TVAplus:guide to pre-school & children’s programming
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ulti-platform potential is the way to go in the global kids entertainment business. Just ask MIPJunior, whose International Pitch competition this year will specifically judge finalists on the very criterion of how much potential there is for an idea to extend into as many platforms across as many territories as possible – from digital games to web-series; and apps to merchandise. It seems that broadcasters are less willing to take the plunge until an idea has been proven to have the ability to cross platforms.
Yet that also means the world of children’s content has never seemed so full of endless possibilities; that children’s TV series and films have gone beyond the first screen and been reinvented into toys, mobile apps, theme parks, road shows and even sea cruises!
It takes more than just a strong kids TV series to captivate the attention of the young ones. Kelvin Ong finds out how broadcasters are capitalising on memorable characters and driving merchandising and licensing opportunities beyond broadcast.
Take for instance the “Nickelodeon At Sea” cruises in Asia, a tie-up between Viacom International Media Networks Asia and Star Cruises, the world’s third largest cruise operator. “Nickelodeon At Sea” is, as its name suggests, a fully Nickelodeon-themed cruise experience – from accommodations and programmes, to souvenirs and meals. In August, Nickelodeon also teamed up with airliner AirAsia to launch a multi-territory and multi-platform campaign, designed to educate kids about responsible flying, and Asian destinations and cultures. The network’s online properties such as SpongeBob.com and the SpongeBob SquarePants MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) for Asia launching later this year, provide more examples of the broadcaster’s intent to venture into multi-platform initiatives.
iv | Guide to Pre-School & Children’s Programming television asia plus october 2012
Ji Hee Nam, Vice President, Digital Media, Asia, Viacom International Media Networks, explains why kids networks are venturing beyond traditional broadcast. “Kids by nature are mobile creatures, and more so when their movements are dictated by their parents’ lifestyles. Technology gives us the opportunity to strategically spread our hits and extend our consumer connections in innovative, interactive and immersive ways.” She adds, “While TV is still the main medium whereby kids enjoy animation and programmes, multiplatform content allows them to engage deeper with the characters and shows they love. Having games, apps and ‘second screens’ satisfy their curiosity and need for greater engagement.” The “Cartoon Network Amazone”, Turner’s venture into the theme park space (launching in Thailand next year), is also coming at a time when many other global kids franchises and brands are expanding into the business of “rides and slides”. Earlier this year, the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” theme park was announced to open at Universal Studios in Osaka in 2014. Even the two leading characters from UK animated series Wallace and Gromit have a theme park ride named after them – the “Wallace and Gromit Experience”. Lucien Harrington, Vice President, Branding & Communications, Turner International Asia Pacific Limited, agrees with Ji Hee on the importance of venturing beyond linear programming. “Successful brands are built on creating engagement and then delivering on a core proposition – this is not a profit/ brand expansion trade-off. They must provide an experience over the long-term that is valued by the consumer”, he says. Furthermore, he believes consumers today crave convenience and want content readily accessible whenever and wherever. “Consumers want entertainment, demand entertainment that fits in with their world, their lifestyle, their timing. In the past, it was enough to watch your favourite show at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. Today If I like that show or brand, I will want to watch more of it on a screen that I choose at a time that I choose,” says Harrington. According to Vishal Kurien, Vice President, Advertising Sales, SEA, Viacom International Media Networks, initiatives like “Nickelodeon At Sea” and the Nickelodeon
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and Air Asia educational programme also allow the broadcaster to promote its clients and their messages more innovatively. “By seeding clients’ marketing and promotional strategies with customised solutions, we expand the standard media offerings of spots and dots. The integration of clients’ products and services beyond advertising results in a more creative approach.” Pre-school channel Baby TV, is also looking to explore the possibilities that lie beyond the realm of traditional broadcasting. “We own 100% of the rights to our library and we’re very flexible with what we can do. It makes sense especially for our target audience because parents are often accessing content on the web and often giving their iPads to their kids when they are out, and they’re looking for that content everywhere,” says Maya Talit, Baby TV co-founder. “We’ve seen a lot of demand from parents on our Facebook page for toys of their kids’ favourite characters.” One evergreen kids franchise even went into fashion. Disney’s Minnie Mouse, which has been an iconic character for over 90 years, was given a new lease of life when The Walt Disney Company, together with a number of international designers, unveiled a Minnie Mouse-inspired fashion collection at London Fashion Week earlier this year. Known as “Minnie Mouse Must Haves”, the collection was auctioned off on eBay.com to support the BFC/ Bazaar Fashion Arts Foundation. When it comes to multi-platform ventures, Disney’s approach is nothing short of aggressive. According to an annual ranking by License! Global magazine, Disney’s Consumer Products unit ranked as the top licensor in the world in 2010 registering US$28.6 billion in retail sales of merchandise worldwide. According to the company, operating income at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts grew 53 percent for the second quarter of 2012 to US$222 million on revenue that was up 10 percent to US$2.9 billion. From its long-running theme parks to the many merchandise stores all over the world, Disney has definitely proven this claim, capitalising on its many franchises and brands to the fullest – even venturing into the unexpected world of high fashion. The creation of a new and unified Disney Southeast Asia organisation in November 2011 to harness the market opportunity of the region is further proof of the company’s intent to integrate all its various business operations so as to carry out cross-platform strategies.
But would diversifying the brand into multiple products and platforms lead to brand dilution or loss of Intellectual Property (I.P.) control? Jack Yew, Vice President, Consumer Products, Asia, Viacom Media International Networks, feels it will not dilute the Nickelodeon brand. “In fact, diversifying the brand into multiple products and platforms makes the brand more sustainable in the long run.” Turner’s Harrington shares the same sentiment. “In the end, this dynamism and interaction can only be good for brands and ultimately will feed back into core brand values – no brand can or should exist in a vacuum so rather than something to be feared, this interaction should be embraced.” But Yew is not as optimistic when it comes to I.P. control. “Piracy and counterfeiting remains a major problem for I.P. owners. But some measures we have taken to counter this include making sure that our trademarks and copyrights registration are done properly and constant monitoring of the market to ensure that counterfeits do not enter organised retail.” As the kids entertainment industry continues to evolve, investing in cross-platform business ventures will become more and more vital in order for broadcasters to survive in an increasingly fickle viewer climate. “There have been other industries which did not embrace these changes in consumer consumption patterns and attempted to artificially restrict ways in which consumers could enjoy products they wanted. I think the lesson is – if you do not legitimately meet these demands and expectations, other parties will find a way to do so which ultimately would impact the amount of investment you can make in content,” says Harrington. Ji Hee agrees on the need to move with the times. “One of the phrases being thrown around a lot now in the industry is ‘second screen’. From a broadcaster’s perspective, TV apps and other entertainment or companion tools on digital platforms will allow us to provide deeper and of course, fun engagement with the audience.” While it is hard to predict what the next big thing in kids TV will be, one thing is certain – it will be a franchise that can be reimagined and recreated into much more than just a 13 x 30’ TV series. TVAplus
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