Rick and Morty May Not Have Been a Hit If Debuted Today, Says Studio Exec

These days, it is hard to imagine Rick and Morty being anything but a hit. The animated comedy is one of the biggest on television, and Adult Swim has enjoyed a full-blown renaissance thanks to the series. Of course, that means the program is all in on the show, but a timeline exists where that wouldn't be the case. According to Cartoon Network's president, they aren't sure Rick and Morty would be the hit we know it as if it were released today.

Speaking with Deadline, Michael Ouweleen offered up the example as he talked about Cartoon Network's place at Warner Bros. Discovery. It is no secret the merged company had a rough 2022, but plans have been put in place to smooth things out this year. One of those strategies includes prioritizing Cartoon Network as well as Adult Swim. After all, the networks brought Rick and Morty to life, but Ouweleen says the streaming landscape has made it hard to judge what will become a hit and what will not.

"If we were launching Rick & Morty today, on any one platform, I don't know that we could make it a hit," the president explained. "The benefit that we've had is, we can use linear and use Max over seasons to build fandom."

For some context, Ouweleen is speaking to WBD's unique mix of linear television as we watch it weekly on cable and digital streaming. While brands like Netflix or Amazon Prime rely on digital distribution, WBD has a mix on its hands. If Rick and Morty were just linear or just streaming, Ouweleen admits the show might struggle to find an audience if it were released in this day and age. But because of WBD's distribution paths, shows from Adult Swim and Cartoon Network have a better shot at finding demographics.

"We've had titles that skew female on linear and skew male on streaming or vice-versa," Ouweleen explained. "It's title-dependent and I can't make heads or tails of it!"

When it comes to Rick and Morty specifically, a deep dive into its demographic pool tells a lot. Back in 2020, Hulu released demo data for the animated comedy, and the audience was split 60/40 between male and female viewers. As for its age range, Rick and Morty began hoarding the highly coveted 18-34-year-old demo starting in season three, and the show continues to grow each year. Much of its success has been thanks to its hybrid distribution and viral skits. But given how quickly the media landscape changes, not even the president of Cartoon Network knows if Rick and Morty could have thrived if it debuted in 2023. 

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