Adult Swim draws more young men than ESPN and MTV? Dude!

Aquateen_lIt’s now a month past that ill-conceived Aqua Teen Hunger Force (pictured) marketing ploy-slash-terrorism hoax in Boston, and the ratings are in. ATHF‘s home base, the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim broke all sorts of cable records in February among young and male viewers. Moreover, it extended its streak as the top cable channel among men aged 18-24 to 23 months — yep, more cereal-eating, pot-smoking, dorm-living homebodies watch Adult Swim than tune in to outlets like ESPN or MTV. Dude!

Man. Oh, man. The spin machine would have you believe that this achievement is largely the product of Family Guy and Futurama marathons and of Nielsen Media Research’s recent decision to include college students in its count. But is that all there is to it? Isn’t it possible that the ATHF stunt sparked interest in a show and network that many people hadn’t heard about? (I admit to having been one of them — it’s been years since I didn’t inhale/was in college/had no life).

To be fair and fully disclose: Turner Broadcasting, which owns the Cartoon Network (and is a part of parent Time Warner), paid a $2 million fine of sorts, and the channel’s honcho resigned. But does all this still leave a bad taste in your mouth? And what do the higher ratings mean for the marketing mavens of the future, who may be looking at the Boston thing with a certain twisted admiration?


Comments (65 total) Add your comment
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  • juan

    Not suprised at all. I think it’s a combination of two things: Boston scare and the change in the Neilsen’s. I’ve been waiting to catch how this would shift the ratings. And I’m not quite sure which show just started a new season (i only watch Futurama) but this may bea factor as well.

  • jake

    You have missrepresented the incident in boston by calling it a “terrorism hoax”. Do you really believe it was the intention of the advertisers to create a terrorism scare?

  • SKR

    I found this article to be a bit insulting, I watched adult swim in college, now a couple years out Im still watching it, life fully intact and not a pot head. It has a great mix of smart, pop, and goofy humore, yes more attention has been called to it causeing more people to tune in, but it has to be good to keep people coming back.

  • Don

    I agree with the above poster – your comments are insulting. I too am neither in college nor a pothead yet I’ve watched Adult Swim since it’s first weekend back in 2001. Shows like ATHF, Squidbillies and Tom Goes to the Mayor are the reason I watch – not warmed over Family Guy and Futurama.
    Certainly it is not Adult Swim’s fault that Boston chose such an over-reaction to what clearly was not a terrorist device. Personally I’m happy for the surge in popularity and hope it just ensures more original programming from the network. Your handwringing really is kind of overwrought.

  • wifey

    Actually Adult Swim is the only thing that my husband and I both agree to watch! We end every night with Family Guy and AFTH!!

  • Chris

    No, a bad taste is still in my mouth…and that’s the taste of Boston. That city still is America’s dumbest and it will take awhile to redeem itself. It’s a shame they cost a man his job…and it looks like he was doing great!

  • Alicia W.

    Aqua Teen Hunger Force is regular viewing in my family. I own all four volumes of ATHF on DVD. My sister and I quote from the show all the time, and neither one of us tokes. Let’s try not to be so condescending next time, Joshua.


    I’m sure the change in the ratings system played a big part in the ratings boost. Adult Swim claimed that their ratings went up over 20% the week of the bomb scare and the weekend of the bomb scare brought in ratings over 1,000,000 for their most popular show, Family Guy. I would expect to see this surge drop slightly, but stay up there because of the college students who love Adult Swim’s programming, though not all their shows.

  • ceej

    The Boondocks, Robot Chicken, Moral Oral … with shows like these is it any wonder?
    And who doesn’t enjoy a box of Cap’n Crunch whilst viewing the hilarity that is Sea Lab 2021?

  • Lesha

    To second a lot of what other people were saying, I’ve been watching ATHF for years, though never while in College and I’ve never lit up, and I’m female! It’s a great show. Followed by SPC2C and the Brak Show it was the best lineup ever!

  • sarah

    ROBOT ChICKEN!!!!!!

  • vegaskitty

    I have been watching (and loving) Adult Swim for years. I am female and rarely inhale, but mushroom television – I MEAN adult swim – has clever, original shows that are not at all intended for children! Finally!! Something thats only fun for part of the family!

  • Julian

    If EW can’t see the genius that is The Venture Bros (the smartest show since Arrested Development was canceled) then I don’t know what else to say!

  • Fatima

    “it’s been years since I didn’t inhale/was in college/had no life).”
    Oh come off it. You sir are really a pretentious a-hole. So if I like ATHF I have no life? Is it because it’s a cartoon about lowlife fast food? Its just as valid as any other show on TV. And in the case of The Boondocks, smarter than anything on TV. You say you haven’t even heard of it, yet you still jump on the opportunity to judge it.
    Since when does being a college student make you stupid? I hold all my entertainment to the same standards as the next person. And what really makes “Grey’s Anatomy” less of a life waster than smart and funny cartoon shorts?

  • brandonk

    I didn’t follow this story very closely, but what I’ve heard about it suggests that it was completely blown out of proportion. Apparently the same marketing tactic was used elsewhere with no ill effect.

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