More players, more platforms, an abundance of content in production and development; 2021 was a banner year for the children’s business, and we at TV Kids made sure to expand our offerings in line with those gains. Indeed, our playground grew tremendously in 2021, including the launch of two super successful virtual festivals. The increasing importance of AVOD platforms in the kids’ business, a need for new funding models and the creative revolution unleashed by the SVOD streamers were all key themes across the 15 panels and keynotes at the inaugural TV Kids Festival, which took place in February (with the panels logging more than 24,000 views). Our second festival, in June, was even more impressive, attracting the likes of Mattel’s Ynon Kreiz, WarnerMedia’s Tom Ascheim, Aardman’s Sean Clarke, M6’s Philippe Bony, Disney’s Ayo Davis and YouTube’s Nadine Zylstra, among many others. Diversity, AVOD, funding models and the always important role of partnerships were key themes across the TV Kids Summer Festival. We’re so thrilled to be deep in the midst of planning our TV Kids Festival 2022 edition, which will run from February 1 to 4 with some 20 keynotes, panels and premieres. Stay tuned for free registration opening on January 19!
TV Kids also produced a raft of our super-popular in-demand reports (look out for new ones coming later this month) and launched the inaugural TV Kids Screenings Festival ahead of MIPCOM and MIPJunior, highlighting some of the most compelling new IP on the market today. And there is an awful lot of it, as the growing SVOD landscape, booming AVOD opportunities and continued investments from pubcasters have powered new narrative techniques and an increased focus on diversity and inclusion.
Of course, cutting through the clutter is never easy, so known IP has remained a powerful tool in producers’ and distributors’ arsenals. Notably, books continue to serve as fodder for new TV series and specials. Based on the best-selling children’s books and comics from Lincoln Peirce, Big Natearrives on Paramount+ this year. Disney Branded Television and UnbeliEVAble Entertainment are developing an adaptation of Sal & Gabi Break the Universe. Dandelooo is set to adapt Gaston’s Emotions, written by author and illustrator Aurélie Chien Chow Chine. Cyber Group Studios scored the audiovisual adaptation rights to the best-selling adventure books Phobos. Tiger Aspect Kids & Family clinched a development deal for the best-selling picture book series What the Ladybird Heard. BBC Children’s ordered A Kind of Spark, based on the award-winning book by neurodivergent author Elle McNicoll. Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) is bringing the best-selling Karma and Jonar children’s books to Viaplay. It also aligned with Filmlance International and The Astrid Lindgren Company to adapt Ronja the Robber’s Daughter. Apple TV+ ordered Amber Brown, based on the best-selling book series by Paula Danziger. Lime Pictures secured a TV option deal with Hachette Children’s Group for the Planet Omar book series from Zanib Mian. Leading Indian scripted producer Applause Entertainment teamed with children’s comic book powerhouse Amar Chitra Katha. Silvergate Media acquired the rights to the bilingual picture book series ¡Vamos! Netflix ordered Wings of Fire, a family-targeted animated event series based on the best-selling book series, with Ava DuVernay on board the project. Zodiak Kids Studios entered into a co-development deal with Asner Productions to develop a live-action series based on the book series The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency and will adapt the Cookie books by Konnie Huq. TeamTO acquired the TV, film and licensing rights to three popular children’s books. Apartment 11 Productions optioned the children’s book Olga, written by Elise Gravel. 9 Story Media Group acquired a minority equity stake and entered into a first-look deal with the Knights Of publishing company. And the independent children’s book publisher Albert Whitman & Company launched Albert Whitman Media to develop and produce original media content based on the parent publishing company’s popular titles.
And it’s not just books and graphic novels serving as inspiration for new TV content. Disney Branded Television and Baobab Studios began developing The Witchverse, a new animated anthology series based on the award-winning interactive experience Baba Yaga. Cyber Group Studios is set to develop the new series Precious Moments, based on the gift industry brand of the same name and secured an exclusive option agreement with Square Enix to adapt Final Fantasy IX into an animated series. 9 Story Media Group entered into a development deal with THINK450, the content and partnership arm of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), to bring NBA players into the kids’ and family entertainment space. Apple TV+ went straight to series with Jane, a new mission-driven show for kids and families from J.J. Johnson, Sinking Ship Entertainment and the Jane Goodall Institute. WarnerMedia Kids & Family greenlit Tom and Jerry’s first-ever preschool series for its new Cartoonito block, which rolled out in September(creating a raft of new opportunities for distributors). HBO Max and Cartoon Network also gave a straight-to-series order for Batman: Caped Crusaderand a two-season series order for My Adventures with Superman. Marvel Studios licensed from Genius Brands International certain likeness rights to Stan Lee in support of future marketing content celebrating the Marvel legacy. Genius Brands International also signed a partnership with Tankee to develop a new Roblox-themed series that will air exclusively on Kartoon Channel!
Genius Brands International also had a busy year in the M&A space, investing in Your Family Entertainment (YFE) and WOW! Unlimited Media, which owns Frederator Studios, Mainframe Studios and an extensive YouTube channel network. Moonbug Entertainment was bought by the recently formed media company run by Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. RTL Group reached a deal to buy out The Walt Disney Company’s 50 percent shareholding in Super RTL. Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company. iGeneration Studios, a U.K.-based film and TV producer, acquired the independent film and TV production company Komixx Entertainment Group. KKR’s Emerald Media sold its stake in the Asian animation studio Cosmos-Maya to NewQuest Capital Partners. Sony Pictures Television sold its U.K. portfolio of kids’ channels to Narrative Capital. Banijay acquired the animation company Monello Productions. Gutsy Animations, which is behind the Moominvalley 3D animated series, secured an investment from Rovio Entertainment.
The year also saw the launch of several new companies. CAKE and Kickstart Entertainment launched CakeStart, a full-service production company to develop and produce live-action projects. Exile Content Studio set up the new division Exile Kids, tapping Hasbro alum Stephen Davis as its chairman. Former DreamWorks Animation Television exec Doug Schwalbe launched The Co-Production Company, focused on securing financing and distribution for high-end international productions. Italy’s Red Monk Studio joined forces with Superprod Group to create a new Milan-based animation studio.
Looking ahead to this year’s trends, continued opportunities in the metaverse are expected to be key. The digital entertainment and media platform Azerion welcomed WildBrain’s Teletubbies into the metaverses of the online Habbo and Hotel Hideaway games. Toonz Media Group is already working with the no-code NFT platform GuardianLink to launch the first fully integrated NFT design lab. Producers are also exploring the use of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine technology, with Digital Dimension Entertainment Group and Cyber Group Studios among those receiving Epic MegaGrants.