,” “Mi Perro Chocolo,” YouTube’s “Spanish Tree TV” and “Stan Lee’s Mighty Seven.”

“Not only is this the right entertainment and cultural move for Kartoon Channel!, but it also makes good business sense too,” Jon Ollwerther, president of Kartoon Channel!, said in statement. “Today, 26% of kids in the U.S. under the age of five are of Latinx heritage, a number that is only expected to grow. Further, 83% of Latinx audiences are streamers, versus 73% of non-Latinx audiences. Finally, digital ad-spend focused on the Latinx audience in the United States has more than doubled from 2015 to 2020 and the market today is estimated at over $1.5 billion. We look forward to this becoming an important and growing contributor to the business of Kartoon Channel!”

“Following the success of our educational sub-brand Kartoon Classroom!, ¡KC! En Español was the obvious next step for us,” Michael Riley, Genius Brands International’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement. “We’re proud to announce this new offering during Hispanic Heritage Month and to better serve the Latinx community, now in English and en Español.”

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Genius Brands International’s digital network Kartoon Channel! is a family entertainment destination. Kartoon Channel! delivers  content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs. Kartoon Channel! can also be streamed on TVs and mobiles device by downloading the app, or on desktops by visiting www.kartoonchannel.com.

Genius Brands International’s ‘Kartoon Channel!’ Launches on Pluto TV

Genius Brands International Oct. 5 announced a deal with ViacomCBS’s ad-supported platform Pluto TV to stream a branded Kartoon Channel! beginning today, significantly expanding the curated free family-friendly channel’s content.

Pluto TV users will now have access to Kartoon’s program line-up, including Genius Brands’ slate of original series — “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; the fast-paced trivia original game show series for kids, “KC! Pop Quiz” (starting Oct. 12), hosted by Nickelodeon’s Casey Simpson; and the upcoming “Shaq’s Garage,” starring Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski — as well as classics such as “Baby Genius” and “Pac-Man,” among others.

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Harold Chizick, president of content sales, marketing and consumer products at Genius Brands, said the company has a longstanding relationship with ViacomCBS, starting with the launch of “Rainbow Rangers” on Nick Jr. in 2018.

“This deal with Pluto TV provides us with an opportunity to significantly expand the brand footprint to a broad audience across the U.S., as well as to build our advertiser base,” Chizick said in a statement.

Amy Kuessner, SVP of content strategy and global partnerships at ViacomCBS Streaming, said Kartoon’s mission of providing “content with a purpose” to kids of all ages and their families is a perfect complement to ViacomCBS’s range of programming.

“We are thrilled to bring Kartoon Channel! to the Pluto TV audience,” she said.

ViacomCBS claims Pluto’s monthly average viewership base reaches 52 million users.

Genius Brands Promotes Jon Ollwerther to President of Kartoon Channel!

Genius Brands, a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has promoted Jon Ollwerther to president of family entertainment digital network Kartoon Channel!

Ollwerther previously served as GM of Kartoon Channel! and will continue in his role as EVP of business development for Genius Brands.

“I am pleased to announce the well-deserved promotion of Jon, in recognition of his significant contributions to the rapid growth and success of our hit kid’s streaming platform, Kartoon Channel,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

Kartoon Channel! delivers content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs.

“Viewer rankings have put Kartoon Channel! above all other services, including Netflix, Disney+, and You Tube Kids, in both the Apple and the Google app stores,” Ollwerther said in a statement. “In addition, I am extremely proud to announce that ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ has just surpassed 21 million views on Kartoon Channel!, over 3.6 million per episode, since the initial launch just over one month ago with six episodes now released.  We believe ‘Superhero Kindergarten’ has risen to the ranks of one of the most highly viewed new cartoon launches in history, as we are building an evergreen production that will entertain generations of children, while attracting both advertisers and consumer product licensees.

“In addition to the recently launched hit, ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, we will be rolling out ‘KC Pop Quiz!’next quarter. It is a lightning fast-paced daily game show based on pop culture where kids win cool prizes. Think Jeopardy meets HQ Trivia! Shortly thereafter, we will introduce our third original product, Shaquille O’Neal’s first animated series, ‘Shaq’s Garage,’ created by Joel Cohen, the co-writer and creator of Toy Story. Additionally, we will now be launching season three of our hit series ‘Rainbow Rangers’ with an exciting new twist.

“I am honored to take on this new role with Genius Brands, as I truly believe we are curating the very best combination of original, exclusive, and commercially acquired product within the kids’ entertainment industry.”

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Prior to joining Genius Brands, Ollwerther served as VP of media, arts and entertainment for Measure, the nation’s leading Drone as a Service company. Working with clients across the country and around the world, Ollwerther has an extensive credit list of collaborations with brands and advertising agencies to create unforgettable experiences.

Cinedigm Inks Streaming Deal With Genius Brands International

Cinedigm April 20 announced a digital content partnership with Genius Brands International for its Kartoon Channel!, an ad-supported streaming channel offering family-friendly content. The deal encompasses VOD as well as Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) rights.

Cinedigm will provide movies such as animated feature Cinderella; Hero Quest, featuring the voices of Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone and Milla Jovovich; and Bunyan & Babe with characters voiced by John Goodman, Kelsey Grammar and Jeff Foxworthy. The partnership also includes five seasons (236 episodes) of the anime series “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters” and holiday favorites such as “The Nutcracker.”

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“As we continue to expand into the AVOD and FAST spaces, we are committed to partnering with gold standard companies and brands,” Chris McGurk, CEO of Cinedigm, said in a statement. “Having worked with [Genius Brands CEO] Andy Heyward for decades and knowing the Genius Brands team, I know that Kartoon Channel! fits this goal well.”

Additional films included in the content distribution partnership include:
Snow White
• Puss in Boots: A Furry Tail
• The Hive
• Twinkle Toes Lights Up New York
• Tad: The Lost Explorer
• Hatched
• A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventure
• A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape From Paradise

Genius Brands and POW! Entertainment Forming Stan Lee Universe Joint Venture

Genius Brands International and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment are forming a joint venture to create Stan Lee Universe, drawing from more than 100 original Stan Lee creations from which it will develop and license approximately seven properties per year.

Stan Lee Universe will assume worldwide rights to the name, physical likeness, physical signature, live-action and animated motion picture, television, online, digital, publishing, comic book, merchandising and licensing rights to Stan Lee and his IP creations post-Marvel Entertainment and not committed elsewhere.

Genius Brands will be the managing and controlling partner of the joint venture.

“In all of Hollywood, there is no greater prize,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “This is the Holy Grail. Stan Lee Universe is a once in a lifetime asset drawn from over 100 original, heretofore unexploited properties, created by the most successful creator of intellectual property of our time.”

The late Stan Lee created comic book characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Thor, Captain America, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Nick Fury and Guardians of the Galaxy. Lee was the editor and creative force behind Marvel Comics, which was sold to the Walt Disney Company for $4.4 billion and resulted in a string of hit films, including The Avengers.

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“Having worked with Stan and been a close friend for almost 30 years, nothing could make me prouder than for Genius Brands to become the guardian of both his brand and body of work,” added Heyward. “I have no doubt that the greatest characters, the greatest stories, and the greatest hits from the mind of Stan Lee have yet to be told. As big as Spider-Man, Black Panther, X-Men and the Avengers are today, tomorrow it will be Stan Lee’s Tomorrow Men, his Stringbean, his Black Fury and Virus.”

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“The spinoff opportunities for Kartoon Channel! alone are mindboggling, including a dedicated Stan Lee Universe program block,added David Neuman, former president of Walt Disney Television and chief content officer of Genius Brands’ new Kartoon Channel!.

Genius Brands will be creating a dedicated business and creative unit specific to Stan Lee Universe, Heyward said.

“For the millions of Stan Lee fans, we look forward to taking this unique asset and faithfully bringing the characters to the movie screens, to comic books, to toys and licensed products worldwide,” he said.