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MIPTV & INTERNATIONAL EMMY KIDS AWARDS EDITION
Top Programmers / Comedies / Gender-Neutral Shows / Super RTL’s Claude Schmit DHX’s Steven DeNure / Billy Macqueen / Disney’s Sean Cocchia / The Jim Henson Company’s Lisa Henson
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26 HOT PICKS
Leading programmers talk wish lists, success strategies and the rapid changes in kids’ viewing habits.
In this age of iPads and SVOD, where content can be called up with the push of a button or swipe of a finger, the words “channel” and “television” must seem so fluid (or perhaps even outdated) to kids.
Ricardo Seguin Guise Publisher Anna Carugati Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani Editor Kristin Brzoznowski Executive Editor Joanna Padovano Managing Editor Sara Alessi Joel Marino Associate Editors Victor L. Cuevas Production & Design Director Phyllis Q. Busell Art Director Simon Weaver Online Director Dana Mattison Senior Sales & Marketing Manager Elizabeth Walsh Sales & Marketing Manager Andrea Moreno Business Affairs Manager
Ricardo Seguin Guise President Anna Carugati Executive VP & Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Kids © 2016 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website: www.tvkids.ws
Unlike any generation before them, children today are true digital natives. They have never experienced life without the internet and perhaps even tablets or smartphones. Many of them know how to engage with these devices even before they can walk! Kids nowadays are actively involved in their content selections, requesting characters or shows be pulled up on-demand when the mood strikes. Their concept of a “time slot” is nearly nonexistent; they don’t have to wait until a certain hour strikes in order to watch their favorite series. Much of their content lives in a world of roundthe-clock access, thanks to the efforts of savvy producers and broadcasters who understand how important it is to stay connected with young ones wherever they may be. In this issue of TV Kids, we hear from a range of leading programmers about their take on the rapid shifts in kids’ viewing habits and how they’re working to shape their channel brands in a 360-degree environment. This edition also contains a special report about gender-neutral shows, as broadcasters aim to cast the widest possible net for an audience in this incredibly fragmented marketplace. Another feature in this issue examines trends in kids’ comedies, which are tough to perfect but so in demand. Also in this issue of TV Kids, Disney Channels’s Sean Cocchia discusses the importance of making content available on multiple devices. Super RTL’s Claude Schmit talks about new opportunities in the SVOD space. We hear from Lisa Henson of The Jim Henson Company about how she and her team are developing content for both traditional and nonlinear platforms. DHX Media’s Steven DeNure shares how he is connecting the company’s activities across production, distribution, broadcast and licensing. And Billy Macqueen talks about the process of reinventing Teletubbies for a new generation of little ones. While a term like “TV” may mean many different things to a child today—conjuring up images of everything from a box in the living room to a mobile phone to a tablet in the back of a car—what remains the same is their desire to watch their favorite characters having adventures in worlds they love. —Kristin Brzoznowski
An inside look at what it takes to make hit comedies for kids.
46 ALL ARE WELCOME
Producers and distributors are finding demand for shows that can resonate with both boys and girls.
Super RTL’s Claude Schmit
DHX Media’s Steven DeNure +Teletubbies Executive Producer Billy Macqueen
Disney Channels’s Sean Cocchia
The Jim Henson Company’s Lisa Henson
GET DAILY NEWS ON KIDS’ PROGRAMMING
SUBSCRIBE HERE: SUBSCRIPTIONS.WS
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4K Media Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V/Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions At MIPTV, 4K Media will be focused on showcasing the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V. The show is the latest installment of the long-running Japanese anime franchise, which has been airing on broadcasters around the globe for the past decade and a half. The company is also presenting Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, a new movie that is slated to hit theaters early next year. In addition, 4K Media will be promoting the remainder of the Yu-Gi-Oh! library, which includes the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. The company plans to continue to expand its European broadcast presence, while also securing additional opportunities in other parts of the world, including in Latin America.
9 Story Media Group Nature Cat / Camp Lakebottom / Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood Among the titles that 9 Story Media Group is hoping to pique international buyers’ interests with are Nature Cat, Camp Lakebottom and Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood. “We have a great lineup of kids’ and family programming for MIPTV,” says Natalie Osborne, the company’s managing director. Referring to Nature Cat, Osborne says the series “is not only incredibly funny, it also delivers the ever-important message of encouraging kids to get outside and explore their natural environment.” Thanks to 9 Story’s recent acquisition of Brown Bag Films, Osborne says the company “is now even more of a powerhouse in kids’ and family content.” She adds that 9 Story has the ability to produce across all styles, from 2D to 3D animation and from live action to hybrid productions.
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood has become a hit preschool show around the world.” —Natalie Osborne Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood
ABC Commercial SplashDance / Hoot Hoot Go! / The Wiggles The live-action preschool series SplashDance is meant to encourage imagination through movement. ABC Commercial is promoting that title at MIPTV, along with Hoot Hoot Go!, a mixed-media preschool program that follows a group of friends as they solve problems. There are also highlights led by the children’s entertainment group The Wiggles, including Ready, Steady, Wiggle! and the Yellow Wiggle spin-off series Emma! “Buyers love The Wiggles because they resonate with preschoolers around the world,” says Tony Iffland, ABC Commercial’s general manager of content sales. “For 25 years now, their success stems from their signature music and dance—the perfect combination of warmth, entertainment and education.”
“We are incredibly lucky to work with extremely talented producers who create high-quality, distinct children’s content that resonates with buyers and children alike, is worldrenowned and has wide appeal.” —Tony Iffland Hoot Hoot Go! 174 World Screen 4/16
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Australian Children’s Television Foundation Little Lunch / Ready for This / Bushwhacked! The live-action mockumentary comedy series Little Lunch is being presented by Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) in Cannes, along with Ready for This, a live-action drama for teens from the producers of Dance Academy and Redfern Now, and Bushwhacked!, a documentary adventure series that takes viewers to some of Australia’s most remote corners. “Although all three programs are diverse in their content, they all have great stories and high production values, which buyers are sure to find appealing,” says Tim Hegarty, ACTF’s international sales manager. “All are filled with great characters, strong stories, real emotions and humor, and all have universal themes that children can relate to regardless of the country in which they live.”
“Our core focus at MIPTV is to follow up with as many buyers as possible on the three fabulous shows launched at MIPJunior last year.” —Tim Hegarty Ready for This
CAKE My Knight and Me / Angelo Rules / Ready Jet Go! Knights, witches and dragons take center stage in My Knight and Me, a medieval-themed animated comedy on offer from CAKE. The company is also showcasing Angelo Rules, an Emmy-nominated show, and Ready Jet Go!, a space series from Dinosaur Train creator Craig Bartlett that airs on PBS Kids in the U.S. “We continue to build on our production and development slate and are currently in production on our new series Bottersnikes and Gumbles, co-produced with Cheeky Little Media and Mighty Nice in Australia,” says Ed Galton, CAKE’s chief commercial officer and managing director. “Bottersnikes and Gumbles is a Netflix original title, commissioned by CBBC in the U.K. and Seven in Australia. It will [launch] on all three [platforms] later this year.”
“High-quality content from producers around the world has always been our priority and we work hard to keep our partnerships going.” —Ed Galton My Knight and Me
Cyber Group Studios Mirette Investigates / Zorro the Chronicles / Zou A 10-year-old detective and her feline assistant take the spotlight in Mirette Investigates, an animated series for the 6-to-10 demo that Cyber Group Studios (CGS) is promoting at MIPTV. The company is also offering up Zorro the Chronicles, an action-packed animated show for kids 6 to 12 that follows teenager Don Diego as he fights for justice, and the third season of Zou, a younger-skewing animated series about a little zebra and his family. “They are all big properties that are well known internationally, for all of them already [have] previous series, books or feature films,” says Pierre Sissmann, the chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios. The company is also working on Gilbert & Allie, an animated comedy that is being co-produced with Brown Bag Films.
“More than ever, CGS is committed to developing highquality entertainment for kids and families worldwide.” —Pierre Sissmann Zou 176 World Screen 4/16
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DHX Media Chuck’s Choice / Airmageddon / Little People Commissioned by YTV in Canada, Chuck’s Choice is a 2D animated comedy geared toward children between the ages of 6 and 11. DHX Media is presenting that title to international buyers in Cannes, along with Airmageddon, a kids’ drone-contest series commissioned by CBBC, and Little People, a new CGI preschool show based on the classic Mattel brand. “DHX is synonymous with top-tier original content,” says Josh Scherba, the company’s senior VP of distribution. “Last year we launched the new Teletubbies and live-action music-centric show Make It Pop, and since then both have become global blockbusters with a strong following. This year is no different in terms of quality content as we gear up to launch Airmageddon and Chuck’s Choice, and continue to promote Little People.”
“This MIPTV we’re bringing a unique crosssection of kids’ series for multiple demographics.” —Josh Scherba Chuck’s Choice
Gaumont Television Furry Wheels / Belle and Sebastian / Calimero Produced for France Télévisions and Disney XD EMEA, Furry Wheels is a character-driven animated comedy in the Gaumont Television catalogue. The show is about a hyperactive sloth who dreams of becoming the fastest racecar driver in the jungle. Another kids’ highlight represented by the company is Belle and Sebastian, an animated adaptation of the classic book of the same name. “Tapping into parents’ nostalgia by sharing the well-known story of an orphan boy and his protective dog with a new generation, this is a more traditional production, staying true to the feel and tone of the original IP,” says Nicola Andrews, the VP of distribution at Gaumont Television. The company is also offering up Calimero, an animated series that follows the adventures of a little black chicken.
“We consciously seek out properties that appeal to a wide range of broadcasters and audiences.” —Nicola Andrews Furry Wheels
Hasbro Studios Transformers Robots in Disguise / My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic / My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Hasbro Studios heads to MIPTV with returning episodes of some of the company’s most successful properties, among them Transformers Robots in Disguise, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. “All three have established passionate fan bases thanks to their memorable characters and original storytelling,” says Stephen Davis, the company’s executive VP and chief content officer. “I think the key for all three of these properties is that they’re telling universally appealing stories with themes that kids (and adults!) around the world can relate to. Whether it’s the emphasis on leadership and teamwork in Transformers or friendship and acceptance in My Little Pony, buyers know that these characters and stories resonate with viewers.”
“Hasbro is home to some of the most beloved brands in the world, and the studio’s strategy is to use those brands as inspiration for telling engaging and creative stories across every platform.” —Stephen Davis
Transformers Robots in Disguise 178 World Screen 4/16
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IMPS The Smurfs /The Smurfs and the Magic Flute /From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf As the global licensor for the Smurfs brand, IMPS’s priority at MIPTV is to promote productions featuring the iconic blue characters. There is The Smurfs animated series, The Smurfs and the Magic Flute feature film and the documentary From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf. “At IMPS, we are in full preparation for the new fully animated [Smurfs: The Lost Village] movie (by Sony Pictures), coming to theaters March 31, 2017,” says Nele De Wilde, the company’s business affairs manager for audiovisual. “Our key partners for The Smurfs TV series will be updated about all activities to come around the movie and the brand, and of course this is the ideal time to welcome new broadcasters and digital media players to the Smurfs’s universe.”
The Smurfs and the Magic Flute
“The continuing success of the Smurfs is due to its broad appeal across cultural, age and gender demographics.” —Nele De Wilde
INK Global Masha and the Bear/Masha’s Spooky Stories/The Mojicons The third season of Masha and the Bear is being presented by INK Global to international buyers, along with the new spin-off Masha’s Spooky Stories. “Season three of one of the world’s favorite animations sees the adorable but hyperactive Masha cause more trouble for her reluctant friend, the bear,” says Bruno Zarka, the company’s media director. “In the new spin-off, Masha shows the audience— in her own inimitable style—how typical childhood fears, such as being afraid of the dark and wary of water, are really nothing to worry about.” INK is also offering up The Mojicons, an upcoming comedy series set in the internet, where a digital villain has stolen the “@” symbol, and Tindili, a new show following the adventures of five alien children.
“All these shows combine distinct originality with a really strong story; this appeals not only to international media buyers, but most importantly to kids.” —Bruno Zarka Masha’s Spooky Stories
Jetpack Distribution Talking Tom & Friends / YOKO / The Sisters The popular Talking Tom apps have been downloaded more than 3 billion times. “Now there is a fantastic opportunity for the international TV market to bring the 52x11-minute highquality CG animated [Talking Tom & Friends] series to viewers,” says Dominic Gardiner, the CEO of Jetpack Distribution. Another MIPTV highlight for the company is YOKO, a show about three best friends who go on magical adventures in a city park. There is also The Sisters, a female-skewing animated sitcom. “The Sisters is a fresh approach to storytelling for girls,” says Gardiner. “Lots of girls’ animated series these days are about ponies, magical rainbow lands and imaginary friends. In contrast, The Sisters is full of hilarious real-life situations that happen in every family.”
“The series curriculum [in YOKO] encourages kids to leave their iPads at home and go outside to play with friends using their imaginations—a very topical and positive message for today’s screen-obsessed kids!” —Dominic Gardiner YOKO 180 World Screen 4/16
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The Jim Henson Company Splash & Bubbles / Dot. / Word Party Debuting on PBS Kids in the fall, Splash & Bubbles is an animated series that explores the wonders of the undersea world. “Utilizing the dynamic CG animation technology of the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, each episode introduces kids ages 4 to 7 to the adventures of its title characters—Splash, a yellow fusilier fish, and his friend Bubbles, a mandarin dragonet,” says Richard Goldsmith, the executive VP of The Jim Henson Company. The book-based Dot. aims to teach little ones how technology can be used to enhance their lives. “Dot. will debut in the U.S. on Sprout in September,” says Goldsmith. The vocabulary-building show Word Party, which follows four baby animals as they sing, dance and play, will premiere on Netflix in June.
“We have three great shows to present to buyers at MIPTV, all of which will see their U.S. premieres in 2016!” —Richard Goldsmith Dot.
m4e/Telescreen Mia and me / Wissper / Tobot Currently in production on its third season, Mia and me has been a worldwide hit. The property, which m4e/Telescreen is showcasing at MIPTV, is also getting a fourth season and a feature film, both of which are currently in development. “In more than 80 territories around the globe, the show is a huge ratings success, with a strong and successful licensing program in place in most territories,” says m4e CEO Hans Ulrich Stoef. Other highlights from the company include Wissper, a preschool program about a girl who can talk to animals, and Tobot, a boys’ action series from Korea. “We are also coming to Cannes with a development slate of eight new shows and our library of almost 2,300 episodes of kids’ and family entertainment programs,” adds Stoef.
“We offer a broad variety of new top-quality shows with strong content that will appeal to all markets and deliver ratings to all broadcasters.” —Hans Ulrich Stoef Mia and me
Mattel WellieWishers / Thomas & Friends: The Great Race / Barbie: Dreamtopia Featuring a character-based narrative, WellieWishers is a 2D animated series centered on five best friends who play, sing and dream in a whimsical garden. Mattel is offering up the title at MIPTV, along with Thomas & Friends: The Great Race. “We consistently strive to evolve our evergreen brands and characters, such as the exciting new Thomas & Friends movie, The Great Race, along with creating and developing new content experiences and extensions, like the all-new animation WellieWishers,” says Andrea Carpenter, the company’s senior director of global content distribution. Mattel is also promoting Barbie: Dreamtopia, a 44-minute special about the magical world imagined by Chelsea, the youngest sister of Barbie.
“MIPTV is always a great show, and this year it is extra special as Mattel has been awarded Brand of the Year.” —Andrea Carpenter Thomas & Friends: The Great Race 182 World Screen 4/16
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Mediatoon Distribution Miru Miru / Bobby & Bill / Yakari Mediatoon Distribution arrives in Cannes with Bobby & Bill, which showcases the friendship between a boy and his dog. Yakari, another highlight, tells the story of a courageous Sioux boy with a magical gift. “With its values of friendship, adventure and fun, combined with [a message about] the preservation of nature, Yakari is becoming more and more famous,” says Jérôme Alby, Mediatoon’s managing director. The company’s catalogue also features Miru Miru, an animated show for kids 3 to 5. “Toddlers will identify with Miru and learn to view the world from different and exciting angles,” says Alby. “The series has already grabbed the attention of major channels, but most importantly, we know that it will charm young viewers the world over!”
“Mediatoon always strives to deliver iconic, well-valued, tried-and-tested brands to our clients.” —Jérôme Alby Miru Miru
Mercis BV Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small The worldwide rights for the book-based property Miffy, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, are owned by Mercis BV. This MIPTV, the company will be showcasing Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small, an animated preschool show about the titular young bunny. “Featuring 52 brand-new stories of seven minutes, this new series is the HD CGI animated sequel to the successful Miffy and Friends,” says Frank Padberg, business development manager and producer at Mercis BV. “Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small has now sold in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S. Together with our distribution partner m4e/Telescreen, we expect to add a few more to this list after this MIPTV.”
“Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small is the first time Dick Bruna’s classic character, which marked 60 years in 2015, has ever appeared in CGI.” —Frank Padberg Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small
Mondo TV Adventures in Duckport / Cuby Zoo / The Treasure Island Based on characters from Suzy’s Zoo, Adventures in Duckport is an animated series targeted at children between the ages of 4 and 7. “There will be lots of ethical and social life values in this adorable show,” says Matteo Corradi, the CEO of Mondo TV. Another MIPTV highlight from the company is Cuby Zoo, a preschool program co-produced with Aurora World. Then there is The Treasure Island, a comedy adventure inspired by the literary classic. The series, co-produced by Rai Fiction, will make its world premiere in Italy this year. “These three shows carry valuable messages of current social and family values and the spirit of adventure,” says Corradi. “They also have different styles of animation and [are targeted to different] age groups.”
“Cuby Zoo is cute and gets into kids’ imaginations and fantasies.” —Matteo Corradi Cuby Zoo 184 World Screen 4/16
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Motion Pictures Distribution Pumpkin Reports / White Dragons / MyaGO White Dragons, which mixes live action with animation, is a teen- and tween-targeted series that Motion Pictures Distribution hopes will have wide appeal. Meanwhile, MyaGO is a preschool project scheduled to being production this fall. The show is a co-production between Spain and Ireland that follows the story of an optimistic little girl named Mya. MyaGO has “bright colors and a positive, non-educational message that could be [summed up] by Monty Python’s famous phrase ‘Always look on the bright side of life,’” says Jorge Patiño Donaggio, the international sales and co-production manager for Motion Pictures. Also being showcased at MIPTV is the comedy Pumpkin Reports, which has been presold in such markets as South Africa, France and the Middle East.
“Motion Pictures has begun diversifying its content, aiming at premium, quality co-productions with the most important players in the industry worldwide.” —Jorge Patiño Donaggio Pumpkin Reports
Rainbow Maggie & Bianca Fashion Friends / Regal Academy / World of Winx Maggie & Bianca Fashion Friends is one of Rainbow’s main offerings for buyers at MIPTV. It follows the friendship of an American and an Italian girl who meet at fashion school. “Maggie & Bianca is exactly what many buyers are looking for: a fresh, cool, live-action show for tweens, with a very original core element about fashion, on top of the values that the audience likes most (music, friendship and a bit of romance),” says Cristiana Buzzelli, Rainbow’s senior VP of licensing and acquisitions. Other highlights are Regal Academy, an animated series that follows the adventures of a group of friends at a school for fairy-tale characters, and World of Winx, an extension of the popular Winx Club franchise that is launching on Netflix this year.
“We will be looking at innovative concepts for co-production for animation, live action and feature films.” —Cristiana Buzzelli Maggie & Bianca Fashion Friends
Saban Brands Power Rangers Dino Super Charge / Popples / Glitter Force The 23rd season in the Power Rangers franchise, Saban Brands’s Power Rangers Dino Super Charge, premiered on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and will roll out globally throughout the year. “The series appeals to buyers around the world because of its extremely passionate global fan base and core themes of teamwork, friendship and helping others, which can resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Frederic Soulie, the senior VP of global distribution and coproductions at Saban Brands. Popples, meanwhile, launched as a Netflix original series last October, with the second installment having premiered in March. Additionally, Saban is showcasing at MIPTV Glitter Force, about five girls who make up a superhero squad.
“We have an exciting slate of existing series with new seasons on the horizon, plus many other shows in development.” —Frederic Soulie Glitter Force 186 World Screen 4/16
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Serious Lunch Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter / Horrible Science / Operation Ouch Serious Lunch, which specializes in children’s and family programming, is presenting Horrible Science, a scripted comedy starring Ben Miller and based on the popular Scholastic books. The company is also offering Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, and, according to Serious Lunch Founder and CEO Genevieve Dexter, this marks the first time Studio Ghibli has produced a TV series. The show will be available digitally, which Dexter says makes it appealing to new-media platforms. Among Serious Lunch’s other MIPTV highlights is the fifth season of Operation Ouch, a BAFTA-winning factual-entertainment series that helps kids face their fears of the hospital by showing them how amazing the human body is at repairing itself.
“Our shows offer highquality STEM programming, which is in short supply for older kids.” —Genevieve Dexter Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter
Shaftesbury Splashlings / Firsts / The Moblees Two new animated series are being launched by Shaftesbury at MIPTV. The first is Splashlings, which follows the adventures of four smart, fun-loving mermaids who are guardians of the sea. A collectible toy line from TPF Toys featuring a variety of merchandise based on the show is now exclusively available at Toys“R”Us. The second new animated series on Shaftesbury’s MIPTV slate is Firsts, which sees a group of friends travel through time to witness every amazing first in history. The company is also showcasing the live-action show The Moblees, which Ryan St. Peters, the VP of kids and family, describes as “a fun, movement-focused preschool series.” Another highlight is Super Duper Deelia, an adventure series about a girl who discovers that she has superpowers on her 11th birthday.
“These series are universally engaging and appealing to global audiences, exploring many relatable themes.” —Ryan St. Peters Splashlings
Studio 100 Media Nils Holgersson / Arthur and the Minimoys: The Series / The Wild Adventures of Blinky Bill Based on the book by Selma Lagerlöf, Nils Holgersson is about a mischievous boy who gains the ability to talk to animals. Studio 100 Media is presenting that title to international buyers in Cannes, along with the new series Arthur and the Minimoys, about a little boy who finds himself in a world filled with magic and fantasy. There is also The Wild Adventures of Blinky Bill, which tells new stories featuring the iconic Australian character. “There is already high brand awareness [for Blinky Bill], a strong positive brand association and also nostalgic memories in the older target group, as well as the wish to share these feelings with their family and children,” says Patrick Elmendorff, the CEO of Studio 100 Media.
“These series are built around already strong and internationally well-known brands, which is a connecting factor not only for the buyers but also for parents and children who will be watching the show.” —Patrick Elmendorff
Nils Holgersson 188 World Screen 4/16
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Sunrights Beyblade Burst Beyblade Burst is the third installment of the animated boyskewing franchise. At MIPTV, Sunrights hopes to find partners outside of Asia for the series, which features a new cast of characters battling to become the best Bladers and making friends along the way. “The Beyblade brand has a tremendous history of international success with every launch and an extremely passionate global fan base,” says Daizo Suzuki, the newly appointed president of Sunrights. “The animation is a key brand entry point for a new generation of fans and it is critical that the content is compelling, exciting and fresh. While still very much a boys’ action show, this season has its share of humor along with a theme of competitive sports, both [of which are] relatable concepts for boys.”
“As the Western entertainment arm of a Japanese production company, Sunrights has a keen interest in adapting and harmonizing cultural themes to launch brands successfully across each market.” —Daizo Suzuki Beyblade Burst
Superights The Horn Quartet / The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales / Story Time! Four cows decide to leave their meadow to discover the sea in The Horn Quartet, one of Superights’s highlights. The company is also offering up The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales, a collection of animated specials about animals who leave their farm to go on adventures, and Story Time!, which features 26 tales that take viewers on a journey around the globe. “Although Superights’s catalogue has been expanding and integrating award-winning shows,” the company is always looking to take on new projects that are in the development stage, says Morgann Favennec, deputy managing director of international sales and acquisitions. “Being involved at the very early stages allows us to give a little international touch that a project may need.”
“Superights’s highlights for MIPTV strengthen the distributor’s strategy of offering a diversified selection of top-quality programming.” —Morgann Favennec
The Horn Quartet
Toon Goggles “Toon Goggles gives creators the opportunity to not only showcase their series on our leading worldwide SVOD platform, but makes the development process more immediate for them by feeding our global audiences new and inventive content—as it’s being created.”
Eddie Is a Yeti This MIPTV will see Toon Goggles introduce the first episodes of its original 3D short-form series Eddie Is a Yeti, co-produced with Mondo TV. The show follows the adventures of Polly and her best friend Eddie, who is a yeti. “Eddie’s highly curious nature combined with Polly’s adventurous spirit, plus the dynamic direction and timing of the series, makes this show captivating, caring and comedy-filled,” says Stephen L. Hodge, Toon Goggles’s CEO. “At Toon Goggles we are now evolving our premier SVOD kids’ destination to feature one-of-a-kind series like Eddie [that] you can’t find anywhere else and that also have digital and merchandise extensions. This, in conjunction with our presence on most smart TVs and mobile devices, keeps kids engaged throughout their day.”
—Stephen L. Hodge Eddie Is a Yeti 190 World Screen 4/16
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INK Global’s Masha and the Bear.
HOT PICKS Andy Fry surveys leading programmers about wish lists, success strategies and the rapid changes in kids’ viewing habits. he kids’ TV business has never been more dynamic—or more competitive. With public broadcasters, pay-TV channels and online and on-demand platforms all vying for the attention of younger audiences, it takes strong brands, clear targeting and great creativity to cut through the clutter of rival content. Whatever changes have transpired over the last few years as new competitors have entered the mix, the landscape is still dominated by the three global behemoths, Disney, Nickelodeon and Turner, all of which are relying on strong U.S. production pipelines, alongside regional and local commissions and acquisitions, to reach kids around the world.
BRAND PLANS At the top of the food chain at Disney Channels Worldwide are heavily supported 360-degree brands. On boys’ actionadventure channel Disney XD an example would be Star Wars Rebels, which reaches 400 million homes in 163
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countries. On the Disney Channel, meanwhile, there is Descendants, a hugely popular TV movie that has now spawned a short-form animated series spin-off and a sequel planned for 2017. Paul DeBenedittis, the senior VP of programming strategy at Disney Channels Worldwide, says a number of new shows are good indicators of the way the company is heading editorially. He cites the live-action comedy series Stuck in the Middle, about a girl who is an engineering whiz. “The show has a lot of great touchpoints for different kids,” says DeBenedittis. “It has a diverse cast and is very reflective of the audience that we program for.” A new genre development, he adds, is Walk the Prank, a hidden-camera prank show for Disney XD. “We’ve done factual TV from time to time, but nothing quite like this. A key part of our approach is to keep surprising our audience with exciting new ideas.” While the U.S. delivers a steady stream of content to the global channels, Disney has production hubs around the
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While reliant on its U.S. pipeline, Nickelodeon does make selective acquisitions, such as Rainbow’s megahit Winx Club.
world and is constantly looking at whether shows created for local markets can be shared within the family—a good example being Violetta, a Latin American production that aired around the world. On the co-production front, meanwhile, DeBenedittis is excited by LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, scheduled to hit Disney XD this summer. He also singles out Counterfeit Cat, a Wildseed Studios and Tricon Kids & Family British-Canadian coproduction destined for Disney XD EMEA. On the acquisitions front, he cites the DHX Media show Backstage, which has been picked up for use in 15 territories, including the U.S. and U.K., and the FremantleMedia Kids & Family preschool show Kate & Mim-Mim, which is on Disney Junior.
KIDS’ CHOICE Among the global kids’ players, a big overarching trend has been the support and development of megabrands that can play out across all their international networks. In the case of Nickelodeon, examples include the wholly owned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property and Saban Brands’s Power Rangers. Nick has always had a strong origination pipeline that is mainly driven by the U.S. But this is supported by a wellresourced international department that looks at opportunities in the shape of co-productions, format deals and acquisitions. Explaining how it works, Layla Lewis, VP of content acquisitions, says, “I am responsible for content acquisitions for Nickelodeon channels globally, including the U.S., as well as all international acquisitions across Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick and [the SVOD service] Noggin. We take pitches at the earliest stage of development right up to fully produced series.” An interesting model for Nick is Talia in the Kitchen, a fantasy sitcom about a 14-year-old girl who revives her family’s restaurant business with “magical” spices. It’s part of a trend within the Nick family that involves adapting local shows for the global market. Talia was a Nick Latin America telenovela remade as a 40-episode
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English-language series. This model had been previously adopted on House of Anubis and Every Witch Way. “We’re continuously on the lookout for content that can work across all of our channels around the world, including the U.S.,” says Lewis. “To achieve this, it’s important that we take time to explore different ways, as well as different locations, to source, make, co-produce or acquire that content. For example, we just finished shooting a set of three movies in Spain called Lost in the West and also announced new live-action series.” Echoing the Talia example, one of these new series is a U.S. adaptation of the Nick Latin America hit Yo Soy Franky. Another sees Nick returning to the Netherlands for inspiration: The Ludwigs will be made as both an English-language global series and a Dutch-language local series at the same time, using the same sets. In terms of co-productions, Lewis points to the preschool hit Paw Patrol as well as “more and more” collaborations in live action (such as Max & Shred with Breakthrough Entertainment and Make It Pop with DHX Media). On the acquisitions front, strong performers recently have included Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks and Peppa Pig.
TURNER’S WAY Echoing the situations at Disney and Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network is reliant on the output from its U.S. operation in markets around the world. However, the message from Patricia Hidalgo, Turner’s senior VP and chief content and creative officer for kids, EMEA, and international kids’ strategy, is that in-house content needs to be backed by complementary third-party shows. Turner’s flagship brands are Cartoon Network and Boomerang, “but internationally we also have successful local brands like Cartoonito, Toonami, Boing and Pogo,” Hidalgo says. “Across EMEA alone, 20 million kids tune in to Turner’s kids’ channels every month.” Of her programming approach, Hidalgo says, “Our aim is to partner with producers who understand and love our brands. This is the case with partners such as LEGO and DHX, from
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Gulli and Canal J in France are among the partners aboard Studio 100’s Arthur and the Minimoys: The Series. whom we acquired and launched Nexo Knights and Supernoobs [respectively] for Cartoon Network globally at the end of last year. In the case of Boomerang, we are working with various producers to develop concepts and ideas, always liaising with our U.S. colleagues to acquire rights globally. Later this year we will be launching Grizzy and the Lemmings from French producer Studio Hari, our first global acquisition for Boomerang.” In addition, “we are soon to deliver a fourth season of our most successful European production, The Amazing World of Gumball,” says Hidalgo. “This is one of our highestperforming shows globally. We are now working closely with the U.S. studio to develop new concepts that could eventually become the new international show going global, as Gumball did.”
UP NORTH The positioning of the big three in Canada has undergone a change in the last year. Family Channel used to be the Canadian home of Disney’s series. In 2015, it was announced that Corus Entertainment (which operates Cartoon Network Canada and has a content licensing deal with Nickelodeon) had acquired the Canadian rights to Disney content from the start of 2016. DHX Media had acquired Family Channel and two local-version Disney channels (Disney XD and Disney Junior) in 2014 for approximately C$170 million ($125 million). Disney doing a deal with Corus meant a major revamp for DHX Television, the division created to run the acquired Family channels business. “Until the content deal with Disney ended, we aired a lot of their shows on Family Channel,” says Joe Tedesco, senior VP and general manager of DHX Television. “So it meant a rethink. But we weren’t too concerned
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because our channel brand is so trusted. In fact, it was an opportunity to replace the Disney content, which was quite expensive, with original shows.” In another context, replacing Disney titles might have seemed like a daunting challenge. But Tedesco, who has worked with Family Channel since 2001, says DHX had two advantages. The first is that DHX Television is part of a prolific production and rights-owning entity, which means its channels have access to a pipeline of inhouse content. The second, he adds, is that Canada has a strong community of indie producers to call on. In terms of concrete actions, the flagship channel, which targets 8- to 14-year-olds, slightly girl-skewing, is now focusing “more on live-action drama series as opposed to animation,” says Tedesco. “However we also launched a teen block called F2N, which offers a mix of live action and animation after 9 p.m. It’s anchored by Degrassi: Next Class, for example, but also schedules quality animation that we have acquired from third parties.” As for the two Disney-branded channels, “we changed them to Family CHRGD, an action-adventure channel for 6- to 12-yearolds with a strong emphasis on animation, and Family Jr., our preschool offering. Rounding out the portfolio, we also have Télémagino, our French-language channel for Quebec viewers.” Looking more closely at the lineup on the channels, Tedesco says Family Channel has benefited from “an ambitious origination program with 14 new commissions. We already had some popular franchises like The Next Step and Gaming Show (In My Parents’ Garage), but we have been able to deploy the Disney dollars behind new titles such as Lost & Found Music Studios and
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RCN’s Chica Vampiro aired on Nick Latin America and Gulli in France, among other broadcasters around the world. Backstage, a 30-episode scripted series from Fresh TV about a performing arts school. All this is part of our ambition to introduce more event-style drama to our schedule.” Alongside the company’s originals, eyecatching content acquisition deals have helped soften the blow of Disney’s departure. “For Family Jr., we acquired shows from Mattel to go alongside our own preschool properties,” says Tedesco, “so that gives us a lineup including Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder [alongside] Teletubbies, a DHX-owned property. In addition, we have titles such as Playdate from producer Sinking Ship.” Also important is a new alliance with DreamWorks Animation (DWA) that will provide content for the F2N block and Family CHRGD, among other platforms. This works at three levels, says Tedesco. First, there is a five-year agreement to coproduce 130 episodes of original animated kids’ content at DHX Studios. Second, DHX has licensed 1,000 half-hours from DreamWorks Animation, to be broadcast across DHX Television’s channels from June 2016. And third, DHX has also signed a deal with DWA-owned AwesomenessTV for a further 300 half-hours of teen content. While Tedesco believes the quality and range of content on the DHX channels will sustain Family Channel’s leadership position, he also argues that the broadcaster has come out with a more distinctive profile. “Increased emphasis on original Canadian content is a distinguishing mark. I also think our brand stands out because it says it’s OK to stay young. The world of imagination we provide appeals to kids—and also to their parents, who aren’t anxious to see their kids age up too quickly.” Disney, interestingly, has also been involved in shifts in the German market,
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following the 2014 launch of its own channel that competes with Super RTL (a joint venture between RTL Group and DisneyABC Television Group), Nickelodeon and trusted pubcaster KiKA. The man who has been steering KiKA’s content strategy for almost 20 years is Sebastian Debertin, its head of fiction, acquisitions and co-production. Explaining his role, he says: “I look for acquisitions and co-productions for all genres from national and international sources. Germany, France, the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, Canada, Australia and the U.S. are the main countries where our programs come from. Having said that, I also have two co-productions with Asian partners, from South Korea and from Singapore.”
DAS KIDS Among his priorities, Debertin says, is KiKA’s support for an initiative called Der besondere Kinderfilm (Special Children’s Films). “In a joint effort by ARD, ZDF and KiKA, together with the film industry and media policy-makers, and supported by funding bodies, children’s films in Germany are to be given an improved and enhanced presence,” Debertin says. “KiKA is involved in this in terms of editorial input, joint development and co-investments.” As for upcoming shows that he is excited by, Debertin cites Super Wings, an animated preschool co-production with CJ E&M of Korea and Josh Selig’s Little Airplane. “In the past, Asian countries were known mainly as service partners, but I am happy that the creativity from Asia now puts this region more and more in the driver’s seat. Partners like CJ E&M in Seoul or One Animation in Singapore are coming up with great ideas that resonate with our audience in Germanspeaking Europe.” Likewise on the co-production front, Debertin cites titles like Belle & Sebastian
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Disney Channel is increasingly focused on franchise-building with shows like The Lion Guard, inspired by The Lion King. with Gaumont Television and ZDF. He is also looking forward to The Insectibles, a KiKA, Discovery Kids Asia and ZDF Enterprises co-production targeting 6- to 9year-olds. Regarding acquisitions, Debertin says a big part of KiKA’s success has been a refusal to buy kids’ shows in bulk. “Our shows are hand-picked, which is why they work so well on KiKA platforms. At the end of January, for example, The Jim Henson Company’s Doozers achieved ratings of 74.6 percent and Little Princess also continues to deliver huge ratings. Q Pootle 5 by Snapper Productions delivers a fantastic fresh look at aliens, while family audiences love Animaccord’s Masha and the Bear.”
FUN IN FRANCE Like DHX and KiKA, French broadcaster Lagardère Active faces tough competition in the kids’ arena from U.S.-backed kids’ channel operators Disney, Turner and Nickelodeon. Once again, it benefits from having strong channel brands that are capable of sustaining a mix of origination and highprofile acquisitions. In pay TV, it has Canal J and preschool sister service TiJi, which are available via platforms such as CANALSAT and Numericable. In DTT, it has Gulli, which is also now available in Russia and French-speaking Africa. Combined, these channels are known to 97 percent of French kids and make up the number one kids’ TV group in France. Gulli is the number one free kids’ channel. A good indicator of the company’s market muscle is a recent content supply deal with DreamWorks Animation. Caroline Cochaux, the managing director of France and international for Lagardère Active TV and CEO of Gulli, calls the collaboration, which starts in September 2016, “a landmark agreement. We
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are glad to bring these original series to French audiences for the very first time on linear TV. Gulli, Canal J and TiJi will allow young viewers to rediscover their favorite characters in allnew adventures (Dragons: Race to the Edge, The Adventures of Puss in Boots, All Hail King Julien, Turbo FAST, The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show and Dawn of the Croods), while also enjoying new shows based on original concepts that DreamWorks Animation has created, for example Dinotrux.” Aside from the DWA deal, Cochaux says this past year has been marked by the launch of Chica Vampiro on Gulli. “An exclusive Colombian musical series, it has become a real phenomenon in France. Children are so fond of these vampires that a French musical tour has just happened. Chica Vampiro’s success perfectly demonstrates Gulli’s power.” Cochaux says other acquired or co-produced titles launched in 2015 include Popples, Zoli & Pokey, Trolls of Troy and Get Blake. “We are also in progress on Arthur and the Minimoys (a CGI series from Studio 100 and EuropaCorp) and are involved in second seasons of hits such as Maya the Bee, Sonic Boom and Magic. In 2016, we are involved in about 23 productions and are looking at a pre-buy for Gulli Africa.”
LET’S GET DIGITAL Alongside international expansion, the company is following kids into the digital space. “We have to be on every platform because children are born consuming this way,” Cochaux says. “In 2015, Gulli Replay was very successful, with more than 250 million views. We expect 300 million in 2016 (Chica Vampiro, Zig & Sharko and Pokémon the Series: XY have been big successes in this area). Moreover, we have our free app, Gulli (3 million downloads), and our new app
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Commissioned by Netflix, Popples is now being rolled out by Saban Brands to platforms worldwide, including TiJi in France. GulliMax (300,000-plus downloads), which gives subscription access to 26 games and 3,000 videos. In 2016, Gulli on YouTube will launch its first original web series, Les Tactiques d’Emma, a new step in interactivity and creation.” Disney’s DeBenedittis says that having content on digital platforms is absolutely central to the company’s strategy. “We’re not using on-demand and social media as promotional platforms, we’re creating content for them too, as our animated spin-off of Descendants shows. In my view, it’s meaningless to claim your show is number one in a particular time period because you need to understand audiences across all platforms. Gravity Falls was a particular success for Disney XD on all platforms.”
RIGHTS MATTER For Turner’s Hidalgo, securing access to all rights for acquisitions and co-pros is key. “Our preference is to secure from the outset as many rights as we can for international channels. We are no longer operating in a linear world. Digital rights have become more important, and not securing these could result in us walking away from a show. Usually we prefer going into projects at an early stage.” Hidalgo also mentions Mighty Magiswords and OK K.O.!, which were “developed as digital properties first and will roll out as highquality games and shorts in our apps and digital platforms before launching as longform shows on our linear channels.” For her EMEA and international strategy, Hildalgo says she’s “interested in concepts developed for multiplatform [use]. It would be great to have something that comes from a nonlinear platform be developed for [linear and more]. It’s also the case that we can no longer wait to make content for other platforms
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after the show has launched on the channel. It’s vital to think about making bespoke content to fulfill the need to reach out to consumers through apps, YouTube, web, mobile or tablet, etc. This should become the norm, if there will ever be a norm!” Acknowledging and understanding how kids access and use content today is important, programmers stress. But there are some basics that shouldn’t be forgotten. DeBenedittis states: “There are often local opportunities—with shows needed to meet quotas or for tactical scheduling reasons—but for multi-territory deals, producers must know the brand inside out. They need to be coming to us with shows that complement, not replicate, our existing brands. And they really have to stay focused on Disney’s emphasis on magical storytelling, and the fact that parents like to watch our shows alongside their kids. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that stories that would have worked years ago won’t necessarily work now—the media landscape has changed.” “Be brave,” says KiKA’s Debertin, “and come up with the next smart and clever concept for kids 6 to 9, whether animated or live action. There is a big demand for such shows by broadcasters, as I have learned from my exchange with international colleagues, public and commercial alike.” Lagardère’s Cochaux has her eye out for shows that are “positive, amazing, surprising.” She’s also keen to buy more titles for her prime-time kids’ movies slot. “Our children’s prime time is really successful and we are looking to acquire TV movies or feature films.” In an ultra-fragmented world where kids can watch their shows on their own devices, whenever they want, Cochaux has the last word on what many programmers are looking for. “What we want is to make families watch TV together.”
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LOL! An inside look at what it takes to make hit comedies for kids. By Joanna Padovano
t’s not always easy to make kids laugh. While for some, all it takes is a silly face, a wacky voice or a fart noise to make them crack up, others are much less generous with their giggles. It’s up to today’s producers and distributors of children’s comedy programming to determine what little ones get a kick out of, even those whose funny bones are more elusive. This is not a simple task, but somebody’s got to do it— kids need to laugh in today’s complicated world. “There is always an appetite for comedy,” says Joan Lambur, the executive VP of family entertainment and executive producer at Breakthrough Entertainment, which reps comedy hits like the animated Rocket Monkeys and the liveaction series Zerby Derby and Max & Shred. “Comedy is just never going to go away.”
MAKE ME LAUGH! “I think there’s always been a demand for good comedy and it’s very hard to do,” says Tom van Waveren, the CEO and creative director of CAKE. “There’s been less of an interest or an open search for action/adventure shows, so I think by default if you want fewer action shows, you end up with more comedy. But through the years, there’s always [been] an interest in finding new comedy formats, because you can never have too many of them.” CAKE distributes the hit animated comedy Angelo Rules, with the animated shows My Knight and Me and the book-based Bottersnikes and Gumbles currently in production. Housed within the DHX Media catalogue is the upcoming animated comedy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: The Series (based on the film franchise), as well as Looped, the recently launched Supernoobs and the new iteration of Inspector Gadget. “Ultimately, there’s always been a need for it,” states Ken Faier, the senior VP and general manager of DHX Studios, the production arm of DHX Media, about the market for kids’ comedies. “Kids love to laugh after a stressful day at school and dealing with all the anxieties they have. A solid comedy is good for co-views, good to relax to—something that networks always need a healthy dose of. It’s [also] very repeatable, much more than drama or serialized content.” Dave Beatty, the studio creative head at Portfolio Entertainment, which produces and distributes such upcoming
animated comedies as Freaktown and Invasion of the MooFaLoo!, argues that kids’ comedy is an evergreen genre. “Comedy is the one thing that never goes away,” he says. “You’ll have other genres of shows that will come into vogue for a while and then kind of disappear—action/adventure is a big one, fantasy is another—whereas there is always a demand for comedy. Kids [will] always want to laugh.” There are many elements that go into making a successful comedy for kids, but it all starts with the writing. “It has to begin with a funny script,” says Natalie Dumoulin, the VP of creative affairs at producer and distributor 9 Story Media Group, which boasts such animated comedies as Camp Lakebottom, Numb Chucks, Almost Naked Animals and Nature Cat. “A very dedicated combination of comedy and emotion” is key to making a successful comedy for kids, according to Marc du Pontavice, the CEO of Xilam Animation, which produces and distributes the non-verbal slapstick animated comedies Oggy and the Cockroaches and Zig & Sharko. “It’s not all about the gag; kids must also relate to the character. When you have the combination of those two feelings, it’s very powerful.” “I think what works the best is non-verbal comedy— everything that is linked to the characters and their expressions,” says Morgann Favennec, the deputy managing director of international sales and acquisitions at Superights, which distributes such comedic animated fare as Boyster and the three-parter The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. “Then you go deeper into the dialogue.” Favennec urges writers to always remember who their primary audience is, and to avoid incorporating specific jokes into a show simply because it’s amusing to them as adults. “It may be funny to write, but you have to think about the people who are going to watch and those people are children,” she says.
GETTING PHYSICAL As with programming for other demos, there are certain elements in kids’ comedies that may be extremely successful in one country, but much less likely to resonate in another. One surefire way to create a funny children’s show that can travel is to foreground physical comedy. “Physical comedy works universally,” says Portfolio’s Beatty. “What is harder is wordplay; [that’s] harder to translate into
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9 Story is home to a number of successful comedies, including Camp Lakebottom.
different languages and for different cultures. But slipping on a banana peel, that’s kind of funny no matter where you go.”
SLAPSTICK SELLS “Physical comedy tends to travel well,” agrees Natalie Osborne, the managing director of 9 Story Media Group. “The show has to communicate the joke visually. Puns, on the other hand, do not typically work well on a global scale.” It is necessary for writers to be thoughtful about how they incorporate physical comedy into a story line. “There are countries where inflicting physical pain onto a main character in the show is completely acceptable if it’s funny; there are a lot of other territories where that is seen as an outrage,” says CAKE’s van Waveren. “You don’t want to take a concept like that because you know you’re actually going to get closed doors in quite a few territories.”
Another important aspect of making sure a kids’ comedy has the potential to sell abroad is to stay away from references that are culturally specific. This can be achieved by having little or no dialogue. “Comedies that are more dialogue-based are more difficult to translate because usually they are very culturally grounded,” says Xilam’s du Pontavice. DHX’s Faier concurs: “Dialogue-heavy is a challenge. You want to have great dialogue, but you don’t want to rely on puns in terms of translatability for the global market.... You want it to be smart without being too talky.” Avoiding cultural references is especially important when it comes to kids’ comedy co-productions. “Local sitcoms are hard to export and find co-producers for, except perhaps with your really close neighbors,” says Superights’s Favennec. “With slapstick and non-verbal, generally speaking, you speak the same language, so you can have partners
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Broadcast on France 3 and Disney XD in the U.K., among other countries, Boyster is being rolled out by Superights.
from the other side of the world. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; the language is the same, so you can easily work together for co-production and then your programs will travel.”
can joke about friends, whereas [that] doesn’t play to a preschool audience.” According to Breakthrough’s Lambur, it’s particularly difficult to find projects to work on for the 7-to-11 and 8-to-12 demos. “It’s super challenging because you’ve got to find that sweet spot where you’re not hammering them over the head with comedy that’s insulting to them,” she says. “You have to have an intelligence to go along with it.” For the older set, CAKE’s van Waveren says producers must speed up the pacing of a series to match the prime-time content that more mature kids are likely already consuming on various platforms. “For an age 12 demo, if you want to really connect with them, your pacing needs to be very close to that of a prime-time show.” Live action tends to work better with older kids’ demos, but animation offers greater freedom when it comes to comedy. “In live action you are limited to the situation; you’re limited to what you can physically afford to shoot,” says Portfolio’s Beatty. “So for instance, if I’m doing a liveaction show, I may not be able to have an episode that takes place in outer space, whereas if I’m doing an animated show, it can take place anywhere.” 9 Story’s Dumoulin echoes Beatty’s sentiment: “There are so few restrictions within animation compared to live action—we can make an animated character do just about anything! Animation, as a general rule, also travels more
Besides making content that can reach beyond borders, kids’ comedy creators have to cater their jokes to the specific demographic they are trying to reach. Preschoolers, for example, are accustomed to simple physical comedy, while older children require humor that is slightly more mature, yet still silly enough to be kids’ entertainment—DHX’s Faier refers to this as “sophisticated ridiculousness.” “Each demographic has a different idea of what it finds funny,” says 9 Story’s Dumoulin. “A preschool audience loves it when things are flipped around—for example, when there’s a rabbit’s head on an elephant’s body. A preschool audience also tends to appreciate physical comedy, although you have to make sure it is safe if imitated. Sometimes gender will play a role as well— fart jokes, for example, remain a classic with boys, while girls tend to favor witty repartee.” “[With] younger kids, it really is all about physical comedy because word jokes don’t play with them,” says Portfolio’s Beatty. “They haven’t developed enough; they’re still trying to figure out what funny is. And so that kind of humor has to stay primarily either in the appearance— how a character is dressed, how a character behaves, how a character sounds—or the physical: running into a door, slipping on a banana peel. It’s less sophisticated humor. As they get older, you can start introducing more wordplay and more situations and humor based on social networks and environments. You Three genetically modified sheep take center stage in Invasion of the MooFaLoo!, Portfolio’s new comedy.
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easily than live action, so you have a greater chance of taking your show global.” One of the reasons that animated comedy often travels better than live action is because the latter tends to have a more local feel to it, which kids in other countries may not relate to as well. “The worlds in animation are often recognizable but they’re not exact, so they will translate to different cultures more easily,” says Beatty, who adds that animation is also “more forgiving in its lip sync when you dub it into a different language.”
ANIMATED ANTICS Animation also leaves more room for improvement during the editing process, whereas with live action, once an episode wraps, there’s not as much that can be done to raise the level of comedy. “With animation, you can always just tweak, add a wink or an eyebrow move or a reaction shot, and you’re plussing it up all along the way,” says DHX’s Faier. “In live action, you have to catch it then and there.” In some countries, live-action kids’ comedies are more difficult to make simply because of a lack of funding. “In France, there is no obligation to finance from the broadcasters, contrary to animation, where they all have an obligation of investing part of their turnover,” says Superights’s Favennec. Another challenge posed by live action is the fact that young actors tend to physically mature faster than their characters, which may give the show a less authentic feel and a limited life span. But one advantage that live action does have over animation is that it takes less time to make. “In live action the turnaround time in production is much quicker,” says Portfolio’s Beatty. “You can produce a series
in nine months, whereas in animation, [it’s] usually a year and a half to two years before the series is on the air.” Above all, the success of a children’s comedy comes down to the writing. Of course that is not the only ingredient for success—for instance, the actors must also have the comedic chops to make kids laugh—but if the writing isn’t funny, the show is doomed to fail. “Finding good writers is really hard,” says Breakthrough’s Lambur. “I think people assume that writing for children in many ways would be easier [but] it presents so many of its own challenges that it can’t be underestimated.” “You will always find writers, but good ones who would be ready to leave their comfort zone and be ready to forget about duplicating or copying and pasting the previous stories they’ve written and apply them to the new series they’re involved in—I think that’s the most challenging part of all,” says Superights’s Favennec. At Xilam, du Pontavice notes, “We have actually asked a lot of our storyboarders to start writing because the kind of comedy we do is very much driven by the visual and they have a sense of directing animated characters. So there are more and more writers in our staff who are coming from directing and storyboarding.” Sometimes talented kids’ writers migrate over from adult comedies, but DHX’s Faier points out that this type of transition typically means a step down in pay. “The budgets in kids’ TV are a lot lower than in prime time,” he says. “So they have to really love it and want to do it.” “I think as an industry, we should continue to make children smile,” says CAKE’s van Waveren. “If we’re successful at that, we can be proud.”
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Cyber Group’s Mademoiselle Zazie.
ALL ARE WELCOME! David Wood checks in with producers and distributors about the demand for shows that can resonate with both boys and girls. oy giant Hasbro was the focus of a social media storm recently when it only included male characters in action-figure sets based on the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens—which features a lead female character, Rey. Cue a public backlash, the creation of the Twitter hashtag #WheresRey, and the rapid release of a Rey action character. Kids the world over face gender stereotyping from a very early age, from the toys they are encouraged to play with to the books they read and the clothes they wear. According to some lobby groups, those stereotypes can ultimately limit the careers girls and boys go on to develop and even the money they can earn.
PLAYING AGAINST TYPE The issue of gender-neutrality in toy stores has become a political hot potato, with groups successfully persuading some retailers to remove both gender labeling and separate boys’ and girls’ aisles. A shake-up of marketing practices among toy manufacturers is certainly long overdue, with more and more evidence that gender-based retailing strategies are likely to fall afoul of increasingly conscientious consumers. If gender-neutrality is viewed with suspicion by the toy companies, who fear that boys won’t want toys targeted at girls and
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vice versa, broadcasters are much more switched on. In fact, commissioners are increasingly looking for more genderneutral content. Broadcasters are “trying to get as many kids as possible in front of the screen,” states Pierre Sissmann, the chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios. “Even in the action shows I see now coming from Asia, you’ve got a lot more girls [included]. We are developing a very big kids’ sports show set in the future with some amazing talent. The teams are both boys and girls. Ten or 15 years ago, it would have been only boys.” MarVista Entertainment “is definitely looking at more genderneutral content for the kids’ and tween markets,” says Vanessa Shapiro, the company’s executive VP of distribution. “Perhaps kids today are not as gender focused as they used to be. In the U.S. particularly, gender is more blended because networks and society at large are more concerned about it.” Gender-neutrality in kids’ TV is not a new thing though, insists Olivier Dumont, managing director of Entertainment One (eOne) Family. “Terrestrial broadcasters have been looking for genderneutral shows as far back as I can remember, because they certainly don’t want to alienate half of their potential audience.” Stefanie Fischer, the head of content at WDR mediagroup in Germany, adds, “From my experience, the larger broadcasters,
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Mattel’s Little People, based on a toy brand, is a preschool show with equal resonance for boys and girls.
especially public-service broadcasters, try to address boys and girls equally and are looking for material that is not skewed too clearly in one direction or the other.” The same argument applies to commercial channels, with broadcasters better able to attract advertisers that are marketing toys aimed at both girls and boys with a program that does the same thing. Of course, there are exceptions. “Unfortunately, many broadcasters still seek out programming that skews to one particular gender or another—most frequently, boys,” reports Christopher Keenan, the senior VP of content development and production at Mattel. “This is less true in the preschool arena, but as we move up in the demos, there definitely appears to be a distinction made by many broadcasters as to who their intended audience is.” In the on-demand world, the rationale for gender-neutral content is clearer. “By nature of being on-demand, it appears that these platforms are able to explore a wider variety of content and aren’t bound by the same needs of a traditional broadcaster that has to consider things like programming blocks, schedule flow or ‘time-slot-to-time-slot’ audience retention,” Keenan continues. “Compared to traditional broadcasters, ondemand platforms have one significant advantage: they are not limited to showing one program at a time,” concurs WDR’s Fischer. “If they offer a show that appeals to girls only, they don’t exclude boys from the platform, as long as they have another program that fulfills their needs as well. Thus, they can be more flexible and interested in mainstream as well as niche content.” The biggest problem broadcasters and OTT platforms face is that while gender-neutrality works well for preschool children, for whom gender differences aren’t really on the radar yet, it’s a much tougher sell for older children.
moment in life where so much of what they do is common across both genders. Soon they will be entering school and the world of social groups, where the easiest socialization factor is to join with your gender in order to be a part of the group. Becoming accepted as a part of your group then means abiding by certain preestablished rules that define behavior and attitude.” “I do believe that younger audiences pay somewhat less attention to gender in their favorite shows and much less attention to how their viewing habits are perceived by their peers,” Mattel’s Keenan adds. As Halle Stanford, The Jim Henson Company’s executive VP of children’s entertainment, points out, “With older kids the question is, are you better off just accepting that they want genderspecific content? Certainly the feedback we get from the networks is that for older kids, it’s best to not be gender-neutral. Once they get in the playground they start to polarize and identify with their gender more. As kids get older they want to learn more about themselves and see themselves more in shows. Because of this, shows for older audiences are much tougher to make gender-neutral.” So what goes into making a show that will play well across both demos? Sissmann offers up some insight by explaining what Cyber Group did when making the new series Zorro the Chronicles. “Zorro is traditionally boy-driven,” Sissmann says of the iconic character. “We introduced Zorro’s twin sister [Ines]. I wanted to make sure that girls would also be interested. There is no reason why girls cannot have adventures and be present in action scenes. I figured that in the 21st century, it was important for the [Zorro] franchise to have a girl who would not be the
THE AGE FACTOR “Preschool shows are 90 percent gender-neutral, although that doesn’t mean they are easy to create,” says Matteo Corradi, CEO of Mondo TV. “We are addressing a very young and easily distracted audience and need to catch their attention with content that is both funny and ‘edutaining.’ ” Bruno Zarka, media director at INK Global, says that appealing to both boys and girls is easier in preschool because stories are usually structured around kids’ daily routines. “Preschoolers are in that precious
Shaftesbury’s Firsts features an adventurous girl who travels through time with her friends.
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genders. Generally speaking, ensemble shows also help establish a more gender-neutral environment than a show that is primarily about one lead character. It’s also important to us to develop shows with lead characters in non-traditional roles, such as Firsts, an animated series we have in development featuring a strong, adventurous female lead set against the backdrop of exploration.” “Make sure that you have strong aspirational characters that will appeal to each of the two genders,” recommends eOne Family’s Dumont. “When your concept only has one single lead character you need to ensure that he or she has character traits that will appeal to both genders.” INK’s Zarka says that the factors contributing to genderneutrality are different depending on whether a show is scripted or non-scripted. “For example, music, gaming, sport can be designed to entertain both genders,” he says. “When it comes to a scripted show, the key factor is obviously the story itself, which must be a neutral genre, with characters that both genders can identify with.”
Comedies like Mondo TV’s Eddie Is a Yeti tend to play well for both boys and girls. enamored love interest. That’s part of Zorro’s myth, the love interest, but that’s not what I was looking for. I was looking for a real team. [Best friends] Bernardo and Zorro to me were not enough; we needed to put in a girl, who is actually on par with Bernardo. Zorro is still the main character, but Bernardo and Ines share an [equal] role.” Ryan St. Peters, the VP of kids and family at Shaftesbury, says that it’s “important to ensure that the setting of the show is something that both genders can relate to and are drawn to, and that within that world you have strong characters of both
BRIDGING THE GAP When it comes to bridge and tween shows, gender-neutrality becomes more of a challenge with different genres having a tendency to skew heavily towards either girls or boys. “Typically romantic comedies are aimed at girls, straight comedies are more focused on boys,” says MarVista’s Shapiro. Mondo TV’s Corradi adds: “Animated action or comedy is mostly geared towards boys, but if comedy is well made it can bring in both girls and boys.” Being gender-neutral can be easier in the factual space, says Shaftesbury’s St. Peters, “because many of these projects for
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The importance of comedy to all channels is the reason why straight action-adventure shows have had such a hard time over the past 10 to 15 years, declares Dumont. “Action-adventure shows get way less airtime than when I was young. Broadcasters now ensure that shows always contain a strong dose of comedy. Comedy not only enhances the show’s repeatability, it also helps ensure girls don’t desert the show entirely.”
MarVista is focusing on shows that encourage co-viewing, among them Zapped. kids are comedic in nature, like hidden-camera prank shows. It’s easier to develop and produce a solid gender-neutral show in comedy versus action, as action inherently lends itself to skew more boy in the kids’ space.” “Laughter is often a common denominator and a great point of entry for both genders,” says Mattel’s Keenan. “The days of boys not watching shows with a female protagonist or girls not watching action or adventure are, thankfully, behind us.”
Another area of content that has successfully bridged the gender gap is co-viewing—films and TV series aimed at kids and their parents. It’s a genre where MarVista has focused a lot of energy, says Shapiro. “We are working a lot with Netflix and it comes up a lot with them, but all clients are trying it because family content bridges the gap between both genders—the whole family can sit together.” Examples on the MarVista slate include shows like The Inspectors, Zapped and the brand-new family movie Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket. “While a lot of our Disney movies were and are girl-centric, we are trying out content now that is not just for girls but that a sister and brother can watch together,” Shapiro continues. “People used to say that boys drive the audience and girls follow,” Cyber Group’s Sissmann says. “I don’t think that’s the case today. A lot of the shows are actually girl-driven and boys also look at them.” Ultimately, “Broadcasters reflect what’s happening” in society, Sissmann says. “Yes, they want to attract more kids and there is a fragmentation of the audience, but at the same time [moving away from gender stereotypes is] a big trend in society, all over the world at different levels.”
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9.5 percent and Nickelodeon with 9.2 percent. Disney has surpassed Nickelodeon for the first time. However, we have more reach than those two channels combined. That is unique. Will this situation remain the same for the next 200 years? I don’t know! We do see a small performance increase at Disney Channel, so I’m sure they are going to reach 10-percent market share and perhaps even a little bit more. I don’t think that Nickelodeon will be able to hit 10 percent again. We are very ambitious; we want to grow again. So 20-percent market share is this year’s target. I am very optimistic that we are going to reach it, because in the first months of 2016, and looking back to the second half of 2015, we were above 20-percent market share and again market leader. TV KIDS: How have advertising revenues held up? SCHMIT: Last year our prime time increased by about 20 percent in reach. Super RTL is the channel with the largest prime-time adult-reach increase ever. That’s huge. It’s not our main strategic focus, but it is working nicely. The advertising revenues follow, so we have no objections. In daytime we have seen an interesting evolution. In 2015 our market share fell to about 19.3 percent and yet we succeeded in maintaining our advertising revenues at the same level. We are doing fine as far as advertising revenues are concerned. Costs are under control, so our net profits are healthy.
SUPER RTL By Kristin Brzoznowski
Competition in the German kids’ TV landscape has heated up, and Super RTL, which has long been the country’s dominant commercial children’s channel, is rising to the challenges of new entrants in the market and changing viewing habits. The broadcaster is investing heavily in original productions, aligning itself with top-tier programming partners and exploring new opportunities in the SVOD space. CEO Claude Schmit talks to TV Kids about how Super RTL is staying competitive and positioning itself to reclaim its market-leading position in 2016. TV KIDS: How is Super RTL currently positioned in the German kids’ TV landscape? SCHMIT: We closed 2015 with a 19.3-percent market share among kids 3 to 13 during daytime. In 2014 we closed at 19.7 percent, so there was not a big drop. Unfortunately, KiKA has overtaken us. KiKA closed 2015 with a 20.1-percent market share. It had finished 2014 like we did, with 19.7 percent. In 2015 they were the market leader, [for] the first time in German history. For the past 15 years it had been us. However, we successfully turned the wheel again in the last six months. So far in 2016 we are number one again. In regard to Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, as far as we are concerned, they are way behind. They are below 10-percent market share—Disney Channel closed 2015 with
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TV KIDS: Has the increased competition led you to re-evaluate Super RTL’s original-programming strategy? SCHMIT: When Disney left as a program supplier we lost about 30 percent of our daytime programming, which is quite a lot. We had to compensate for the loss, and one of the pillars is inhouse production. It’s not that we had never done in-house production before, but we had only one slot for it on the weekend and not even in access prime time; it was in the mornings. The strategy now is to have at least two slots for in-house production per day in access prime time. So, we need a lot of shows to compete in that very competitive environment. We have been developing quite a lot of shows over the last year. We do pilots now, which we never did in the past, and we test them. Obviously the production of pilots is expensive. Currently we have two original, extremely successful shows in the genre of educational entertainment. One is Woozle Goozle, which features a puppet and a live host. The other is a magazine show called WOW: Die Entdeckerzone, which is more about discovering the world. We are very satisfied with the results. Furthermore, we are thinking about a pet-based magazine show, because animals always work in the kids’ space, and we are thinking about a [countdown] show for kids, which is in preproduction. We are also thinking about a brand extension on Woozle Goozle. TV KIDS: Are you also exploring new partnerships for thirdparty content? SCHMIT: DreamWorks Animation was one of the main answers to our programming issues caused by the loss of the Disney content. That partnership has turned out very well. The ratings are fantastic. Furthermore, we were really pleased to have new shows coming on air last fall. We started with new episodes of DreamWorks Dragons, King Julien and Puss in Boots. We have new seasons coming up and more programs from DreamWorks, so that pipeline is filled.
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WOW: Die Entdeckerzone is a magazine series that fares well for Super RTL.
We also looked into more nostalgic programming. Parents may not necessarily know DreamWorks, but they are familiar with Warner Bros. series like Tom and Jerry. These are also very successful. One of our further strengths is preschool, which is our morning time slot. It was a great pleasure to relaunch our biggest-ever preschool property, Bob the Builder. It is now 3D animated and more contemporary. The ratings are terrific.
TV KIDS: What’s the content pipeline for kividoo? SCHMIT: We are not just including our own properties. We wanted to act more openly. Of course there are other players in the market with very interesting programs that fit a portfolio like this. I’m talking about our colleagues from KiKA. We got in touch with them and had some discussions. In the end they were a bit reluctant because they don’t want their properties to be shown on a competing commercial platform. In the year since the launch of kividoo, we have seen what’s really working in Germany and what’s not. From the very large offer we made, we know that it is not worth extending the license for some things. There was scarcity in the market before, but that’s over now. The market is filled again with properties—unfortunately with many properties that don’t have a good track record. We are trying to fill the pipeline. It’s never an issue of content availability; it’s mostly always about money. Sometimes the expectations of the suppliers are simply not acceptable for us. TV KIDS: What are your priorities for Super RTL in the year ahead? SCHMIT: We want to grow again. We want to achieve 20-percent market share, but that’s not where we stop. It’s not [impossible] that in the next couple of years we could reach the same numbers we had prior to Disney entering the market. What we have to do is find the right programming and the right partners. DreamWorks is going to be a good part of the pipeline, and our partnership with Warner Bros. is going to be [strengthened] as well. We are also going to increase our in-house productions, and maybe there are other suppliers around the world, especially if the other Hollywood studios re-enter the kids’ business with shows that fit our programming needs. If they want to have a good partner to play with in Germany, that would be us! Also, in 2016 we will launch a new free-TV channel and it will be the first time-shifted channel in German free TV. It’s called TOGGO plus and will start in early June. We will broadcast our entire daily program, one hour later. That is unique for Germany. No one has ever done that before.
TV KIDS: What led to the launch of the children’s SVOD service kividoo? SCHMIT: We started analyzing the SVOD market about five or six years ago. There was maxdome in the German market, which belongs to the ProSiebenSat.1 Group. That SVOD service launched ten years ago. Very quickly we realized it had a strange business model: they did not earn any money. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a good business model. So we considered the idea of SVOD as interesting, but losing money is not an option for us. Business plans were ready, but we decided it was simply too early to move. Then, Netflix entered the market and vitalized SVOD. Everybody now knows what SVOD stands for and they know Netflix. We thought it seemed to be the time to surf on the Netflix wave, so to speak, and that’s what we did. We launched kividoo, an SVOD service just for kids. It’s working nicely. Obviously we are not making billions because we don’t have millions of subscribers, but I’m very positive about the outlook. We have been in the subscription business for quite some time, with ToggolinoClub and Toggo-CleverClub, so we know the numbers. Our business plan was not based on getting millions of subscribers. We are on target as far as our numbers are concerned, subscription-wise and money-wise. Do I expect kividoo to replace our linear advertising revenues in the near future? No. So for us it is a test to find out what kids are appreciating and what their parents are spending money on. It’s a Ramping up its in-house production output, Super RTL is exploring a brand extension for Woozle Goozle. learning curve.
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and, in particular, that last one. We believed at the time that Teletubbies would be right for a relaunch. The old Teletubbies episodes are still on the air in many places, but they’d all been produced pre-HD. From our point of view, there was an opportunity to update them. There is still massive viewership on YouTube for Teletubbies, and we thought that was a really good proxy for recognition and popularity. When [shows] aren’t on television and you’re not getting ratings, how else do you know whether they’re important to parents or kids? To us, that was an important piece of our due diligence.
DHX MEDIA By Kristin Brzoznowski
Celebrating its tenth birthday this year, DHX Media has spent the last decade cultivating its businesses to become a key international player in the production, distribution, broadcast and licensing of children’s and family entertainment. Along the way, it has acquired a number of companies and libraries, amassing a catalogue of more than 11,500 halfhours of content, including the globally recognized brand Teletubbies, which it recently remade with state-of-the-art special effects. Steven DeNure, the president and COO of DHX Media, talks to TV Kids about the latest activities across its four main divisions: DHX Studios, DHX Distribution, DHX Television and DHX Brands. TV KIDS: How did the idea come about to bring back Teletubbies? DENURE: A few years ago, a number of important preschool properties came into our library with our acquisition of the assets of Ragdoll Worldwide. Ragdoll is a great company that not only created Teletubbies but also other well-known shows, including In the Night Garden. DHX has made many acquisitions over the years, and what we’ve been looking for overall are libraries that fit into the library we’ve been building and properties that we think are meaningful in the long run and, on top of that, properties that we could look at revitalizing. In the case of Ragdoll, all of those boxes were checked,
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TV KIDS: How did Darrall Macqueen come on board as producers? DENURE: First of all, they are among the best producers of preschool programs. We had the privilege of working with them on Topsy and Tim and understood their talent and the rigor with which they approach things. In terms of the team here, it was initially Josh Scherba, who runs DHX Distribution, who suggested we talk to Billy [Macqueen] and Maddy [Darrall] at Darrall Macqueen. When we went to them and said that we were thinking about doing a new series with the Teletubbies, they said, You can’t do that! The Teletubbies are perfect the way they are! We started a really interesting dialogue about, first of all, why would you relaunch Teletubbies. That made us think hard and deep about “why” and if so, then what it would look like. We had tried to uprez some of the old episodes, but we realized that taking existing standard-definition television and uprezzing it is not the same as producing a beautiful new 4K show. They dug in creatively and became interested in and inspired by what we would do next with the Teletubbies given the technology available to us. Darrall Macqueen did a great job of saying, Let’s embrace the current technology, using miniature sets and green screen. It’s the [same] technology that’s been developed for big films like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to combine fantastic miniature sets and massive costumed characters, the big and small together, to create a magical world. We are thrilled with the way the show looks. We think that it plays extremely well. It’s a fantastic update and tribute to what was a great and groundbreaking show the first time around. In some ways, for preschool it’s broken new ground again. TV KIDS: What led to the recent realignment and rebranding at DHX Studios? DENURE: DHX is a highly dynamic environment and we’re always changing, reorganizing, acquiring things here and there and rethinking the company. In some ways, that’s consistent with the massive change that’s going on within the filmed-entertainment business anyway. For us, this was a way of gathering up all of our creative assets, at least in terms of development and production, putting them under one roof, and with the acquisition of Nerd Corps Entertainment last year, putting Ace Fipke and Ken Faier at the helm. TV KIDS: What does DHX Studios have coming down the pike in animation, live-action and interactive content? DENURE: There are some great animated projects in the works right now such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: The Series, which we partnered with Sony on; Supernoobs, a new series from Scott Fellows that recently came out; and ongoing we have Inspector Gadget, which we’re continuing production
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on. We are working with great partners, including Hasbro. We are doing some work with DreamWorks and, more recently, we announced an extension of our partnership with Mattel. In terms of the balance between live action and animation, it changes from year to year. We don’t come into it with a prescription about how much of either we should be doing. Having said that, we have been very busy over the past year on the liveaction side in our own studios with series like the Netflix original Degrassi: Next Class and the Nickelodeon hit Make It Pop, which was created by Tom Lynch. We’re in continuing production in the U.K. with Darrall Macqueen, and are just finishing up with the Hank Zipzer series that we produce with Kindle Entertainment and Walker Productions. We’ve completed principal photography on Airmageddon from producer Steve Carsey, who is the creator of Robot Wars. CBBC is our partner. There has been a wide variety of content that we’ve created on the interactive side. We have studios in Vancouver and Halifax that continue to create content around projects like Slugterra and Inspector Gadget. There is an ongoing stream of things that are created for projects like Degrassi that link into the social media side. TV KIDS: How are you balancing the growth of the DHX Distribution catalogue against being able to nurture individual IP? DENURE: The catalogue has grown both organically, with shows that we make, and through the acquisition of libraries. For us, the number of original shows that we’re adding to the catalogue every year is somewhere between 8 and 12 series. What we’ve tried to do is manage those additions in such a way that they don’t overlap; we don’t want to compete with ourselves when it comes to new offerings in the marketplace. TV KIDS: How has the DHX Television bouquet been performing since the Family rebranding? DENURE: It’s still really early days. The relaunch was in January. So we’re watching the numbers carefully. There have been some good wins and we’ve got some great shows on the channels.
At Family Channel, we’ve been trying to age the audience up in the evening after 9 p.m. We have programmed Degrassi: Next Class later in the evening; that is a well-known and wellloved show in Canada and we’re seeing pretty good numbers on that. For us, it’s a matter of paying attention and being nimble with our programming strategy. There are a lot of changes coming all at once, particularly in the Canadian market. We’re not only going to slightly older age cohorts in later prime-time hours but there’s also a changing environment here with pick-and-pay [partial unbundling of cable packages] being implemented later this year. The whole industry is standing by to see how things unfold. TV KIDS: What are some of the latest initiatives from DHX Brands? DENURE: DHX Brands is focused on a small portfolio of properties. Teletubbies is at the top of the list. In the Night Garden has been doing very well for us. We have a key new project that we’ve been working on with Anne Wood and Ragdoll called Twirlywoos. Older-skewing properties include Make It Pop, which has some interesting brand opportunities. There are [extensions] for Slugterra and Caillou, which is a perennial favorite. The focus right now is on the rollout of Teletubbies internationally and Twirlywoos as a key priority. TV KIDS: What are the benefits that come with having the size and scale that DHX has achieved? DENURE: We have worked a long time to get this level of scale. DHX will be ten years old this year and Decode Entertainment, which I co-founded, would have been 20. We’ve been on this track for many, many years and have believed that having scale and size does matter. It’s important to make sure that we have all parts of the organization working together and that we think very carefully about other things that we add, whether it’s production capacity, individual titles or additional libraries. The key [idea] for us is to be able to play across a number of different parts of the business and to make those parts all work together.
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DHX Media partnered with Darrall Macqueen to bring back Teletubbies with 60 new episodes enhanced with CGI.
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TV KIDS: What are the key initiatives you’ll be spending time on over the next year for DHX’s business as a whole? DENURE: One of the priorities is our expansion into Asia, particularly China. We have spent a lot of time on that and have a big agenda there. Teletubbies was actually the first Western preschool show to air on CCTV in China. We also want to expand our consumer-products business. A real priority for me is to try to make sure we have all parts of
the company working together where it makes sense. We’ve got great, smart people in each one of our businesses: Peter Byrne, who’s responsible for DHX Brands; Josh Scherba, with whom I have been working for around 14 years; and likewise at DHX Television and DHX Studios. We have a very experienced, smart management team here; it’s one thing to build an integrated platform, but our focus is on making all of these parts work in concert.
BILLY MACQUEEN When DHX Media was looking to bring back Teletubbies with an updated and upgraded version, it turned to British indie Darrall Macqueen to produce the new episodes. Known for such preschool hits as Topsy and Tim and Baby Jake, the company, co-founded by Billy Macqueen, reinvigorated the perennially popular series using CGI and future-proofed the show in 4K so it can be enjoyed by generations to come. TV KIDS: How did Darrall Macqueen become involved as producers on the new Teletubbies series? MACQUEEN: It was off the back of [a show we produced called] Topsy and Tim, which is still the number one preschool series in the U.K. DHX picked it up to distribute globally. They thought we had a really interesting and different creative viewpoint. They asked us what we thought about doing Teletubbies as a CGI series. We went, You don’t want to mess with it! [Laughs] We had concerns about CGI Teletubbies replacing the costume-character Teletubbies, that we’d lose the tactile nature of the show and the immediacy between director and performer and, of course, the overall dynamic of four Teletubbies physically playing together. We proposed a refreshed and very modern approach that protected the costumecharacter performance. We were scared stiff when DHX went for our approach because Teletubbies is such a fantastic, iconic series and we knew we would be under the spotlight. My business partner [Maddy Darrall] came up with a great line: It was a privilege to be able to polish the crown jewels. TV KIDS: How did you approach the show with a creative focus that pays homage to its heritage? MACQUEEN: We worked with a lot of the original team who worked on the first series. Our director of photography was the original camera operator on the first series. One of the original performers was our movement coach. [The person who played the original] Po did some script consulting for us. We brought back some fantastic key creatives. Niki Lyons was the original costume designer. She also did the costumes for the feature film Where the Wild Things Are, which
were just stunning. We were delighted to get her back to design and make brand-new costumes. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to film outside because of the unreliable U.K. weather, which would put pressure on our shooting schedule, so we moved production inside, creating a model of the Teletubbyland green hills that gave us a magical and believable landscape. TV KIDS: What does the use of CGI bring to the show? MACQUEEN: We applied a mix of visual effects and CGI in two areas. Cutting-edge visual effects enabled us to composite 3-meter-high liveaction Teletubbies onto 3-centimeter model hills with fantastic contact shadows and freedom of movement for our cameras. CGI enhanced this magical land further; there were around 60,000 digitally printed flowers on the model set, each smaller than the size of a fingernail. As the Teletubbies run past them, the flowers can turn and follow. There’s another lovely element of CGI: when Laa-Laa hugs a tree it bursts into blossom. We tried to use the latest technology to complement our stories but not to distract in any way from our storytelling. The CGI work was very complex and very painstaking, but we were focused throughout the process on an end result that looked visually simple. TV KIDS: How did the experience of working on the new Teletubbies differ from other projects Darrall Macqueen has worked on? MACQUEEN: We attracted people from the feature-film industry to Teletubbies when they heard about our approach. The team at Lola Post Production, who won an Academy Award for [their work on] Gladiator, looked after all the visual effects. A digital printing company called Propshop [that worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens] 3D-printed the Teletubbyland model. There were technicians from the feature-film side. It was really fun seeing people from feature films getting excited and saying, You’ve pushed us on to something new! We haven’t tried this! They were coming off feature films and dealing with how to make beautiful, tactile, 3-meter-tall Tinky Winky look perfect when performing on a little 2-centimeter model hillock! TV KIDS: What other projects is Darrall Macqueen working on? MACQUEEN: We’re in development on two projects. One is a preschool project that we are developing with DHX. We’re just going out to market with it now and will be sharing more details soon. The other one is called Hello Tickle Monsters. It’s a preschool and family sitcom with live action and puppets. It’s about a family facing the challenges of integrating a couple of incredibly mischievous and untrainable tickle monsters into their everyday home life. They’ve got to keep them a secret from the very grumbly family next door who thinks that something is wrong…and it is! We just developed the bible and first two scripts with CBeebies.
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grew up with. We knew that people were going to share it; we knew they would want to talk about it; we knew there were different ways they wanted to experience it, so we built Descendants from the ground up assuming that its content would play on all platforms. We launched the movie. We launched short-form content for YouTube and on social media. We had Twitter parties during the premiere and ongoing conversations about the stories and characters across our digital/social platforms and Radio Disney. We connect with the audience in every possible way that we can. As for the ways kids are viewing, there is an 80 percent chance that a preschooler today has access to some kind of mobile device, which means he/she has the ability to take content with them when they are away from the TV screen, for example, in the car or the grocery store. So for preschoolers we have built platforms from games, “appisodes” and our WATCH apps to allow them to take content with them. As they get older, kids are beginning to experiment on social media and share content. We look at that audience and try to figure out how they want to experience content. It’s not just watching; it’s touching it, communicating it and embracing all the different ways that they can connect to it.
DISNEY CHANNELS By Anna Carugati
When High School Musical premiered ten years ago, Disney Channel management knew they had a hit—tweens couldn’t get enough of the movie, its sequels, DVDs and consumer products. What they didn’t know at the time was that technology would come to provide children many more outlets for enjoying their favorite shows. Today, Sean Cocchia, the executive VP of business operations and general manager of Disney Channels Worldwide, and his team have changed the way they produce and premiere content using the tools they have available—their 100-plus channels and feeds around the world, which include Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior and their corresponding websites and WATCH apps—all in service of media-savvy children. TV KIDS: What have you been learning about the way kids are watching programming today? COCCHIA: When we aired High School Musical in January of 2006, YouTube had launched just some 12 months earlier, and it was the first time that we saw [our viewers] create their own content, share it and communicate about it in a different way. Fast-forward ten years and you see all the different ways that a kid can take a piece of content, own it, share it, talk about it and create his/her own version. This has absolutely changed the dynamic of [our business]. Descendants was our big tentpole movie last year. It was a combination of our storytelling plus the classic Disney characters that everyone
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TV KIDS: Are these new viewing habits changing the ways you produce programming? COCCHIA: Yes. We have two live-action shows coming out this spring. Bizaardvark, on Disney Channel, focuses on two girls who have become internet stars through the music videos they create. We are crafting those story lines at the same time as we are crafting other elements: music videos, short-form content, other pieces of content that will live alongside the 22-minute episodes. We look at the DNA of a show and ask, What opportunities do we have to create content for other platforms that feels organic and natural to what that show is? Another show is Walk the Prank on Disney XD, which is a combination of narrative storytelling and a reality prank show. We have been looking at how we can create Vines, YouTube videos and other short-form content that will help support and extend the story, as well as be an organic extension of who the characters are. Ten years ago in the High School Musical days we wouldn’t have been looking at those platforms. Now it’s part of the conversation when we greenlight content. TV KIDS: How are you premiering shows today—on the linear channels or do you experiment online first? COCCHIA: We’ve done a lot of different experiments and now every time a piece of content premieres on our linear networks, that same day it will also premiere on our WATCH apps, on the on-demand platforms of our cable operators, as well as any other owned platforms. Our content is available when and how a consumer wants it; we don’t necessarily look at separate windows for each one of these platforms, so we have changed how we are premiering content. Sheriff Callie’s Wild West on Disney Junior, for example, premiered on our WATCH app almost six months ahead of linear. We do a lot of research with consumers to learn how they are experiencing content. They have devices and the ability to take the content with them. We want to make it easy so that they always have the opportunity to experience Disney content.
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TV KIDS: So it doesn’t really matter where they are watching as long as they are watching? COCCHIA: At Disney Channels Worldwide, one of the most important things is making sure our content resonates and connects to consumers, because when it does, the love for that program shows up in many different ways, from consumer products to user-generated content to social-media conversation. So getting a consumer to watch Descendants last summer on the WATCH app, a week before it went on the linear channel, was just as important as having them watch the premiere on TV. TV KIDS: Are you finding content from local Disney Channels around the world that you can roll out globally? COCCHIA: There are a couple of examples of that. Last year Disney Channel Japan launched a series of animated shorts based on gaming characters called Tsum Tsum. They are very stylized versions of Disney characters. When we saw the shorts, we immediately pushed them through the system so that every Disney Channel around the world, including in the U.S., was airing them. We also aired them on our digital platforms and they did incredibly well. It was created and completely produced by the Japanese team. We also have a program called Violetta. It was a telenovela coproduced by Disney Channel Latin America and Disney Channel EMEA that dominated the tween landscape in both of those regions. In Europe, this spring we are premiering a theatrical movie based on the lead character played by Martina Stoessel. Violetta was content that had legs beyond just Latin America or Europe; it went pretty much everywhere. We are also looking at their next telenovela story, Soy Luna, which we launched in Latin America, to figure out what the opportunities are for it in the U.S. Europe also did their first live-action series called Evermoor. As the international channels are growing, they are all beginning to experiment more with local programming in some of the areas that they are strong in: for Latin America it’s telenovelas; Britain is very good in the liveaction space. We are working on some content now in Asia given their strength in anime. You will continue to see The Walt Disney Company invest in content that resonates on the local level and then hopefully has the wings to go global.
TV KIDS: If creating strong brands was important ten years ago, how much more important is it today? COCCHIA: I think the High School Musical experience can absolutely be replicated again. We did it last summer with Descendants, and Disney Channel is incredibly lucky to be part of a company that not only creates its own IP, but also [has available IP from The Walt Disney Company]. We have Star Wars, and we have Star Wars Rebels and our platform right now is the only platform in the world that airs television content tied to the Star Wars brand. We have the Marvel content and the Disney-Pixar content. Just last year we premiered The Lion Guard, which is a preschool series based on the beloved movie The Lion King. As I look at the future and at the company’s tentpoles, we have a treasure trove of content with IP and characters that parents remember, kids remember and that we can keep reintroducing to them. For us, tentpole programming is incredibly important in a very crowded environment and we are very blessed that we have a lot to choose from and a lot to create.
TV KIDS: How is music content becoming more important to Disney Channel? COCCHIA: Radio Disney launched in 1996 as a classic station you would listen to in your car—that was 20 years ago. It was a very passive experience of listening to whatever music was playing. Fast-forward to today, we have moved from being a terrestrial radio station for your car to a completely digital-focused service. Even more exciting are some of the digital extensions that we’ve been able to do: Radio Disney Country and Radio Disney Junior. We have been able to create very specific and targeted networks for more demos. Technology has allowed us to elevate music across our platforms and across our businesses. The tentpole is the Radio Disney Music Awards, which airs on Disney Channel, but when we launched the first one four years ago, we built it to be a digital-focused type of content, from how viewers vote, to the nomination specials, to how it premieres, to short form, to social media, to the classic show. We are looking at it as a way to connect digital music and the Disney brand to our audience in the most aggressive way.
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Disney Channel’s new live-action slate includes Bizaardvark, about two tween girls who become internet sensations.
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pitched. Dot is a digital native, a young girl who is very comfortable with tech and it doesn’t detract from her real-life activities. The technology she uses adds to the richness of her life. We immediately saw that as an arena that is unique and needed today. TV KIDS: How are you keeping returning brands like Dinosaur Train fresh? HENSON: I’m glad you brought up Dinosaur Train because we just did what we call season four, but actually the show premiered in 2009 and it’s been continuously in production for seven years. We love that show. We feel it has endless creative possibilities because the Mesozoic Era is so rich with creatures and science that kids are unfamiliar with. We never feel tapped out with Dinosaur Train. We have so much fun coming up with the event programs and the specials and the stunt weeks that keep the show fresh. We’re layering in new subjects, new vehicles, new characters all the time, so the original episodes kids are familiar with are still good, but we’re freshening it all the time with new elements. It’s hard to come up with a show that will break through the critical first two to three years in which it will either succeed on a big level or quietly go away as a minor success. Dinosaur Train is our perennial success story. TV KIDS: Is there a different process for developing a property for a digital platform as compared with making one for a traditional linear broadcaster?
LISA HENSON THE JIM HENSON COMPANY By Mansha Daswani
For more than five decades, The Jim Henson Company has been delivering high-quality, parent-friendly content for kids everywhere. Building on her father’s legacy, CEO Lisa Henson is ensuring that the company continues to keep up with the rapid changes in how young ones consume content. She offers TV Kids insight into how The Jim Henson Company is seeking out and developing innovative new shows like the upcoming Dot., adapted from the book by Randi Zuckerberg. TV KIDS: Dot. has been getting a lot of buzz. How did The Jim Henson Company come to be associated with that project? HENSON: We saw the book, which we thought was adorable and unique. It’s a very simple book, but the subject matter is something that we hadn’t seen yet in terms of literary properties or even TV properties being
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HENSON: In minor ways, yes; in the major ways, no. The shows are distinguished by having good characters, strong story lines and unique curriculums, and those qualities are going to be the same in either way the show is premiered. Perhaps the differences are in the way we craft the deal or the way the show is administered. TV KIDS: When kids have so many other distractions, how do you attract them and keep them tuned in? HENSON: It’s interesting that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are all preferring to do programs that are at least 11 minutes long. The idea that the programming should be short and oriented to short attention spans isn’t holding true for those digital platforms. These digital network platforms want stories that are engaging and 11 minutes long at least.
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In production for PBS Kids, Splash & Bubbles uses The Jim Henson Company’s Digital Puppetry technology.
TV KIDS: Are you developing any content outside of the preschool segment? HENSON: We have a good amount of development in both the bridge age group and also 6 and up. We have a couple of things in development for teens or tweens. Historically as a company we’ve done family entertainment and fantasy/sci-fi. People have enjoyed The Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, so we are developing properties that will bring those fantasy qualities to a younger level. That is not to say that we are developing Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal for ages 6 and up. However, we are developing shows with the qualities that were seen in those Creature Shop shows, the animatronics and the high-fantasy characters. TV KIDS: Tell us about your new series Splash & Bubbles. HENSON: We are working with PBS on Splash & Bubbles. It’s a very big project for us. It’s utilizing Digital Puppetry and therefore all the best talent at the company is engaged with it. The characters, story lines and settings in Splash & Bubbles are grounded in a marine biology curriculum that focuses on themes of diversity, individuality, interconnectedness and the celebration of learning and discovery. We are currently going into production on 80 11minute stories.
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TV KIDS: How have you approached bringing an educational curriculum to shows while still keeping them engaging and entertaining? HENSON: PBS is a channel that likes to have meaningful content and a strong element of learning. We also like to bring to those shows a secondary curricular level that is playful, friendly and adventurous, so that they don’t feel like lessons. For instance, learning about dinosaurs and the Mesozoic Era is often a parade of facts and kids memorizing names of dinosaurs. So with Dinosaur Train, we went about it a different way. We wanted to teach general natural sciences and we emphasized the concept that dinosaurs are animals too. So when we’re learning about dinosaurs we’re learning about them as animals. We’re comparing a four-legged dinosaur to a four-legged cow that eats grass, so they’re both herbivores. We’re keeping it quite simple and easy to relate to and making it relevant for kids who are watching it. Similarly, with Splash & Bubbles, we want to familiarize kids with these characters. We call them the citizens of the sea, and Reeftown, the neighborhood that Splash [a yellow fusilier fish] lives in, is like a neighborhood with characters that you would meet, perhaps along the lines of Sesame Street—a block populated by characters who became very familiar to the audience. We really want to make these subjects, which are somewhat faraway, feel immediate and relevant for kids.
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