How did Nicktoons predate Cartoon Network?

Mandouga

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Nicktoons in general started in 1991, but the Nicktoons network didn't start until a decade or two later, if that's what you mean...

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The people in charge of Cartoon Network and (then) Turner Broadcasting didn't want to make original content for the channel. CN was mainly someplace where Ted Turner could show off his cool cartoon collection. Some employees such as Sean Atkins and Jason DeMarco (who would later form Williams Street), would ask their bosses "Give us some money to make new shows for CN, because CN's not making any money as the Hanna-Barbera Reruns Channel!", but the higher-ups resisted every time because animated series are expensive to produce and the higher-ups didn't want to spend that kind of money on a channel that Ted Turner basically made to satisfy a whim of his.

During this time (around 1993 or 1994, I believe), Nickelodeon was riding high with their "Non-Stop Nicktoons Weekend", which the channel would run every year on Thanksgiving weekend. One year, Cartoon Network tried to take on Nickelodeon directly with their own Thanksgiving Day marathon "Thanksgiving Day Toon-In", which was just a marathon of the same reruns of older shows that CN ran every day. Well, on the following Monday, the ratings came in (and I remember this because I read it in the newspaper), Nickelodeon didn't just beat CN in the ratings, they destroyed them. Nick's ratings were nearly three times what CN's were. Nickelodeon ate Cartoon Network's lunch that weekend, figuratively speaking. After that, the heads of CN finally agreed to finance some original programming for the network. This is what lead to Fred Seibert (then president of Hanna-Barbera) to launch the "What A Cartoon!" project that lead to the creation of the Cartoon-Cartoons.
 
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Silverstar

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Nicktoons started in August 1991 but Cartoon Network began a little more than a year later. How did that happen?
I admit I'm not entirely sure what you're asking here, but:

Nickelodeon existed long before Cartoon Network was launched, and a considerable while before the Nicktoons were added. Nickelodeon was officially launched in 1979, Cartoon Network launched in 1992.

And again, I'm not sure what you're implying, but Cartoon Network was not created to directly counter Nickelodeon or the Nicktoons (there were only 3 Nicktoons at the time of CN's launch, and they were far from the ratings juggernauts that they would become); CN was originally just Ted Turner's baby, something he wanted to do. Ted wanted a 24-hour cartoon channel to show off all of the animated properties that his company owned (Turner had just purchased the entire Hanna-Barbera library prior to CN's launch).

CN didn't start to compete head-on with Nickelodeon until after the Non-Stop Nicktoons Weekend VS Cartoon Network's Thanksgiving Day Toon-In debacle. It was then that CN realized that they could become a contender by appealing to kids, and in order to do that they needed original programming. CN started out as kind of a nostalgia channel, but it couldn't compete with the original programming on Nick and Disney Channel, so they had to change course. By the time of Cartoon-Cartoons and Toonami, Ted was far less involved with the day-to-day goings-on at the company. He officially stepped down in 2004.
 
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