TV Kids examines the children’s programming news to come out of this year’s MIPJunior and MIPCOM.
MIPJunior hosted a record-breaking number of buyers this year, with 660 on hand to screen new kids’ shows from across the globe. The event, held at the JW Marriott the weekend before MIPCOM, welcomed a total of 1,600 delegates, all grappling with kids’ rapidly transforming media consumption habits.
Strategies for reaching kids wherever they are were discussed extensively at the View from the Top panel during MIPJunior, moderated by Anna Carugati, the group editorial director at World Screen, and featuring ABC TV’s Michael Carrington, Turner’s Patricia Hidalgo, SUPER RTL’s Janine Weigold and Gloob’s Paula Taborda dos Guaranys. At the end of the session, they were each presented a World Screen Kids Trendsetter Award honoring their contributions to the children’s programming business.
“We have to be [serving them] in all ways,” said Weigold, the head of children’s content at SUPER RTL. That’s not easy, she said, as “their habits change quite quickly.” But being multiplatform also opens up a world of potential. “In marketing, we used to kick off big campaigns and roll them out for three months. Now you have to adapt and be quick and maybe smarter. It enriches the industry and the engagement with the children. We try to be everywhere.”
Gloob, according to Taborda dos Guaranys, the head of content and programming, is producing different stories for different platforms, creating spin-off shows for digital devices. “We want stories that are character-driven,” she said of her programming remit. “We need to engage the children.”
“Kids are consuming not just the video content, they’re consuming games and apps,” Hidalgo, chief content and creative officer for EMEA and international kids strategy at Turner, noted. “Whatever IP you’re trying to grow, you must make sure you have that bespoke content for specific [platforms]. As you’re creating the series, you should be thinking about how it looks on different platforms.”
“Television is still very important to children,” added Carrington, the head of children’s and education at Australia’s ABC, “although it may just be on in the background these days. The majority of our audience still watches television, but there’s no doubt that they are moving to a video-on-demand scenario. We have free VOD, apps for our channels, our websites and partnerships with YouTube. We’re trying to be everywhere that children are. We’re creating stories and episodes that will migrate seamlessly between the platforms. We’re genre-driven, not platform-driven.”
As they embrace new platforms, broadcasters are also acutely aware of the impact OTT services such as YouTube and Netflix are having in their markets. Netflix, for example, has seen “a huge uptake,” in Australia, Carrington said. “We’re driving the audience with original [Australian] production,” he noted, adding that ABC is also collaborating with Netflix.
Hidalgo said that the effect of the streamers has been good and bad. “Disruption is good; it makes you rethink what you’re doing. It means there’s more money out there for the industry. And there are more platforms to have our content exposed.” On the other hand, however, “they are competitors. They are competing for the limited time kids have.”
Weigold said that SUPER RTL is working hard to “celebrate free TV,” having “more live moments where kids want to tune in and talk about it the next day in school.”
“We’re in their face all the time,” Carrington said. “And they can interact with us on a daily basis. They just send us stuff. We’re almost live in their lives.”
“We’re going to see that same kind of connection in the nonlinear space,” Hidalgo added. “Shelves and shelves of videos is not going to be enough.”
Speaking of nonlinear players, it was a packed house on Sunday for the keynote by Andy Yeatman, director of global kids’ content at Netflix. “Our goal is to be the service kids all around the world can’t do without, and that parents trust. We want kids of all ages to love Netflix, different interests, tastes, preferences. We’re also cognizant that at the end of the day, it’s the parents who sign up for Netflix, who pay the monthly fee. It’s really important that parents feel good about the role that Netflix is playing in their kids’ lives.”
Yeatman offered up data on kids’ viewing on Netflix. He said the platform is able to generate increasingly large audiences, while linear viewership continues to decline. In the year to date, four kids’ shows have been watched by over 15 million households, 17 shows by over 10 million, 87 shows by over 5 million households and over 200 shows by at least 2 million households. These trends give Netflix the confidence to invest more in kids’ content, especially originals. “This year we’ll have 37 shows across preschool, animation and live action.”
Programming for a global audience, Netflix currently has kids’ content from 49 countries, with almost half of the catalog produced outside of the U.S.
On the formula for what can work on Netflix globally, Yeatman identified some key traits a show should have. “Content that is highly visual, action, physical comedy. An easily understandable hook. It’s really important that the image that represents your show is distinct and clearly gets across what the show is about. Fantasy works well, universal themes such as family and friendship. Globally recognizable IP is always a step up. And a unique, specific point of view.”
Discussing how producers can get content onto Netflix, Yeatman identified three routes. The first is global original commissions, where Netflix has creative control. “It has to be top IP in a local market. Or a format that is proven to travel well. We want to work with the top studios and creators in those markets to create something that feels distinct from what’s on TV in the market. And we’re looking for programming that fills gaps in our slate.” The second route is co-productions, where Netflix will help complete the financing and take global rights outside of the home market, where it has a second window. “The level of creative input depends on when we come in and the level of financing.” Yeatman noted that the majority of kids’ content on Netflix is and will continue to be second-window acquisitions.
He then sat down for a Q&A with World Screen’s Carugati. Asked about the biggest mindset change producers used to creating content for linear have to make, Yeatman responded, “It’s getting outside of thinking a show has to be 52 11-minute episodes or has to conform to a specific brand identity. We want a distinct, specific creative vision. And we don’t do pilots, so we want to hear what the vision is for the season.”
Another highlight at MIPJunior was the World Premiere Screening of Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! Mattel Creations’ Christopher Keenan gave TV Kids some insight into what’s in store for the new iteration of the classic brand. “I’m hoping that anyone who sees this new iteration of Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! will see that what we’ve done is retain a lot of the core storytelling elements that made Thomas a staple in children’s entertainment for years,” Keenan, senior VP and executive producer at Mattel Creations, said. “They’ll also see that we’ve modernized it just enough so that the pacing is a little more in tune with what kids are seeing in other programs today. As well as upping the ante in terms of humor, we’re doing a lot more physical and visual humor than we’ve ever done before. And probably most importantly, we’re really embracing this idea of Thomas and his Steam Team being global citizens. We feel really strongly that it’s time for Thomas to start addressing some of the issues that our young audiences are already getting exposed to.”
As MIPJunior came to a close, Reed MIDEM released details on the top 30 most-screened shows, which included Magic Adventures: The Crystal of Dark from Korea’s Hong Dang Moo, 44 Cats from Italy’s Rainbow and Alice & Lewis from France’s Blue Spirit Productions.
Further proof of how global the kids’ content business is came Monday with the announcement of the nominees for the International Emmy Kids Awards, set to return to MIPTV in April. The contenders hail from 16 countries. “The Academy is proud to be the preeminent platform for showcasing and recognizing the remarkable wealth and geographic spread of quality kids’ programming produced around the world,” said Bruce L. Paisner, the president and CEO of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “We congratulate the nominees for their outstanding talent and for setting the high standard we all expect for children’s content.”
For kids’ TV delegates at MIPCOM, the week was marked by plenty of OTT news, including a new Chinese SVOD platform and Nickelodeon’s announcement that it would finally arrive in Japan—as an OTT and mobile linear channel. The program-sales news, meanwhile, was across the board, with distributors finding brisk business on free and pay TV, linear and streaming. Zodiak Kids announced deals for Kody Kapow and aligned with China’s Fantawild on Tiger Team. Jetpack found homes for several shows, including The Sisters and Kitty is Not a Cat. Superights landed a Chinese deal for the preschool hit Puffin Rock. Nickelodeon took international rights to the Korean slapstick comedy Zelly Go from Imira Entertainment, while Turner International is set to deliver the Asia-Pacific commission Monster Beach to it feeds in the region, EMEA and Latin America in 2019. Rai Italy signed on to Scream Street in a deal with Atlantyca Entertainment. WDR mediagroup found homes in Asia, the U.S. and Mexico for its long-running hit Maus, and Beyond Productions unveiled a pact with SUPER RTL for a new science-based show.
Catch up on all these stories and more on TVKids.ws.