2017: The Year in Kids

TV Kids reviews some of the trends in the children’s television business last year.

From mergers and acquisitions to the launch of new companies, divisions and services, 2017 was a busy year in the kids’ space. The year kicked off with Belgium’s Studio 100 purchasing a 68-percent interest in German brand management and media company m4e. Studio 100 also took over Little Airplane Productions. DHX Media, which secured the rights for Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake, began a strategic review to explore potential alternatives focused on maximizing shareholder value, including the possible sale of part or all of the company, a merger or other transactions. Cyber Group Studios, meanwhile, forged a financial partnership with L-GAM in order to drive the company’s growth and help fund new opportunities.

Other related news included Sony taking stakes in Funimation and Genius Brands International, Rovio selling off its TV animation studio to ex-CEO Mikael Hed, Talking Tom creator Outfit7 being purchased by an Asian firm, Coolabi securing an £11 million Santander investment and Factory buying Rollo Rights to develop its own IP.

Industry veteran Joan Lambur formed a production company with Sinking Ship, while CAKE and Studio Moshi created a new animation studio. Sixteen South launched a distribution division, GO-N Productions established a new digital arm and Skydance Media formed an animation division while entering into a multiyear partnership with Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios for feature films and TV shows.

A number of new services were revealed throughout the year, including Turner and Warner Bros. launching the SVOD Boomerang, Disney unveiling a new digital network, Virgin Media releasing a new app for kids and Mattel partnering with Fullscreen on a video network. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s preschool channel Sprout rebranded as Universal Kids, led by former ABC TV and Corus Entertainment exec Deirdre Brennan.

Sonar Entertainment acquired assets from Tricon Films & Television, expanding the company’s activities into the kids’ and family content arena for the first time. Keshet International also made its foray into the children’s genre, as did Blue Ant Media with the launch of a new animation studio.

U.K. kids’ TV, in particular, made a lot of headlines, with the BBC investing an additional £34 million in children’s content and services over the next three years; Ofcom initiating a review of kids’ programming that is available on television as well as on-demand and streaming services in the country; and, most recently, the British government introduced a new £60 million pilot fund to increase the variety of children’s TV.

Here are some of the year’s biggest personnel changes: Kay Benbow left BBC Children’s amid a restructure at the division, Patrick Elmendorff departed Studio 100 Media during the m4e acquisition, Keith Dawkins stepped down at Nickelodeon, Margo Georgiadis was named Mattel’s new CEO, John Frascotti was appointed president of Hasbro, Genius Brands’ Stone Newman joined pocket.watch, Xilam Animation hired Superights’ Morgann Favennec, and Nancy Kanter was elevated to executive VP of content and creative strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide. And even the kids’ business was affected by the entertainment industry’s recent onslaught of sexual harassment accusations, with The Loud House creator Chris Savino fired over claims of inappropriate behavior, and Andy Yeatman, Netflix’s head of global kids’ content, losing his job after making controversial comments to an alleged assault victim.

Co-productions, reboots and book-based series were also aplenty in 2017, and it seems likely that those trends will continue well into this year and beyond. TV Kids will continue to watch this space closely.

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