Brian Lacey, the president of Lacey Entertainment, talks to TV Kids about the company’s current slate of animated shows, including Kiva Can Do!, as well as the challenges of generating original, first-run programming.
It seems there’s a nearly unlimited number of TV series to watch these days, particularly for younger audiences. Some might say kids are spoiled for choice, and Brian Lacey, the president of Lacey Entertainment, believes the children’s genre is among the most competitive in the television business. “The best—and perhaps the only—way to successfully compete is to keep the focus on world-class-quality entertainment programming that will appeal to the targeted viewing audience,” he says. But what does that entail?
“Above all, the most important element is the story writing, the creative conception of a series, the character development and the pacing of the dialogue,” Lacey explains. “The storytelling and the child-identifiable qualities of the characters are what drive the appeal of a series.”
He adds: “Launching original, first-run programming is very challenging. The producer and distributor do not have the benefit of established equity value in a property that might come from a successful publishing program, a video game or toy spin-off, a pop-culture personality, etc. In the end, we focus completely on the storytelling, the quality of the writing, the animation production values, the music and the voice acting that help to actually ‘animate’ the series.” In such cases, distributors work with broadcasters to build and maintain confidence in original IP.
“Among many acquisition executives, there is an increased call for series commitments beyond the traditional 26-episode productions,” Lacey notes. “They are eager to acquire content that can be broadcast over a number of years, looking for content that can serve as ratings tent-poles, as well as seeking to amortize these acquisition and promotion investments over multiple broadcast seasons. There is also an increased demand for program-related digital assets that can be used to cross-promote content on broadcaster-owned digital sites, as well as a much greater recognition of the value of YouTube exposure to help build awareness for a series.”
Though these may not be the simplest demands to fulfill, Lacey says that for his company, the “long-term goal is to create and build program franchises. We are extremely selective in the content that we seek to co-produce, produce and distribute, and that is what allows us to compete.”
Lacey believes the animated series Kiva Can Do! possesses qualities that will be influential in transforming it into a long-running global hit. Andrew Kavanagh, the CEO and founder of Kavaleer, created the show, which follows a spirited young girl who has adventures with her friend Saul and her dog Angus, with encouragement from her grandmother Nanni. Lacey says, “The series is a departure from traditional ‘girls’ programs in that Kiva does not conform to a male stereotype to be empowered. She is caring, nurturing and follows her heart, but she can still do anything a boy can do. Kiva reminds kid viewers that anything they can dream, they can do.”
The international appeal of Kiva Can Do! stems from its storytelling. According to Lacey, the show features stories that “resonate with kids and in many ways are reflective of the imaginative play patterns of children around the world. Kids worldwide have wonderful imaginations, a buoyant attitude toward life and a feeling that anything is possible, all of which is epitomized by Kiva, Saul and Angus.
“In addition, the role of the grandmother, Nanni, brings an important trans-generational authenticity to the stories. Children can easily identify with a grandparent character in their world of entertainment. The subtle shift in gender role models that is happening globally is creatively and organically reflected in the charming story writing.”
This type of show fills broadcasters’ needs because it is targeted to kids aged 3 to 6 and features “delightful storytelling and an ensemble cast of characters that kids can relate to,” Lacey continues. “The series delivers a very contemporary viewpoint about family, friendships and adventures.”
Nickelodeon International and Lacey Entertainment inked a broadcast deal that will see Kiva Can Do! air on Nick Jr. in Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines for both pay TV and free TV. Pay-TV rights were secured for the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, South Korea and the Arabic-speaking MENA region.
“The global broadcast of Kiva Can Do! on the Nick Jr. platform in 23 different languages in over 100 countries is a terrific affirmation of the appeal and quality of the series,” Lacey says. “The Nick Jr. global platform will be a fantastic springboard for future exposure of this charming series on free-TV platforms worldwide, as well as the digital media platforms going forward.”
Another show in Lacey Entertainment’s catalog is Celebrina in Birthday Wishland. The series follows Celebrina, the ballerina princess of Birthday Wishland, a fantastical kingdom where birthday wishes actually come true. The program will be ready for broadcast in early 2019. In addition to Kiva Can Do! and Celebrina in Birthday Wishland, the company is in development on several new properties.
Looking to the future, Lacey says, “The key to success always remains in the quality of the storytelling, as well as production values.”