BBC Children’s Anna Taganov

As BBC Children’s head of content and programming strategy, Anna Taganov manages content and programming strategies for video output across CBeebies, CBBC and BBC iPlayer, working alongside the commissioning and acquisitions leads. Her teams are responsible for planning and scheduling all Children’s and Education video content on CBeebies, CBBC and BBC iPlayer as well as CBeebies House and CBBC HQ presentation. Taganov talks to TV Kids Weekly about the best ways to engage kids today across multiple platforms.

TV KIDS: What is the general breakdown between commissions, co-productions and third-party acquisitions for BBC Children’s?
TAGANOV: The BBC started acquiring way more in the last two years. But with our commissioning slate, the lion’s share of the budget is still going toward co-productions and fully funded commissions. We’re probably doing fewer fully funded commissions, and they’re mostly with public-service, traditional genres, such as documentary, factual and factual entertainment. We’re looking for co-productions more and with different levels of funding on animation and high-level live-action entertainment, drama or comedy.

TV KIDS: Looking at commissions and co-productions or even those early prebuys, what are the types of projects that you want to be involved in at the earliest possible stages? And what are some of the ways that BBC Children’s gets involved creatively and financially?
TAGANOV: As a public-service broadcaster, the breadth of genres we offer is way more. It’s very simply animation and scripted live action. That’s what we like to see early on. We’re very specific with our needs at any given time. For example, currently for 4 to 9s, we’re looking at space, science, STEM. We always give an idea to the market about what we’re after. So, for example, we need natural history or interest-based factual entertainment, sports or fashion or whatnot. We take pitches all year round. We produce a huge amount of titles every year. We’re spoiled for choice as well, which is very nice.

I also want to mention Ignite. It’s a project where we went to town in terms of how early we see things. Ignite is an initiative that was specifically launched to support U.K. animation. We opened it up to any creators, and we were assessing those pitches completely blindly. We got more than a thousand submissions, so it was quite an undertaking. A handful of them got shortlisted, then several got into development, and [some will] get greenlit. So, that’s where we went to basics: a one-pager from an individual would be noticed. We actually take pride in it, and we thought that it surfaced some brilliant content.

TV KIDS: How does acquired product strategically complement the slate?
TAGANOV: We’re on a path of delivering homegrown animation. In the next three years, it’s coming thick and fast. But it takes time. So, the first thing we started looking at 2 to 3 years ago is acquiring animation, not necessarily always exclusively. We’re up to taking second windows, but we had to bulk the volume of our total offer on iPlayer. In terms of live-action series, BBC Children’s heartland has always been reality-based dramas, and we felt we needed to diversify the subgenres in this portfolio. So, we wanted all sorts of mystery. We wanted detectives and supernatural and magical, and we wanted something light, and we wanted comedy as well. That’s how we acquired titles like Theodosia and Home Sweet Rome. Now, we have a very diverse portfolio. I’m especially proud of our period drama Dodger. We’re still looking for animation for bridge audiences and comedy live action.

TV KIDS: What would you like to see more of out there in the marketplace?
TAGANOV: I personally will always be looking for the next Bluey. Aren’t we all? Specifically—and actually Bluey hits this—I want to see more comedy. We have been talking about [how] we need funny things for two years. I have seen very far and few in between really funny live-action comedies. The second thing I’m after—and again, Bluey delivers—is family co-viewing content.

TV KIDS: What’s your stance on exclusivity and rights?
TAGANOV: We have it any which way. For straightforward commissions or co-productions when we have significant investment, we’ll have a very clear outline in terms of trades, what we expect for rights and holdbacks in the U.K. For acquisitions, we have become more open-minded lately. We’re open to sharing rights. We’re open to second windows. We are after uncoupled iPlayer rights, which wouldn’t be connected to linear broadcast. And there are several titles that would benefit from exclusivity, such as the latest season of Pokémon Horizons: The Series. In the U.K., it is exclusive to iPlayer. It launched in December. Or, for example, the show Hey Duggee, which is brand-defining. It’s really dear to have it exclusive to iPlayer, but otherwise, it’s always a bespoke decision.

TV KIDS: How are you using digital as a way to complement what’s on broadcast, perhaps even drive interest to or cross-promote?
TAGANOV: It’s again a bespoke strategy. We are seeing YouTube and TikTok as partners, not as a greater evil. [We are looking at] partnerships with Roblox on the main titles. It’s different title by title, audience by audience. For example, for the preschool audience, we have a very extensive portfolio of simple digital games and apps, which is constantly renewing. The Next Step, which is 10 years old, has an incredible social media footprint. We spend a lot of time on that. It has been snowballing in the last several years. Currently, our digital strategy is very smart and thought-through. It never hurts to have more budgets and never hurts to have bespoke content and also pitches coming with a thought-through digital strategy to get more attention.

TV KIDS: What are the best ways to engage kids in “TV” content?
TAGANOV: Having a USP is very important. As a public-service broadcaster, our USP is local relevance. Our big competitors in this market are foreign companies; so, that’s something we can offer. Then, obviously, it depends on the audience. Commercial broadcasters and streamers very rarely cater to babies and toddlers. That’s what we can offer, and that’s where curation still matters. Parents rely on that.

It’s very obvious that for each platform, the majority of views are driven by a handful of shows. So, the main thing to have is that big kahuna. We very early realized that doing many, many bitty things, it’s not [what] always drives. So, fewer, bigger, better. It’s embedded in our strategy. We want to invest in content that has high production values, high concepts, completely unique and breaks the mold. That’s what makes the biggest difference; that’s what’s important. Go for big things. Otherwise, it’s really hard to cut through.