Over at the The Mary Sue they did a good job charting the rise and fall of the Cartoon Network. It's something I've been interested in along with the crash of the SyFy network. Both share two common traits; mission creep and lack of quality control.
Mission creep is the easiest to see. When I turn on the Cartoon Network on Saturday morning (SATURDAY MORNING!! Once the holy grail time for cartoons) I should not see a basketball game. You would think this would be an easy error to avoid. I mean name "cartoon network" should be all the clue you need as to your mission statement. Sadly, the temptation to go beyond is nearly unavoidable to the office suits. The reason is simply that most business models are based on the concept that if you aren't growing you are dying. So, someone starts a network with the intention of capturing a small core audience. Eventually, said network will capture nearly all of that audience so then how can it continue to grow? Of course, by branching out. So suddenly Syfy gets wrestling and a cooking show and cartoon network gets a live action game show. Everybody loses, as far as quality and brand identity is concerned, but as long as there is any bump up in ratings the damage would continue.
The second problem would also seem to be an easy one to avoid. Pick good, quality shows and there shouldn't be a problem. The trouble comes when the suits change places. The people who started and ran the cartoon network are not there and the next generation just isn't cutting it. Weirdly, in this situation good shows from the previous administration face an uphill battle. That's because the new suits always want to make sure everyone knows that THEY are the geniuses at work here, so anything left over from before is nothing but an embarrassment. Projects in planning are cancelled and shows on the air are minimized. Meanwhile, the suits look for things that are "Different," unfortunately different and good often do not meet.
It's not all doom and gloom, there have been some good shows in this late period of the Cartoon Network. "The Venture Brothers," "Chowder," and "Adventure Time" are good examples. The Trouble is that they are being crowded out by shows like "Problem Solverz" which is 15 minutes I will never get back. Honestly, without another shakeup at the top I don't see this getting better. The best we can do as the audience is support passionately those shows that deserve it.