Genevieve Dexter, the founder and CEO of Serious Lunch, speaks with TV Kids about the success of Operation Ouch!, the company’s evolution and what broadcasters look for in a children’s show today.
London-based distributor Serious Lunch was founded six years ago by Genevieve Dexter, who also serves as CEO of animation studio Eye Present. The company’s most widely sold property is Operation Ouch!, a live-action factual series that sees twin doctors Chris and Xand help young viewers understand their bodies. The BAFTA-winning Maverick production is headed into its sixth season on CBBC in the U.K. It has been sold to a number of broadcasters worldwide, including ABC, YTV, KiKA, JCCTV and Noga, and has been adapted for DR and NOS.
TV KIDS: How has Serious Lunch evolved since its inception in 2011?
DEXTER: It’s evolved much in the same way as I developed CAKE Entertainment, in that it started off as an executive production company raising money for other people’s projects, and then evolved into a distribution company. So very much the same trajectory except that our IP development and production takes place within the Eye Present animation studio in London, which is a joint venture between Squint/Opera and myself.
TV KIDS: What is the best-selling title in the company’s catalog and why do you think it has been so successful?
DEXTER: The most widely sold property is Operation Ouch!, partly because it’s matured now. It was the first title that I took on [at Serious Lunch] and so you would hope to see that. But also it’s now in production with its sixth season, so it’s proved to be an ongoing brand as opposed to a single series, which is like night and day, really.
I don’t think anybody can say that there’s a show like [Operation Ouch!]. There are many that touch on the same topics—the series is all about the body and how it works—but it’s presented by these incredibly funny and charismatic twin doctors who have a few PhDs between them and who, for example, went to Africa during the Ebola crisis and also went to work in the refugee camps in Calais to study the effects of living long-term in a refugee camp. So they’re very passionate about their subject and we’re just very lucky to have them presenting the show. Not only are they great at their subject, they’re very good at being able to communicate it. The sibling rivalry, especially when they’re experimenting on each other, is pretty funny. We will announce a deal in Germany very shortly, which is exciting.
TV KIDS: What are broadcasters looking for nowadays in a kids’ show?
DEXTER: Everybody seems to still be on the gender-neutral-comedy hunt. Operation Ouch! does fulfill that in that the balance is evenly split boy-girl, and although it’s conveying STEM content, it’s still very funny. I do think that the majority of broadcasters are looking for comedy animation or high-concept drama, which has a combination of live-action special effects, meaning that it can travel more effectively than homegrown drama. On the basis of the rules of supply and demand, if a particular genre is in high demand, it’s usually because there isn’t very much of it because it’s hard to pull off creatively or economically.
TV KIDS: What are some of the company’s plans for the next year or so?
DEXTER: We’d love to be able to launch something new. We’ve been looking at a few things, some of the Emmy winners at MIPTV. I always find that evening great inspiration for looking for new things. We are looking to finance a second season of Horrible Science. We’re looking for partners there because ITV has dropped out of the second season; we’re looking to replace them and find new partners. So there might be opportunities for some of the newer players.
We’ve started to employ a few more people; Rick Roper has recently joined me, he was my right-hand man at CAKE since the very early days, so he’s looking after operations. Especially as Eye Present grows, I’m looking to hand off more of my responsibilities onto other people. I need more time for acquisitions and co-productions, so I can see us bringing in some more sales people this year, potentially.
We still want to focus on a few titles and really going deep with them rather than having a large catalog, which attracts a big overhead. The distribution model is changing. We’re looking at potentially launching some of the titles directly onto YouTube in territories where, for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to penetrate, but where we know we get a lot of views. So we have launched a YouTube channel this year with short-form content that looks through the whole six seasons [of Operation Ouch!] and groups them by body part—short clips all to do with the knee or the throat, etc. That channel seems to be gaining traction. I think we would potentially expand that with the long-form content into territories that we haven’t been able to penetrate in the English language.