MIPJunior took place in Cannes against a backdrop of fraught concerns about kids dumping TV channels for YouTube. But for the some 1,600 attendees at the pre-MIPCOM screenings and conference event, there was actually much to feel good about.
Margie Cohn, the president of DreamWorks Animation Television, talked about building that studio from the ground up in her MIPJunior keynote, which was followed by a Q&A with World Screen’s Anna Carugati. In just five years, DreamWorks has tapped into its massive trove of existing IP to develop “binge-worthy” shows for kids hungry for engaging and compelling content. The company now has 18 series on Netflix, two on Amazon Prime Video, one soon launching on Universal Kids and a presence on free-to-air broadcasters worldwide. There are 20 shows in production and another 50 in development.
“After five years exclusively in the streaming world, we’re now bringing shows to linear,” she explained. “Kids don’t care about the delivery platform, they just like good programming they can watch on the screen of their choice.”
In a packed, lively Saturday morning session also moderated by Carugati, Jonathan Shiff, Angela Santomero, Tom McGillis and Ben Bocquelet weighed in on the keys to creating successful shows before each receiving a World Screen Kids Trendsetter Award.
Nickelodeon’s Jules Borkent, Cartoon Network’s Adina Pitt and BBC’s Jackie Edwards were all upbeat in their panel on the future of the kids’ business. Dealing with budgets that have to stretch further across linear and digital, all are eager for partnerships as they scour the globe for the best content available.
Linear is here to stay, Borkent said, adding, “the question is what those channels will look like.”
The mood was also upbeat in the kids’ pubcasters session with BBC’s Alice Webb, Rai’s Luca Milano and France Télévisions’ Tiphaine de Raguenel. “Now, more than ever, public-service broadcasting is incredibly important,” said Webb. “It’s not just about the creation of the highest-quality content. It’s not just about making sure that we underpin creators and producers in our countries. It’s not just because we are here to keep our cultural identity alive. We are here to provide a counterweight to commercial pressures. We are here to provide some kind of balance to the echo chambers that we increasingly see in the digital world. We are here to keep the breadth.”
Milano, who is also the chair of the Kids Media Experts Group at the EBU, stressed the importance of European public broadcasters in the media business. He said they invest some 20 billion euros a year in audiovisual content. A key challenge, he said, is that public broadcasting revenue streams are flat while commercial outlets are seeing their revenues rise. He emphasized the things that public broadcasting does well, such as the drama series Jams, which teaches kids about how to recognize inappropriate behavior from adults, and The Star of Andra and Tati (La Stella di Andra e Tati), which is based on the true story of two sisters who survived Auschwitz.
Honoring the best in kids’ programming around the world, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revealed the nominations for the International Emmy Kids Awards taking place at MIPTV 2019, with 28 contenders from 13 countries across seven categories.
“The geographic spread and wealth of topics addressed in this year’s nominated programs attest to the vibrancy and quality of children’s television throughout the world,” said Bruce Paisner, president and CEO of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “We congratulate the nominees for their outstanding talent and for setting a high bar for young viewers worldwide.”
There was also a wide breadth in the list of the most-screened series from the MIPJunior library. Cyber Group Studios’ Gigantosaurus, which premiered at MIPJunior, topped the list, followed by Rainbow’s 44 Cats. Ranking third is Bluey from BBC Studios, with Alice & Lewis (Blue Spirit Productions) and Mighty Mike (CAKE) rounding out the top five. The rest of the top ten, consecutively, features Splat & Seymour (Blue Spirit), the new The Smurfs series (IMPS), Interstellar Ella (Aardman), Ricky Zoom (eOne Family & Brands) and ABRACA (Planet Nemo/Ankama).
The deal activity, meanwhile, was significant. Canal+ bought Total Dramarama from CAKE. Rainbow signed an agreement with Carousel that will see the new animated preschool series 44 Cats launching on the Russian channel. Zodiak Kids clinched new deals on seasons one through four of Horrid Henry while also landing distribution rights to season five. DHX Media’s Polly Pocket was picked up by 16 broadcasters internationally, including in the U.K., Latin America and the Middle East. GO-N International licensed the animated preschool series Simon to NHK in Japan. Viacom International Studios (VIS) inked multiple deals for Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Beyblade Burst Turbo is heading to Disney XD, thanks to a deal signed by SUNRIGHTS. Federation Kids & Family licensed The Ollie & Moon Show to Tiny Pop in the U.K.
Co-productions continue to take center stage in the kids’ business. Cyber Group Studios signed a co-production deal with Moscow-based Soyuzmultfilm Studio for the animated series Digital Girl and Magic Chess Odyssey. KiKA said it has teamed up with Peyo Productions to co-produce the brand-new Smurfs series. Nickelodeon is launching a Chinese Animation Development Project to bolster new animation co-pros in and with the country. Mondo TV held a press conference to unveil its co-pro with MOPI (Meteo Operations Italia, a.k.a. the Epson Weather Centre), MeteoHeroes. Italy’s Atlantyca Entertainment, Australia’s SLR Productions, Ireland’s Telegael and Singapore and India’s Cosmos-Maya aligned for the animated action series Berry Bees. August Media in Singapore, Synergy88 Entertainment from the Philippines and Korea’s Studio Gale are collaborating for the 2D animated preschool property Tish Tash. Rovio Entertainment tapped CAKE to produce the first long-form animated Angry Birds series. TeamTO secured a five-series output deal, over a ten-year period, with UYoung in China.
Distributors also bulked up their libraries as they arrived at the market. France’s GO-N Productions inked a distribution deal with Russia’s RIKI Group for the new animated preschool series Tina & Tony. And Jetpack Distribution acquired the international rights for two new animated shows: Oswaldo and Barefoot Bandits.