Adina Pitt, the VP of content acquisitions and co-productions for Cartoon Network and Boomerang at Turner, tells TV Kids about how she sources shows that can complement in-house productions.
Pitt sees a lot of children’s programming from all around the world and has a unique perspective on emerging trends. She discusses the fact that kids today have numerous entertainment options and content must be offered on all the screens and devices they use.
TV KIDS: What have you learned from the different ways children interact with Cartoon Network content and does that inform the type of content you co-produce or acquire?
PITT: One of the things we’ve learned is that everything has to allow for multiple touchpoints. We have to ensure multiplatform storytelling and that has been tremendous learning. When we think about the content we are acquiring, we challenge our producers to try to put themselves in the shoes of the person who is receiving their content. If you have a child who is consuming content in multiple ways, then you have to create a narrative that is native to each one of their platforms. It might be at the inception, when you are thinking about your brand—you’re not just thinking from a linear perspective or a nonlinear perspective; it’s much more holistic than that, it’s both linear and nonlinear. It’s a different challenge and that’s where collaboration very early on is required between networks and producers. It’s about partnering early on and developing how we’re going to map out your brand over time.
TV KIDS: Are you noticing any trends in children’s programming?
PITT: I am very excited to see that people are focusing on kindness. They are focusing on friendship, diversity and inclusion. I’m seeing a lot of female empowerment characters—which is fantastic—but they’re not excluding the boys. I’m seeing people being thoughtful about how they put together their storytelling. I could also talk about reimagined classics being a trend and live action, but I think it’s more interesting to talk about how producers and creators are paying attention to what is happening in the marketplace and in the world. They’re saying, I want to tell a story that is going to impact kids, make them laugh, make them think and almost teach without being educational, and be very positive.
TV KIDS: If children are exposed to these themes in an entertaining way when they are young, they will remember them.
PITT: Absolutely. We are paying attention to how these characters feel and look and how they speak and interact. Whether it’s a human character or an animal or an alien, it doesn’t matter. There are some universal themes that people are touching upon, which gives me great hope in terms of what this community is doing right now for the kids’ space.
TV KIDS: Are there any new acquisitions or co-productions you would like to mention?
PITT: The one I could call out is the new generation of Total Drama. That is a brand that has been part of our channel for many years. To go back to Fresh TV and CAKE and take a new creative approach to some of the kids’ favorite characters and make them a little bit younger and have a different storytelling approach was really exciting. Total Drama is very, very funny and it was a full-circle moment where you get to see a brand that we didn’t make internally, but feels so much a part of who we are at Cartoon Network. There is such a great brand association with us that it’s exciting to see what they are doing and I’m looking forward to that hitting our platforms soon.
TV KIDS: Compared to when you started in the business, what added or different challenges do channel brands face today?
PITT: This is probably one of the biggest questions. It’s always about great storytelling and giving our consumers what they want. We live in a multiplatform world and finding the right balance between our show brands and our channel brands is a constant. Now more than ever, what we try to do is either create or acquire content that stays true to our brand and hopefully extends our reach. You want to make sure that you are setting a trend and you are relevant to your consumer. It’s an evolving business, but if you think about it, the shows that rise to the top are the ones that connect with the consumer in the most meaningful way, and that is great storytelling.
TV KIDS: Is it much more complicated to establish a show brand in today’s media market than it was 10 or 15 years ago?
PITT: We work very closely with our marketing teams to have these discussions for each individual piece of IP. I would encourage producers to have a franchise approach to the IP that they are developing and to look more holistically at what they are doing. If you reach your consumers everywhere they are and you are telling the stories they want to see, chances are you’re going to have a hit, and that is what the world is striving for. Of course, establishing a brand is difficult, kids have a lot of choices. You have to stand out in a very fragmented market. But that being said, the role of the shows we bring in from third parties is to complement and hopefully scaffold the originals that we are creating. It’s a constant ebb and flow of stopping and assessing, Are we doing this right? Are we hitting them at the right place? How can we perfect this? There is no one method we use for each property. Each property is its own entity and requires its own strategy.
TV KIDS: What’s new at Boomerang?
PITT: I am super excited that we launched an OTT service. It offers yet another place where we can reach our consumers and offer them great unique content through our partnership with Warner Bros. We have also added some third-party IP that fits in nicely with these iconic characters and shows like Scooby-Doo and Tom and Jerry. That offers us an opportunity to appeal to perhaps a younger demo and be perhaps a little more gender-neutral. Widening our Boomerang [lineup] allows us—not just from a demo perspective but certainly from a genre perspective—to experiment a little bit more and maybe go a little bit younger.
TV KIDS: What’s missing from the market?
PITT: As somebody who sees so much content, it would be that thing that we didn’t know we needed until we see it. When someone comes to us and says, I’m taking this approach, I’ve created these characters, I’ve created this experience, that’s that aha moment where you say OK, we’re going to try this. At Cartoon Network and Boomerang, we’ve never shied away from taking risks, so I would hope that what’s missing is that white space—as producers look at the landscape and I see a lot of common themes, maybe they pivot and go in a different direction and come to us with those ideas. I’m delighted to say that some of the stuff that was missing is now present, as I called out before, some of those themes that people are bringing to the table are very exciting.