Eric Johnson

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So, Why Isn’t the Angry Birds Cartoon Coming to American TV?

angrybirds“Literally, it’s a game-changer.”

That’s the snappy line Rovio strategist Andrew Stalbow is using to talk about the company’s forthcoming animated series, “Angry Birds Toons.” The show, first announced nearly a year ago, will be distributed primarily through an update to the Angry Birds game for smartphones and tablets.

The cartoons will also be available on Comcast’s on-demand services, Roku’s set-top boxes and Samsung’s smart TVs, and will be broadcast on TV in 12 countries — but not the U.S. — one day before each new episode comes to the apps.

Why is American broadcast TV not getting the show? It seemed like a natural fit, especially since Nickelodeon aired one of the first pre-series shorts in the run-up to Angry Birds: Space. The absence of Nick (or any other American station aimed at the younger set) from Rovio’s press release this morning was conspicuous.

Parents who would rather park Junior in front of the tube and keep the iPad for Mommy and Daddy, don’t despair. Stalbow left the door wide open for a future TV run in the States, even if initial talks didn’t result in a deal.

Andrew Stalbow

Andrew Stalbow

“We talked to everyone, and we’re friends with all of the different channels out there, but we needed a good place to start,” he said. “This is just the start.”

Rovio will roll out one new episode of “Angry Birds Toons” per week, with 52 of the three-minute to five-minute shorts planned so far. Unlike Netflix’s “House of Cards” episode dump, serialized installments will give players a reason to open the app more frequently over a longer period of time, and will likely expose them to new game features and cross-promotions for other games.

And even though downloads of Rovio’s games still tick up and up and up (crossing the 1.7 billion mark recently), engagement seems to be dropping: Onavo Insights estimates that active iPhone users of the original Angry Birds app dropped 22 percent in January.

After all, there are only so many ways to kill a pig.

Stalbow called the new series Rovio’s “transition from being a mobile games company to a fully-fledged entertainment company.” That’s markedly different from Cut the Rope makers ZeptoLab’s claim that “we’re a gaming company first,” in spite of a planned TV show of its own.

Stalbow said, though, that games are still the “engine driver” of Rovio’s IP.

So, what about those other games: Bad Piggies, which stars the villains from Angry Birds, and Amazing Alex, which takes place in a different world? I asked if they, too, would get the animation treatment, and again Stalbow left the possibilities open.

Stalbow said the focus right now is on the Angry Birds “classic world” (read: sorry, Bad Piggies fans), but that he expects animation to have some staying power within the company — it’s already one of the three pillars of Rovio’s new business, the other two being games and merchandise.

The first episode of “Angry Birds Toons” hits international TV on March 16, and games and on-demand services on March 17. Plus, Rovio is still working on that Angry Birds movie, now slated for a summer 2016 release.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus