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Hey presto: French toons face upheaval

Kids Everything about children’s content

Spring 2020

Cyma Zarghami gives her vision for MiMo Studio

Making a noise about kids’ audio content

PLUS: Coronavirus | M6 Group ambitions | Netflix | FTV’s Okoo Nickelodeon | Discovery Kids Media | Bruna Capozzoli



C21Kids | Spring 2020 | Issue #300


All alone, all together


ithin these columns, you’ll often read about the rapid pace of change in the industry in relation to things like streaming services and children’s viewing habits. The past few weeks, however, have taught us all a lesson in what real change looks like. The coronavirus outbreak was already a major talking point at Kidscreen Summit in mid-February, when the US travel ban disrupted Chinese companies’ plans to attend the event and the sharp smell of hand sanitiser wafted through the meeting rooms of the InterContinental Miami. But few, if any, could have foreseen the impact the outbreak, soon confirmed as a pandemic, would have on the world in such a short time. Back in Miami in February, delegates still expected to see each other at events such as MipTV in March. Much of this magazine was put together under the impression that would be the case. However, as the number of cases has risen around the world, priorities in the business have understandably shifted to the health and wellbeing of staff. The majority of people in the industry now appear to be working remotely, if they’re able to, and production has been suspended on countless live-action series around the world. At the time of writing, more than half a million freelancers working in the film and TV industries are already out of work across Europe and there are legitimate fears about how the pandemic and its aftershocks could threaten the global economy.


But it could also offer our industry, and many others, an opportunity to reset, reconsider and reprioritise certain things. In Kidstalk (page 30), Digital specialist Bruna Capozzoli offers a glimpse of how some in our industry are already thinking along these lines. The disruption caused by the pandemic could accelerate such change. Meanwhile, in the short term, eyes are fixed on upcoming events that, at the time of writing, had not been cancelled. These include the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France in June and the Children’s Media Conference in the UK in July. Currently, it’s hard to see them going ahead without significant changes to how they operate. Social distancing and self-isolation are our best tools while we offer as much support to one another as is safe – in other words, coming together as an industry by keeping away from one another. Meanwhile, don’t respond to a pandemic by putting your 600-plus staff on temporary unpaid leave for two weeks, as WildBrain Studios in Vancouver did on March 17, before U-turning the next day and keeping all staff on the payroll. This is not the time to be adding more uncertainty to the lives of those on whom this industry relies. Our thoughts at C21 go out to all those seriously affected by the situation and we wish anyone unwell a swift recovery. By the time the next issue of C21Kids rolls around this summer, let’s keep our (frequently washed) fingers crossed that the pace of change has slowed by then. Nico Franks



6 9 15 18 20 25 29 30

CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES: M6 Group French broadcaster M6 Group has major ambitions for its children’s portfolio after it expanded dramatically last year by acquiring Lagardère’s channels. COUNTRYFILE: French animation There’s no shortage of changes in the French TV market these days, so how is this disruption impacting the country’s legions of animation producers? NEXT BIG THINGS: Okoo Okoo, the new streaming service from France Télévisions, has arrived to take the place of soon-to-close linear kids and family channel France 4. CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES: Netflix Netflix’s manager of original animation series Jane Lee is looking to markets such as Canada for content, with underrepresented stories a key focus. AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Audio content With Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Apple Music and Deezer all now carrying content for kids, how is this trend being explored by children’s TV producers? CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES: Nickelodeon International The kids giant is expanding its global production activities and eyeing more partnerships with overseas players. BACKEND Discovery Kids Media and Cyma Zarghami’s MiMo Studio unveil their Development Slates. KIDSTALK: Bruna Capozzoli Digital specialist Bruna Capozzoli on how the next generation could prioritise purpose over profit.




C21Kids | Spring 2020

Boy Girl Dog Cat Mouse Cheese

Growing up fast M

6 Group’s acquisition sition of Lagardère’s channel annel business last year, including its portfolio of children’s dren’s channels, has already propelled d the commercial broadcaster to become come one of France’s largest investors in children’s programming. Philippe Bony, head of thematic and youth channels and president of Gulli, says the group intends to pursue an “aggressive” path, further developing its presence in this sector, having brought free-to-air (FTA) digital channel Gulli and its pay TV siblings Canal J and preschool Tiji into the fold last September. Bony says the combined content investments of the enlarged M6 kids portfolio now make it the second-biggest after public service broadcaster France Télévisions. “France TV will stay the number one and we’ll become the largest private investor in animation,” says Bony. In the FTA space, Bony says the group can now address all kinds of kids audiences thanks to Gulli, which targets all children, and flagship net M6’s established morning programming block. The M6 Group already operates a suite of thematic channels on cable and satellite, including Paris Première, Téva, M6 Music and Série Club, the latter a collaboration with TF1. While the acquisition of Lagardère’s RFM TV and MCM has added more music channels to the mix, the addition of dedicated kids’ channels has given M6 a presence in the children’s cable and

French commercial broadcaster M6 Group has major ambitions for its children’s portfolio after it expanded dramatically last year by acquiring Lagardère’s channels. By Gün Akyuz

satellite space for the first time, Bony points out. “Having all these children’s channels gives us the opportunity to cover all children’s targets, from dedicated preschool channel Tiji up to Canal J and the M6 block,” he says. M6 is turning into the number one kids offering in France thanks to its expanded children’s channel portfolio, which is “a major development” for the group. Across the group’s combined kids’ services, about 15 new and returning shows, mostly French, are already in production or under way. Bony also highlights new commissions in the pipeline. “We want to try to increase the number

of shows we have, both on our pay channels and, of course, on FTA M6,” he says. A general entertainment channel for kids and families, Gulli’s output spans animation, entertainment, movies and fiction. “We want to build and develop the children’s offering and diversification around this wonderful brand and will keep it as an FTA channel,” Bony says, noting the M6 kids’ block will also remain. Compared with Gulli’s previous positioning, there’s a plan to further expand its target to include older preschoolers aged seven to 10 and to “widen the target we address on both channels,” he says. As a local channel brand, Gulli

Having all these children’s channels gives us the opportunity to cover all children’s targets, from dedicated preschool channel Tiji up to Canal J and the M6 block.

Philippe Bony M6 Group

has a close relationship with French children and families – a distinct advantage when it comes to competition from Netflix and the launch of Disney+. “The strength of this channel is it’s really connected to children,” says Bony, citing offline operations such as the Gulli Parc and local events in France, all generating unique connections between the viewers and the channel, together with its collaboration with the French animation producers. M6’s animation ties are also extensive across animated TV shows and movies, and the channel has played a big role in the production and distribution of films, theatrically and on TV, Bony points out. “The connections and partnerships French producers and animation talent have with Gulli and M6 Group are very strong,” he says. “We’ll try to build on the advantages we have in the market to develop the channel.” The exec cites successes on M6 like animated show The Sisters, from Samka and Bamboo Productions and distributed by Jetpack, and French/ US copro Alvinnn!!! & the Chipmunks, from the US’s Bagdasarian Productions and French prodco Technicolor Animation, a sixth season of which is in production. Gulli’s established hits include Oggy & the Cockroaches, from prodco Xilam Animation, which has now


C21Kids | Spring 2020

Xilam Animation’s Oggy & the Cockroaches (above) and 2D animated series Moka. Below: Samka and Bamboo Productions’ The Sisters

run for seven se seasons and launched on a number of other networks and platforms, such as Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon and Netflix. Newer shows include Ricky Zoom, from Hasbro’s Entertainment One, which began a second season on Gulli on February, and 2D animated series Moka, from Xilam, which premiered in March. Launching soon is 2D animated series Boyy Girl Dog g Cat Mouse Cheese,, produced by Cloudco Entertainment, Watch Next Media and Kavaleer

Productions, a copro from CBBC and RTÉ and funding bodies Screen Ireland and France’s CNC. Also set to launch on Gulli is The Adventures of Paddington, a copro with Nickelodeon, which debuted on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr morning block in the US in December. With spin-offs like Oggy & the Cockroaches preschool series Oggy Oggy being commissioned by bigger rivals such as Netflix,, there’s a early growing need to secure content con in its development. Oggy Even though Bony believes belie Oggy would have been d difficult to channel as the place on the same chann original because of its very different style, he says: “We are adapting to try adap to be involved in shows at a very early stage and to have more h and more exclusively. exclusivel Maybe some will be shared with sha Netflix. That’s not impossible, im especially given the fact Gulli is FTA; it’s also an op opportunity to reach a larger public.” publ Another opportunity now opportun emerging for Gulli is around its range of content. “It’s con super-important super-im not to focus foc just on animation but animat also to provide other types of programming,” Bony programmin says.

One strategy is to tap M6 Group’s extensive inventory of infotainment magazine, entertainment and fiction shows. Its general entertainment channels are primarily aimed at women and families and so lend themselves to family co-viewing on Gulli. “We have a lot of shows that could be re-runs or spin-offs developed for Gulli,” says Bony. One example is M6’s long-running popular science show E=M6. A weekly family version for Gulli called E=M6 Family was launched recently on Sundays at 21.00 and has proved popular. “This also leads to opportunities to develop specific shows for families and kids and is a new opportunity for a children’s channel like Gulli,” he says. In spite of the transformed landscape and competition from global SVoD players, the M6 kids’ channels are already seasoned navigators of France’s highly competitive market of around 17 linear children’s channels, which include the 20-year-old Disney Channel and SVoD services like Netflix and newcomer Disney+. In fact, Bony remains upbeat about the future of linear children’s channels alongside the group’s rapidly expanding digital plans. He doesn’t envisage linear stopping anytime soon either. “What we think, and what we

trust in, is that the combination of linear and non-linear offers is a major strength,” Bony explains. M6 was the first French television group to launch an online catch-up and non-linear service alongside its linear channels over 10 years ago, he says. “We’ve been very aggressive in developing both the marketing and technical digital platform,” he adds. The latest move is French SVoD service Salto, in which the M6 Group is a partner, together with the TF1 Group and France Télévisions. The project is using the M6 platform, developed by its in-house technology unit, now called Bedrock, led by Jonas Engwall. In March, Bedrock sold half of its share capital to RTL Group, in a bid to create a leading European streaming technology platform. “We’re at quite an advanced stage of these digital developments, and Gulli will, of course, benefit from this knowledge and this technology,” says Bony. The non-linear Gulli Replay service is migrating to the M6 digital platform, which will be embedded in all of France’s major distribution platforms by this summer. “That’s a major move for us,” he says. “We think combining the strength of our linear offering on Gulli with being able to provide a great digital experience through our technology will really improve the experience for children on Salto.”



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COUNTRYFILE: COUNTRYFIL ILE: IL E: F French rre ench nc ch an animation niim mat atiio on

C21Kids C2 C21 Kids | S Kid Spring prin ring g2 2020 02 020 0 20 20

Presto! School of Magic

Marching to a different toon There’s no shortage of changes in the French TV market these days, so how is this disruption impacting the country’s legions of animation producers? By Nico Franks


ver since France Télévisions (FTV) announced controversial plans to axe its children’s and family channel France 4 in the summer of 2018, the country’s kids’ content industry has been in a state of flux. There’s certainly been no Gallic shrugging going on, as various groups, led by animation producers’ union Syndicat des Producteurs Français d’Animation (SPFA), have lobbied to save France 4 from the guillotine. However, at the time of writing, the date for France 4’s switch-off remained August 9, after a proposal that had the support of lawmakers from various political groups in France to extend the life of France 4 until

Marc du Pontavice

2030 was rejected in March. Meanwhile, another proposal to force FTV to maintain a linear channel aimed specifically at children hangs in the balance, with the French parliament understandably dealing

with matters thrown up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some are optimistic the closure can be postponed until the end of 2022, while others are less hopeful. Either way, we’re unlikely to know more until the summer, at the earliest, given the impact of the virus on day-to-day life. While Okoo (see page 15), FTV’s new digital platform for kids, has been welcomed by local producers and distributors, they feel France 4’s closure is premature when linear viewing figures, although falling, remain relatively high in France compared with markets such as the UK and Scandinavia. All the producers interviewed for this feature aired concerns that FTV isn’t spending enough on marketing to promote Okoo ahead of France 4’s closure. A major worry is that while programming blocks for children’s content will still be available on France 3 and France 5, once France 4 disappears there won’t be a strong enough link between the worlds of linear and non-linear. Marc du Pontavice, CEO of the recently Oscar-nominated Xilam Animation, says that while he and his fellow producers are happy to see FTV launch a dedicated kids’ platform, it’s vital to have a linear channel that can direct audiences towards it. “Closing France 4 is a big mistake. You need a linear channel to point X



COUNTRYFILE: French nch animation

to the non-linear channel, and they will be losing a big marketing opportunity by closing France 4. It means ans Okoo is going to have a hard time against the competition,” says du Pontavice. tavice. The animation veteran was speaking to C21 prior to the coronavirus pandemic ic forcing the closure of all French schools. This could ld mean awareness of Okoo koo shoots up, though at the time of writing it was too early to o tell. Another fear is that should ould viewing figures for children’s programming ramming on FTV’s platforms nose-dive e as a result of the changes, the pubcaster bcaster may be forced to reduce its investment in animation – something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. In order to give Okoo o the best chance of success, FTV V and d llocall producers last year agreed a new deal around programming rights that would allow the pubcaster to give original shows a first window on its free VoD platform. This digital-first strategy means contracts for shows agreed with FTV as recently as 2018 are now out of date. Corinne Kouper, senior VP of development and production at Parisbased TeamTO, says this is the case with one of the series it has made with FTV, and contract renegotiations are currently underway. Exploiting rights to a show once it has been made available on Okoo is another headache French producers – many of which have their own sales arms – are getting to grips with. They claim the value of second-window rights to FTV shows has gone out the window because other buyers aren’t too hot for programmes that have already had so much exposure on free VoD. Producers are hoping FTV will provide more investment in each series they make with the pubcaster to compensate for the fact it’s getting harder to sell them on. There are exceptions to this fall in second-window values, however. Philippe Alessandri, president of SPFA and CEO of Paris-based Watch Next Media says French pay TV channel Canal J – now part of M6 Group following the media firm’s acquisition of Lagardère’s channel business last year (see page 6) – has swooped on the next season of Nate is Late, despite the fact it will launch on Okoo. “They need high-rated shows, so successful brands will still get a second window, but that’s all,” says Alessandri.

People are opening their minds to things that nobody wanted before, like arcs and evolution in serialised series – all these things that the writers have always wanted to do.

Corinne Kouper TeamTO

It seems as if every broadcast group in France is undergoing seismic change as they look to modernise and reach viewers across multiple platforms. Previously owned by Lagardère, Gulli now has a new owner in M6 Group, which has banded together with domestic rivals FTV and TF1 Group to form SVoD service Salto,

C21Kids | Spring 2020

which will launch on June 3 priced between €5 (US$5.34) and €10. While it will carry the children’s content of its various joint-venture partners, local producers feel Salto is unlikely to push into children’s originals for the time being. It will instead focus on originals for adults to challenge the likes of Netflix and Disney+, whose launch in France on March 24 priced €6.99 per month marked another change in the market. A key reason France is the leading European animation powerhouse is because FTV, TF1, M6, Canal+ Group and Disney are required by law to invest large portions of their revenue in original animated content. This has helped foster plenty of coproduction activity between these partners, with TeamTO’s Presto! School of Magic (52x11’) a recent example of collaboration between M6 and Canal+. Understandably, the local production industry is fiercely protective of these quotas and plans are afoot to ensure US-based players like Netflix and other streaming services spend a quarter of their French earnings on local productions. The Walt Disney Company is already working with a French producer on one of its original series for Disney+ with a reboot of Chip ’n’ Dale (39x7’), a coproduction between Disney’s London-based team and Xilam, the company behind Oscarnominated feature I Lost My Body and long-running hit Oggy & the Cockroaches. Xilam has also done a global deal with Netflix on a preschool spin-off to the latter, titled Oggy Oggy, which X

Canal J picked up Nate is Late despite the fact S2 will debut on Okoo

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COUNTRYFILE: French animation

C21Kids | Spring 2020

will be the streamer’s first animated original series in France. Oggy Oggy is Xilam’s first CGI animated series and the prodco retains global secondwindow linear TV distribution and merchandising rights to the show. This kind of work is obviously incredibly high-profile and not to be sniffed at. However, it also deviates radically from the traditional way of getting projects off the ground in France, where producers usually hold on to the lion’s share of rights. As a result, animation is consistently the French market’s biggest-selling genre internationally, accounting for 40% of the country’s foreign sales in 2018, according to trade body TV France International. In France, producers can secure 6070% of budgets by supplementing the mandatory investment in animation from certain broadcasters with public funding from bodies such as the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée. Local firms can also access tax credits to reclaim 25% of what they spend in France. As a result, deals where producers have to hand over all rights to the broadcaster or platform tend to be rarely seen in the country. But Xilam’s du Pontavice is adamant that its deals with Netflix and Disney+ in no way mark the beginning of the end for France’s animation export business. Du Pontavice points to a new, mixed business model in France that includes some global deals for shows and others done territory by territory, as Xilam recently did with Mr Magoo, by selling it to individual broadcasters around the world. “We approach it on a case-by-case basis and both business models are valid. We don’t want the platforms to become the sole players. It’s important to keep on supporting the local broadcasters, so we want to keep a mix,” says the exec. The ideal scenario, most producers agree, is to hit upon a deal whereby a show can be made with a domestic broadcaster in France while a global streamer takes international rights. But with every buyer increasingly wanting exclusivity to mark it out from the competition, those deals are hard to come by. “It’s kind of crazy to walk away from the French system, which is so strong,” admits Emmanuèle Petry Sirvin, producer and partner at Parisbased Dandelooo. But one way the rise of streaming is impacting the kind of programmes being made in France, rather than the contracts for them, is in the sharp

The Upside Down River

SPFA president Philippe Alessandri and Emmanuèle Petry Sirvin of Dandelooo

increase in demand from buyers for serialised animated shows. As Watch Next’s Alessandri says, it seems every French prodco is now developing at least one of these. Age demographics previously largely ignored by French animation producers are suddenly in vogue, with companies that previously focused mostly on 4-8s now developing shows for 8-12s and above. “People are opening their minds to things that nobody wanted before, like arcs and evolution in serialised series – all these things that the writers have always wanted to do. And the formats are suddenly not that fixed. It used to only be seven-, 11- or 22-minute episodes, now you can be creative. If you have a 4x60’ project, why not pitch it?” says TeamTO’s Kouper.

Canal+, for example, last year ordered 10x30’ series The Upside Down River from Dandelooo and its animation studio Ooolala in La Cartoucherie, Valence. Aimed at 8-12s and set for delivery in early 2022, the series is adapted from the children’s novel La Rivière à L’Envers by French children’s author Jean Claude Mourlevat. Described as a love story and an adventurous quest in a poetic fantasy world, it follows a girl and a shy boy’s search for water drops from the Qjar river in order to heal her sacred bird. Petry Sirvin says the serialised nature of the show reflects the new way its target audience wants to watch “ambitious stories.” While such demand is to be celebrated, the French animation

industry, which looks set to employ an estimated 7,500 people by the end of this year, also has to be mindful of some of the challenges this creates. For one, there’s a shortage of animation talent, despite there being more than 50 schools that offer training in France and produce around 500 graduates each year. The problem is that many choose to work for US studios, either in the US or in France, or move to the UK. Meanwhile, Prima Linea Productions, an established French producer of animated shorts and films founded in 1995, was liquidated earlier this year after the poor performance of its visually impressive feature The Bears, which had a reported budget of €11m. There isn’t the same support from broadcasters when it comes to animated films in France, meaning they often struggle to compete with the output of the major US studios. “It’s a different game,” says Xilam’s du Pontavice, whose company had to self-fund the €5m-budget, featurelength, adult-skewing I Lost My Body, which went on to win numerous awards and miss out on an Oscar to Toy Story 4. Thanks to Netflix, it’s available in living rooms around the world, highlighting another way the streamer is shaking things up in the French audiovisual business. “No one wanted to buy this film in the beginning. Netflix made us an extremely attractive proposal, which gave a small, auteur, independent film exposure we would have never dreamt of having. What was supposed to be an attempt to explore storytelling in animation for adults became very profitable,” says du Pontavice. Xilam is now looking to do more modestly budgeted feature films and Dandelooo also has two animated features on its slate. However, Petry Sirvin is aware that while the French market is ideally suited to series, it can be the opposite scenario when it comes to animated films. “We can’t compete with the big studios, so our best bet is to go with small budgets, around €3-4m max, and make simple films that are not necessarily artsy but the opposite of the big studios. We’ve come to the conclusion there are no good films for preschoolers, so there’s a lack of supply there,” says Petry Sirvin. While much remains unclear about how France’s entertainment business could look in the coming years, it seems likely the country’s infatuation with animation will not be changing anytime soon.


NEXT BIG THINGS: Okoo Ok ko oo

C21Kids ids | Spring 2020

Jean-Michel Super Caribou

Staging Okoo Okoo, o, the new streaming ice from France service Télévisions, visions, has arrived to e the place of soon take soonto to-close linear kids a and family channel FFrance 4. By Nico Franks


audiences and animation at FTV, hile the rest of the industry admits the pubcaster still has plenty to do may be seeking to postpone to get the word out about Okoo. “We have to work the closure of kids and family on communication and marketing around Okoo of channel France 4 (see page 9), France Télévisions (FTV) continues to focus its efforts on its course. There will be a push towards it on linear channels as well as an outdoor campaign during the holidays,” says digital transformation. A cornerstone of this strategy where children are de Raguenel, pointing to the upcoming spring break for concerned is Okoo, the online platform that launched French schools. (De Raguenel was talking to C21Kids in early December last year with 2,500 episodes of prior to the closure of French schools as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to result in an programming. This is set to rise to 5,000. Aimed at three- to 12-year-olds, the ad-free service uptick in Okoo’s use.) Okoo’s user interface adapts to the age of the child using is available for free and replaces FTV’s existing public service digital offerings, Ludo and Zouzous. It is accessible it, while parents are able to set limits to the amount of on mobile phones and tablets via the Apple and Google time their children spend on the app. It sits in a market dominated by YouTube, and the Play stores as well as connected TVs, while it will also be YouTube Kids app, as well as Netflix and the recently integrated into IPTV boxes from the likes of Orange. launched Disney+, which arrived in It features all of the kids’ programming seen on France 3 and Kids content is very France, as well as the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and France 5 as well as France 4, which is set successful on FTV Switzerland, on March 24. to go off air on August 9, while expanded De Raguenel is confident Okoo’s programming blocks are also being at the moment, so we main strengths – the fact it’s free from introduced on France 3 and France won’t be changing the both ads and any subscription fee – will 5. These will be in the mornings and whole recipe. We are evenings, on Wednesday afternoons, always looking for strong mean it will occupy a top position in the market by offering families something at weekends and during holidays, “very specific in the French market.” representing a total of 54 hours of slots comedy for kids. “It’s 100% safe, because it only has for children’s programming each week. Tiphaine de Raguenel kids’ content on it. Of course, YouTube Programming available on Okoo France Télévisions is one of the main competitors, but includes animated series such as Gigantosaurus, Tina & Tony, Simon and Jean-Michel Super YouTube Kids has advertising and a lot of content that’s Caribou, as well as acquired scripted series aimed at older not specifically for kids. Our other main competitors are Netflix and Disney+, but they are pay platforms,” says de kids, such as ZombieLars and Holly Hobbie.  It also features magazine programmes such as science Raguenel. FTV claims to be the number one partner and investor show Ç’est Toujours pas Sorcier (It’s Still Not Rocket Science) and originals such as Les Plus Belles Comptines in the production of European animation, due to its €30m (US$33m)-plus annual spend, half of which was spent on d’Okoo (Okoo’s Most Beautiful Nursery Rhymes). In terms of its reception, Okoo has drawn plaudits French originals, excluding films and acquisitions, in 2018. FTV currently has around 70 animated series in for its snazzy and clear interface, although local producers aren’t convinced enough people know production and development, most of which are aimed at preschoolers and children, as well as a decent chunk that about it ahead of France 4’s upcoming closure. Tiphaine de Raguenel, director of young will be made available on digital-only, youth-skewing X

Tiphaine de Raguenel




C21Kids | Spring 2020

Okoo toon Gigantosaurus (above) and live-action shows ZombieLars (below) and Holly Hobbie

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service france.tv/slash, which is targeted at young adults aged between 15 and 34. Moreover, in the face of criticism last summer about the planned closure of France 4, FTV pledged to maintain its current levels of investment – €32m per year – through to 2022. FTV also agreed a deal with local animation producers that will allow the broadcaster to exploit series on both its linear and non-linear platforms, with productions given their first window online via Okoo. (For more about the headaches this is causing local producers, see page 9.) “We’ve decided to have a digital-first strategy. Every show starts with a window on Okoo. Audiences can discover the show with at least 10 episodes available. Some shows – like ZombieLars – will only be on Okoo. Others will have their digital window then go on the linear channels to promote them,” says de Raguenel. In the case of Autour de Minuit Productions’ upper preschool show Jean-Michel Super Caribou, based on the books by Magali Le Huche, the toon’s eventual launch on linear earlier this year resulted in a bump to its viewing figures on Okoo, says de Raguenel. “It helps to have a first window on digital, which helps the launch on linear, which in turn means new kids come to digital for more episodes,” she says. Switch on France 4 during the day and most likely you’ll

be met with a bright, colourful animated series. However, the new focus on online viewing has led de Raguenel and her team at FTV’s children and youth department to broaden out into different genres beyond animation, including non-scripted formats, documentaries, magazine shows and live-action dramas. The team includes Pierre Siracusa, director of animation; Claire Heinrich, head of acquisitions; and Ronan de Longrave, deputy director for young audience programmes, aside from animation. . In live-action, de Raguenel points to acquisition ZombieLars as the kind of show FTV might not have been interested in previously but which is now performing well on Okoo. The family-skewing drama from Tordenfilm originated in Norway on children’s channel NRK Super and follows the adventures of a half-undead 11-year-old boy who finds out that he lives next door to a ninja, a witch, a troll and a changeling. “With live-action we really focus on attracting the older kids, from nine to 12 years old. We really want to have a strong link with them because we know after the age of nine, kids are watching fewer cartoons. They want to see something real,” says the exec, who joined FTV in 2012. Another example of how the digital shake-up is in turn shaking up de Raguenel’s commissioning strategy is its hunt for more serialised shows, including animated series. “With the digital movement we can offer kids a new kind of serialised show that is more focused on storyline and plot,” says de Raguenel, pointing to the new episodes of The Mysterious Cities of Gold that are heading to France 3 and Okoo later this year. Meanwhile, FTV still has broadly the same children’s programming needs as it did before the shake-up, with de Raguenel emphasising the continued need for more shows with “strong female characters” at their centre. “Kids’ content is very successful on FTV at the moment, so we won’t be changing the whole recipe. We are always looking for strong comedy for kids, all kinds of comedy, cartoons, slapstick and also adventure comedy, which is very successful at the moment,” says de Raguenel. Shows with a distinct ‘French’ identity will become even more important in future as the company feels the heat from international firms such as Netflix and Disney+, adds de Raguenel. “Having very local stories is key to being a successful public broadcaster, especially when the competitors are more and more global,” she says. There’s no doubt the closure of France 4 is a massive gamble – and there may yet be another twist in that tale – but the initial signs are Okoo is set to give one of Europe’s biggest cultural institutions a solid digital platform to build on.

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C21Kids | Spring 2020

Canuck tales Netflix’s manager of original animation series Jane Lee is inc increasingly looking to markets such as Canada for content, with un under-represented stories a key focus. By Adam Benzine


hile plenty of territories are now squarely in Netflix’s sights when it comes to kids’ content, Canada in particular has been receiving plenty of attention of late, with indigenous creatives and diverse stories at the top of the global streamer’s wishlist. With more than 167 million subscribers, the SVoD giant has an enormous global reach and the ability to flex its muscle in almost every market. But in Canada, it finds itself competing in a territory where local network operator Corus Entertainment has something of a monopoly, controlling the Canadian versions of Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and Nickelodeon, as well as Canadian nets YTV, Teletoon and Treehouse TV. Nevertheless, Jane Lee, Netflix’s manager of original animation series, sees significant opportunities in the Great White North. Based in LA, Lee is part of a team that works on animation for “big kids.” A separate preschool team typically commissions content for two- to seven-year-olds, with Heather Tilert overseeing strategy as director of original animation for preschool following Dominique Bazay’s relocation from LA to Amsterdam to lead the streamer’s original international animation department. Lee’s team, meanwhile, is working on content for kids aged six and up. Among the titles Lee has already set up with Canadian indies are adventure-mystery show The Hollow (10x24’) from Slap Happy Cartoons; zombie-battling book adaptation The Last Kids

Slap Happy’s The Hollow

There’s a variety of different ways that producers and content creators can work with Netflix. It’s really about what’s important to you as a creative partner and what’s important for your business.

Jane Lee Netflix

on Earth (1x67’), with Thunderbird Entertainmentowned indie Atomic Cartoons; and forthcoming preschool superhero series StarBeam, with Kickstart Entertainment. All three firms are based in Vancouver. Beyond those projects, Lee says there is “already a lot of really great volume happening in terms of Netflix shows” in Canada. “We have animated features like The Willoughbys from Bron Studios. On the live-action series side – and I’m just going to talk kids and family here – there’s The Baby-Sitters Club and The Healing Powers of Dude, and I know [WWE’s first Netflix film] The Main Event is being shot in Vancouver. There’s a lot going on.” Last June, Netflix teamed up with indigenous organisations ImagineNative, Wapikoni Mobile and the Indigenous Screen Office for a suite of

partnership programmes aiming to support and develop a new generation of indigenous content creators across Canada. The initiatives range from screenwriting intensives to apprenticeship programmes, and the desire to boost indigenous representation also extends to kids’ content, with Lee telling C21 that animated First Nation stories are a key priority. “Canada does a really great job of supporting First Nations and I know there are initiatives to help indigenous folk tell those stories, so I’m definitely interested in that,” she says. “It’s important to hear stories we haven’t heard before. These can be from people that have just been under-represented in the past. Also there’s a lot of power in seeing people that you haven’t seen before in traditional roles, such as a hero’s journey or the underdog story.” As an on-demand platform freed from the shackles of linear scheduling, Lee says Netflix doesn’t offer guidelines on how long or how many episodes a show should be. Instead it works with creators to find the ideal runtime. “That’s where we rely on the creator’s vision, because there’s so much creative freedom,” Lee explains. “We really want the creator to tell us. What exactly do you want to do? How do you want to tell your story? “Sometimes it’s 11 minutes, sometimes it’s 22. I am working with a couple of creators who want to do something right in the middle. So we’re developing something with them that’s probably landing somewhere between 15 and 17 minutes. The creative comes first.”


C21Kids | Spring 2020

Zombie book adaptation The Last Kids on Earth

As for the volume of kids’ programming Netflix is looking for per year, Lee is non-committal. “Honestly, we don’t really believe in quotas, so we’re not going to put a number on it,” she adds. Netflix’s slate of original programming for kids just keeps getting longer, with Oscar winner Taika Waititi attached to write, direct and executive produce two original animated series for Netflix based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. This followed Netflix striking an exclusive deal with The Roald Dahl Story Company to develop an exclusive slate of family-oriented animated event series and specials based on the BFG author’s books in late 2018. Lee, meanwhile, pushes back against the common misperception that Netflix will only do a deal if it can have all rights for all platforms in perpetuity. She offers Slap Happy’s The Hollow as an example: Netflix took all digital and streaming rights and broadcast rights for two years. However, after 24 months, the broadcast rights reverted back to the producer. “There’s a variety of different ways that producers and content creators can work with Netflix,” she says. “It’s really about what’s important to you as a creative partner and what’s important for your business. But then, for that partner to also be like, ‘Hey, this is what’s really important to Netflix,’ working together to see what compromises we can make to find something that’s mutually beneficial.” That flexibility can also extend to conversations around merchandising rights: “Sure, if that’s something that’s really important for a creator and producer, then it’s important for them to bring that up.” Beyond straight animated content, Netflix is also open to hybrid projects that might combine animation and live-action. “We’re definitely looking at innovative storytelling in different formats,” Lee says. “Sometimes people’s passion projects aren’t always animated. What’s great about Netflix is we

have the e capability to work on all sorts of different types of shows. And so, if there was something that’s hybrid, brid, I could very easily speak with another live-action on exec and be able to collaborate with that person to o make sure a creator is fully supported.” When it comes to pitching Lee and her team, having an agent or a lawyer is not essential but is, nevertheless, eless, highly recommended. “We want to make sure re that talent is also protected, so that’s why representation ntation is always helpful,” she says. As for where and when to make your pitch, she suggests gests that markets and festivals – such as Prime Time in Ottawa in January and the Banff World Media Festival in n June – make for good opportunities. “Partiallyy because, for an exec like me, that’s ’s the brain that we’ll have on at the he market. And because of the number umber of emails I get, sometimes es that cold email is just really ly easy to forget, whereas a face-to-face conversation ation is always more memorable.” emorable.” She does, however,, offer a caveat at about approaching hing her at an industry event. “Please, please don’t follow me into the bathroom,” she laughs. ghs. “Outside of that, lean forward ward on your voice e as a creator. eator. Don’t come in n without a vision; a lot of people just want nt to ask, ‘So what does Netfl etflix want to do?’ and acquiesce uiesce on so many things. Really, what we’re trying to invest in are those e The Healing Powers of Dude creative voices.”



AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Ori Original ig giin na al audio aud au diio content co c ont nte en n ntt

C21Kids | Spring 2020

Paw Patrol

Listen up With Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Apple Music and Deezer all now carrying content for children, how is this trend being explored be by children’s TV pr producers? By Karolina Kaminska


ust as podcasts for adults have become hugely popular over the past few years, so too has audio aimed at kids. Audiobooks on CDs and, going even further back, on cassettes, have been ways to keep children entertained for decades, usually on long car journeys. More and more, however, this type of content is transitioning to apps and other streaming platforms. As a result, increasing numbers of traditionally television-focused prodcos are now looking into audio as a medium for their content. One such company is Novel

Entertainment, the studio behind animated kids’ TV hit Horrid Henry. The UK-based firm is launching a Horrid Henry audio series this spring, with an initial release of 10 titles that take the form of audio dramatisations of the TV show. The series will debut on Amazon-owned Audible first, before launching on Spotify and iTunes. “With Horrid Henry, some years ago we produced audio CDs for kids listening in the car and so on, but the market wasn’t very strong. Now, of course, it’s all online, so we’re revisiting that area with Horrid Henry audio stories,” says Lucinda Whiteley,

creative director and co-founder of Novel Entertainment. This isn’t Novel Entertainment’s first audio project, however, having previously produced a show for BBCowned CBeebies Radio called Rockit’s Pocket, which was a spin-off from CBeebies TV series Fimbles. Meanwhile, Universum Film in Germany produces audio series of kids’ shows Paw Patrol, Lego Friends, Lego Ninjago and Lego City. Like Novel Entertainment’s Horrid Henry, the audio series are based on the TV episodes and feature the original voices, plus a narrator. Each

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Original audio content

C21Kids| Spring 2020

of the series are available on Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Apple Music and Deezer. UK, local indie Sixth Back in the UK Sense Media broke into audio for the first time last year with Time for School: Carpet Time for CBeebies Radio. The series is based on Sixth Sense’s TV show Time for School, which follows the ups and downs of real children as they start school, and was inspired by the ‘carpet time’ section of the TV show where the kids partake in an activity on the carpet. According to Sixth Sense MD Sallyann Keizer, the prodco decided to turn Time for School into an audio show due to Keizer’s own love for the medium and to extend the brand. “It was very straightforward to create a radio show around Time for School,” says Keizer. “At the start of many of our TV shows, we had carpet time, which was quite a central part of our series. So we picked that idea from the show and pitched it to CBeebies Radio. We thought it would be a delightful thing to have a radio show off the back of that, where children are on the carpet and doing an activity around different topics that are fun and interesting.”

At Novel Entertainment, Whiteley points out that tha kids “don’t just want to enjoy TV,” but bu also want to experience their favourite brands in other ways. “If you’ve got a really good, strong brand then our belief belie is you should deliver it to the audience in lots of different ways. With Horrid Henry, we have a movie, H we have a game – we have all sorts of ga different ways for kids to experience it.” Universum Film, meanwhile, found creating audio content for the Paw a Patrol and Lego brands “the Patro logical next step” following log the th success and popularity of o the respective TV series. Coupled with the s “increasing use of audio “i content” among kids, it co was a no-brainer, according Ingrid Hölzel, head of to In home entertainment marketing at ent Leonine Distribution, the sales arm Dis of Universum Film’s parent company Leonine. “The stories are already well s known by audiences and now they can ca enjoy them at different times and in locations when a they wouldn’t be watching or wo have access to TV, such as long car journeys, before bedtime and during be playdates,” she s says. In addition, the company was additio responding to a demand to give children greater choice over how gre they consume consum content, Hölzel notes. “We saw the 4-10 age group as an underserved audience. Working with leading brands was key – they are all tried, tested and proven characters that have a strong fanbase around the world,” she says. At a time when there is so much content available to kids on TV, phones and tablets, some parents are understandably concerned about the Illustration for the audio story Horrid Henry & the Perfect Plant

amount of time their children spend staring at screens and the impact this may have on them. This provides another reason for companies to branch out into audio, according to Hölzel, who says: “Audio plays are a great incentive to encourage parents to reduce screen time for their kids but still keep the family entertained.” Sixth Sense’s Keizer agrees. “I don’t know how many times I’ve watched children sat with a tablet for hours and hours. Particularly at times when children are tired, I don’t think they should be watching screens. There’s something lovely about audio – bedtime content is really lovely for younger children and there could be room for a wind-down show before children go to bed,” she says.

If you’ve got a really good, strong brand then our belief is you should deliver it to the audience in lots of different ways. With Horrid Henry, we have all sorts of different ways for kids to experience it.

Lucinda Whiteley Novel Entertainment

In line with this, Keizer points out audio is beneficial in encouraging ouraging children to free their imagination. ination. “Audio is a beautiful medium that allows a child to envisage in their brain their own images, es, rather than being given an image. Children love imagining,, and audio empowers them to imagine. magine. Working with CBeebies Radio o really reminded me of the power off sound, of how it nurtures your imagination gination in a very different way from pictures,” ictures,” she says. X


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AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Original audio content

C21Kids| Spring 2020

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Given the appeal of audio to both consumers and producers, Whiteley believes there are opportunities for indies to break into the sector, but points out that the financial side of things could present an obstacle. “The question is how much it costs you to produce the material,” she says. “Everyone is probably thinking there is money to be made from it, but they’re all trying to figure out how they actually do it. “I would imagine, if you’re a radio producer, you can probably produce very efficiently. If you’re a television producer, can you produce audio as efficiently? You should be able to in theory. Audio production costs are

Carpet Time, which was recorded on location as opposed to in a studio. Another challenge Whiteley highlights for prodcos adapting TV shows into audio is the differences between writing for the two mediums. Adapting a TV programme into audio is more of a challenge than adapting a book into audio, as books – which aren’t reliant on visuals – are more closely aligned with audio than TV, where the visuals are responsible for telling part of the story. “When you’re listening to a story, you’re conjuring up the images in your head, so the way you tell the story through audio is different to the way you tell a story as a TV episode. We

Universum Film produces audio content based on shows including Lego Friends

Audio plays are a great incentive to encourage parents to reduce screen time for their kids but still keep the family entertained.

Ingrid Hölzel Leonine Distribution

probably as broad as the production costs of TV, but they must be lower if you’re not having to film it.” Podcasting would be a less expensive option, Whiteley argues, because “you just need a microphone and possibly a bit of editing and somebody who will talk.” But more active types of audio can cost a lot more, as Sixth Sense’s Keizer notes was the case with Time for School:

might tell the story in a slightly different order because, when you’re listening to it, your brain processes information in slightly different ways from when you’re seeing and processing images at the same time,” Whiteley says. “As an example, you could come in halfway through an argument with Peter and Henry [in Horrid Henry] on TV and visually you would see what they were having an argument about and would understand the context. But with audio, you can’t just come in right in the middle without an explanation and without the scene being set. Going from a TV show to audio is a different process to going from a book to audio because most audiobooks are just the books being read.” Leonine’s Hölzel adds: “You have to make sure children can follow along as the stories unfold without any visual help.” When it comes to finding a home for your audio show, Hölzel explains demand for children’s audio content mainly comes from streaming services, as opposed to traditional

broadcasters. But what exactly are they looking for when it comes to scripted content? According to an Audible representative, while some audiobooks can be upwards of 30 hours in length, the platform tends to find that shorter content of less than four hours and story collections are particularly popular with both children and their parents. “While we’ve only recently started expanding our range of children’s scripted content, we’re focusing on shorter, bite-sized content, rather than long, bingeable epics,” the representative says. Spotify Kids, meanwhile, is “focused on producing playlists that span a variety of content categories including movies and TV shows, activities and stories,” according to a rep from the audio platform. Spotify Kids currently streams audio content from CBeebies and is soon to launch content from Disney and Nickelodeon. Sixth Sense’s Keizer adds that when she worked with CBeebies Radio, it was keen to feature audio shows associated with brands. Sixth Sense’s Time for School: Carpet Time, Universum Film’s Paw Patrol and Lego audio shows, and Novel Entertainment’s Horrid Henry all stem from existing TV brands. But is there potential for shows made primarily for audio to be used as a means to try out original IP that could one day move to TV, as has happened with some adult podcasts like Dirty John, Homecoming and My Dad Wrote a Porno? “Absolutely,” says Whiteley. “It’s arguably more cost-effective than writing a book and trying to get it published, which is the other traditional way of doing it.” In fact, the Audible rep says the company is already beginning to see cases of children’s audio content being adapted for not just TV, but also film and books. One such example is Spotify Kids podcast The Two Princes, which is being adapted into a 60-minute animated special for WarnerMedia’s upcoming SVoD service HBO Max. On the book side of things, National Public Radio in the US is making kids’ show Wow in the World: The Human Body into two books by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Getting into audio could, therefore, go beyond a mere brand extension for TV producers, enabling them to test out new ideas. As Whiteley says: “It’s a great way to get stories out there.”


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09/03/2020 12:02:25

CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES: Nickelodeon International

C21Kids | Spring 2020

Making friends N Nickelodeon International is expanding its g global production activities and eyeing more p partnerships with overseas players. By Gün Akyuz


iacomCBS-owned global kids’ brand Nickelodeon is busy diversifying its global activities and ramping up its studio production under president Brian Robbins. While Nickelodeon’s US studio remains the production engine for the lion’s share of its originals worldwide, outside the US the network deploys a ‘studio without walls’ model, says London-based Nina Hahn, senior VP of production and development at Nickelodeon International. Hahn, who oversees the group’s global content slate outside the US, says Nickelodeon International will pair up with external studios on any continent. Stateside, Nickelodeon’s expanding studio strategy has already led to interesting bedfellows, such as its recent content production partnership with Netflix. “Being at the centre of what kids want, and with Brian Robbins at the helm of Nickelodeon globally, there’s a real push to rejoice in the kid experts that we have always been and figure out what that looks like today,” says Hahn. “One of the great things that Nickelodeon International brings to the table is the unique boutique of so many different cultures, with so much different talent both in front of and behind the camera.” The Nickelodeon brand is currently available to 400 millionplus households in more than 170 countries, through 100 locally programmed linear channels and branded blocks, spanning Nickelodeon and preschool service Nick Jr. There is also the Nick Play app, featuring shows and games, while

the Nick Jr. channel on YouTube has about 12 million subscribers. A core mission for Hahn is ensuring Nickelodeon continues to reflect the reality for kids in an ever-shifting landscape. Hahn says Nickelodeon’s route is to create content that feels relevant to today’s culturally agnostic kids, who are used to hearing different accents and understanding multiple ways of looking at things. Diversity is a notable feature in Nickelodeon’s shows. “We have a lot of shows on the docket that speak to a lot of the diversity, authenticity and inclusion aspects of what is second nature to kids today,” says Hahn. Examples of such diversity include Emmy-winning animated series The Loud House, featuring same-gender parents; its spin-off The Casasgrandes, which includes a character with Down’s syndrome and was renewed in February following its launch in the US last fall; hit preschool show Nella the Princess Knight, preschool’s first mixed-race female knight; and live-action series Hunter Street, now in S4, which centres on a family of foster kids. Such programmes are “really trying to show the new definition of what it means to be a family, what it means to be a tribe or what it means to belong to something, across both the domestic and the international side,” says Hahn. Behind the scenes, Nick’s production models are becoming increasingly multi-faceted too. Set to launch soon is It’s Pony (20x11’), X

It’s Pony and Deer Squad (below) are both multinational productions



CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES: Nickelodeon International

We’re pulling together the best of the best from wherever they may be in order to make what we feel is a hit show that’s going to be relevant to kids everywhere.

Nina Hahn Nickelodeon International

Live-action series Hunter Street

from Nickelodeon International’s UK team and prodco Blue Zoo. Developed by British creator Ant Blades and Hahn, the series was written by two New York-based writers, voice-cast in LA and overseen by a French art director, in what Hahn dubs Nick’s “UN production model.” She explains: “We’re pulling together the best of the best from wherever they may be in order to make what we feel is a hit show that’s going to be relevant to kids everywhere.” The show will also be the first time Nickelodeon has produced an animated series outside the US that will launch worldwide. The series, which debuted stateside in January, begins rolling out to the rest of the world in April, starting with the UK. “It’s quite a feather in our cap and an exciting moment for the international industry, because it’s the first time this has really ever been done.” Another newcomer is Ollie’s Pack!, Nickelodeon’s Canadian copro with Corus Entertainment-owned Nelvana. Chris Rose, VP of animation for Nickelodeon International, calls the production a “no-brainer,” following the pair’s success with Corn & Peg. The project, which launches in the US in April before rolling out internationally, came out of the Nickelodeon Animation

C21Kids | Spring 2020

Shorts Program and “ticks all the boxes when it comes to fun, relatable characters, dynamic and highly imaginative storylines,” says Rose. Asia has been a top region for Nickelodeon production over the past two years, with activity exploding in China and Singapore in particular, says Hahn. Now in production and with season two in the pipeline is CG animated preschool show Deer Squad, a copro with Chinese streamer iQiyi. The show, which spent 18 months in development in China, was boarded and produced in that country and written in the UK. The collaboration is a milestone for Nickelodeon International, according to Lynsey O’Callaghan, its director of current preschool series and acquisitions. Season one, which launches internationally this year, also marks “the first time Nick Asia is taking a Chinese original from the conception phase before airing on our networks internationally,” O’Callaghan says. Last autumn, Nickelodeon also forged a copro venture with Alibabaowned Chinese giant Youku as part of a wider content deal with parent firm Viacom. “Figuring out how to connect the dots between what works and is relevant to the Chinese kid and what works and is relevant to the Western kid has been part of our process of upcycling development and how we make things for a more global audience,” she explains. Nickelodeon is now expanding its Asian production efforts with two as-yet-undisclosed animated projects now in the works in both South Korea and India, targeting those aged around 10. All these projects are helping to inform the kind of models for further collaborations in the region, with another two or three relationships now in the early stages. “These first models will allow us to continue producing, using the lessons of the production models that we’ve deployed in a lot of these areas,” says Hahn. Back in Europe, UK-produced live-action series Goldie’s Oldies (20×22’) is being prepared for launch later this year. Produced in-house by Viacom International Studios (VIS)

UK and filmed in Manchester, it is VIS’s first original commission for Nickelodeon’s channels and platforms outside the US, says Charly Valentine, VP of live-action production and development at Nickelodeon International. The project used a global writing room to bring in different comedic and cultural perspectives, along with its universal themes, including the importance of family and multigenerational relationships, says the exec. As part of its core kids’ mission, Nickelodeon’s vision is about “growing the studio business and growing the kid expertise that we have to be able to make content for everyone,” says Hahn. “You’re starting to see it, obviously with some of these relationships, such as with Netflix and other deals that have already been announced. “The idea is to be a studio as well as a broadcaster, so that we can make great content for kids everywhere, whether it’s for our own networks or for third parties. Figuring out those third-party relationships has been something I’m really excited about.” Coming out of the Nickelodeon International group soon will be an as-yet-undisclosed new partnership that marks the first stage of that trajectory, and others will follow, Hahn reveals. Nickelodeon has its work cut out, with linear viewing fragmenting and a new streaming competitor in Disney+, which is forecast to pick up big subscriber numbers as it continues to roll out globally, following its strong US launch last November. A sanguine Hahn responds: “There has always been competition, and this is no different. In some ways, the competition has been a good thing because it’s forced all of us on the linear side – and not just Nickelodeon – to figure out how to take the best of what we are, the experts that we are and mature into a landscape that is ever-changing.” With Nick now bolstered by an expanding studio model, along with the recent ViacomCBS and All Access streaming developments, which give it “skin in the game,” Hahn says: “It’s quite exciting because it reminds you to remain nimble and to figure out how you can take what you do so well but add another arm to it for our group.”

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C21Kids | Spring 2020

Development Slates Discovery Kids Media The production and distribution arm of Latin American broadcaster Discovery Kids recently beefed up its slate of original programming, with plenty of copros in the mix.


iscovery Kids Media (DKM) recently added five animated and live-action titles to its slate, all of which will be made in Lat Am. These include Underdogs: The Animated Series (working title), which has been in the development pipeline at Discovery since as far back as 2015. A spin-off to the internationally successful feature film Underdogs (Metegol), it comes from Argentina’s Mundoloco CGI and follows a team of football players. Other projects going into production are Bean & Friends, which tells the story of a bean sprout who befriends those around him after being left behind in a school’s art room. The show is a coproduction between Brazilian companies Chatrone Latin America and Birdo Studios.

Carolina Lightcap

The three live-action shows are Alex’s Music, Super Lolo and Our Zoo World (all working titles). Alex’s Music combines live-action and animation to tell the story of a passionate music lover who has yet to realise her full potential. It has been created by Adam Anders, executive

music producer on Glee, whose company, Anders Media, is coproducing with US Spanishlanguage prodco 360 PowWow. Alex’s Music is being filmed in Mexico. Comedy series Super Lolo follows the alter ego of a 10-year-old girl who develops ‘superempathy’ after an accident with one of her grandfather’s gadgets. The show is an MV Videos production. Finally, Our Zoo World tells the story of a 10-year-old who takes ownership of a zoo and is produced by Brazilian prodco Boutique Films All five titles will be distributed internationally by DKM. Carolina Lightcap, executive VP and chief content officer at Discovery Latin America/ US Hispanic and general manager of DKM, says preparing kids for future challenges is a key theme in many of its shows. “We try to showcase the joy of being a real kid. We are very inclusive and welcome all types of kids. We understand kids are a work in progress. You see real kids on our screen, which is something that goes back to the authenticity of our mother brand, Discovery.”

MiMo Studio Nickelodeon’s former president is aiming to build a new franchise model for children’s content in what is looking more and more like a post-broadcast world.


Cyma Zarghami

uring Cyma Zarghami’s time at Nickelodeon, the ViacomCBS-broadcaster launched the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants and Paw Patrol into the world, with both going on to become major franchises. Both, however, emerged in a mostly pre-streaming world and Zarghami believes the way companies try to create new franchises has to change accordingly. “Continuing to do it in the traditional way is clearly not working,” says the exec, who spent three decades at Nickelodeon before stepping down as president in 2018. Zarghami launched New York-based MiMo Studio earlier this year with chief operating officer and former Nickelodeon exec Madeira Ginley in tow as part of a “lean” team, which also includes legal and marketing execs. The new outlet will focus on short TV movies targetting children under the age of 11, rather than series. “There’s a tonne of IP out there that should be turned into video but not necessarily full-on series, which could still happen further down the line. I’ve homed in on this notion that

more IP should be developed in smaller quantities.” Hence the name MiMo, short for mini movies. Zarghami has opted to prioritise depth of catalogue as opposed to focusing on only a handful of projects, resulting in MiMo already having five projects in development. Crucially, each has the potential to have multiple titles spun off from it. “A more traditional company starting out would try and aggressively go deeper into one piece of IP as opposed to gathering a more diverse portfolio,” says Zarghami. Live-action feature The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, based on the book by Matt Christopher, is the furthest down the line. With children and families watching more and more movies together, Zarghami is confident there’s plenty of consumer demand for the format. Meanwhile, the exec believes some properties currently on the market may be having a difficult time breaking out because they’ve not had enough attention paid to them in development. “The mad rush to get content greenlit for all the streaming services has actually truncated the development process in a way that works great sometimes, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to go in the kids’ space.”



KIDSTALK: Bruna Capozzoli

A purposeful future


illennials, those aged roughly Digital specialist between 26 and 40, and Generation Bruna Capozzoli Z (11- to 25-year-olds) now make up believes the industry over half the world’s population. is on the verge of The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 calls them the Generation Disrupted, a monumental shift as a characterised by a lack of faith in traditional generation that prioritised societal institutions, governments and profit hands over the reins to business leaders as well as a growing one that prioritises purpose. dissatisfaction within their own lives, financial situations, jobs and social media. On a global scale, the rise in populism, the that solely benefits shareholders and leaves climate emergency and the obsession with employees on the sidelines – this strategy also economic growth that has been failing the brings the entire team to the forefront of the majority while serving only a few, has nourished business, retaining and attracting talent and encouraging and rewarding productivity. a sense of uneasiness and discontent. While streaming’s impact on the content In response this generation is now taking it upon itself to design a purpose-focused side of the kids’ business has been immense, culture for business, consumption and social research produced by The Shift Project titled experiences – a transformation that will have Climate Crisis: The Unsustainable Use of an inevitable knock-on effect on media as they Online Video has revealed alarming data about the hidden environmental impact of take up more senior positions in our industry. In 2018, the first wake-up call came in the online video consumption. It was found that the yearly greenhouse form of Greta Thunberg. At the age of 15, she became the ultimate symbol of climate gas emissions of combined VoD services is activism, although many indigenous and equivalent to those produced by a country the size of Chile. Until now, the BAME youth activists, such The ways in which size of libraries and price as Jamie Margolin, Mari capital is raised, points have been the main Copeny, Xiye Bastida, Isra Hirsi, Kevin J Patel and how success is measured, weapons in the streaming war. But finding more ecoElsa Mengistu, had also how businesses are friendly solutions to limit been working tirelessly to structured and how emissions could deliver champion the same cause. key talent is hired and a significant competitive Content makers advantage, especially responded and we are retained are changing. given consumers’ now about to witness a new boom in eco-conscious content aimed at willingness to switch brands to those that are kids. But these new ‘green shows’ are only a purpose-driven. Elsewhere, toy companies need to recognise tentative step towards retaining relevance. Real transformation requires inner change and respond to a fast-rising movement against and the time has now come for companies plastics that is shaping consumer behaviour. to assess their values and the impact their While giants such as Hasbro, Mattel and Lego have been either too slow or too restrained activities have on the world around them. The reality is that increasing concern about in their initiatives, newcomers like BioBuddi, what a company actually stands for is already a European toy company that uses materials disrupting business, workforces, strategies from sugar cane waste to produce its range of and investment. The ways in which capital environmentally friendly toys, are showing that is raised, how success is measured, how 100% plastic-free toys are already a reality. It is undeniable that this new decade holds businesses are structured and how key talent more challenges than solutions – especially is hired and retained are changing. The traditional capital-focused mindset as the world wrestles with the coronavirus is being replaced by new metrics such as pandemic – but an entrepreneur is disruptive environmental impact, a company’s mission by nature. A desire to start a business comes and people policy. There is evidence that from seeing a better way of doing something customers are actively choosing to spend or identifying something new that needs doing. With this in mind, I can only wish that the more money with ethical businesses, while employers are achieving higher results within search for purpose will disrupt our industry, while inspiring growth within the premise these companies. Meanwhile, in the kids’ business, Aardman, of serving the common good, finding new the UK firm behind Wallace & Gromit and creative solutions for a more egalitarian Shaun the Sheep, handed over a 75% stake society and an ecological balance. After all, in the business to its 140 employees. While the kids’ entertainment industry should have the deal ensures the company’s independence children’s wellbeing at its heart, and working to and helps to avoid the usual route of growing its ensure a liveable future for them should inform value for a potential sale – a common practice all our business decisions.

C21Kids | Spring 2020

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