Cecilia Persson Sets Out BBC Studios Kids & Family Strategy


Cecilia Persson, the managing director of BBC Studios Kids & Family, unveiled her strategy for the new division in her MIPJunior keynote today, which was followed by a fireside chat with TV Kids’ Anna Carugati.

The keynote and sit-down interview with Carugati, group editorial director of World Screen, marked Persson’s first public remarks since taking on oversight of the new unit at BBC Studios. It comes ahead of Tom Fussell, CEO of BBC Studios, and Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, delivering a keynote at MIPCOM on Monday, where they will accept the first-ever Studio of Distinction Award.

“Today, we transform the way we do business on a global stage,” Persson said. “We are opening a new chapter in BBC’s history by introducing our brand-new one-stop-shop, global kids and family content powerhouse.”

Persson noted that BBC Studios Kids & Family is already home to some of the biggest brands in children’s media, “and now we are ready to invest in the next generation. The new division seamlessly unites our brilliant production capabilities with our outstanding commercial expertise. This union extends the reach of our in-house hits, it enhances investments in co-productions with independent partners, and it allows us to build global brands.”

Persson continued, “Connecting with children is very important to us, and we want to provide the very best for the very youngest and their families. They deserve it. We here in this room can play a part in supporting and learning from children by standing up for kids and investing in their voices. At BBC Studios Kids & Family, that is precisely our mission. There’s so much passion, creativity and ingenuity in our community. A continual drive and hunger to provide, innovate and deliver great content for our audience. That is exactly what we’re doing in our new division.”

Marking its 100-year anniversary, the BBC holds a unique place on the world stage, Persson said. “Innovation is always at its heart. BBC was the first major public-service broadcaster to make children’s programs for radio. It was also the first to produce a kids’ television show. At BBC Studios Kids & Family, we have the honor of producing the world’s longest-running kids’ TV show, Blue Peter, which is 64 years young. It continues to put innovation at its heart for today’s increasingly discerning children.”

Persson went on to discuss the talent her unit is working with, including author Eoin Colfer, who penned the best-selling Artemis Fowl series, on his first original TV idea. The sci-fi live-action show is being written in collaboration with screenwriter Viko Nikci. There is also a partnership with Big Deal Films to develop an animated series based on the Little Badman books about a mischievous wannabe rapper and his crazy friends and family, penned by YouTube sensation Humza Arshad and his writing partner Henry White. Flip, Flap and Zip, a preschool series, is currently in development with Finnish production company Haruworks. Screening at MIPJunior today, Phoenix Rise is an ambitious live-action drama commissioned by the BBC and due to air on CBBC next year. It is being distributed by Sinking Ship Entertainment. Supertato is a new comedy produced by BBC Studios Kids & Family and co-produced with Tencent Video, with animation provided by Brighton Zoo. It launches on CBeebies this month and is being presented to the international market for the first time. Popularity Papers is being co-produced and distributed with Aircraft Pictures and Wexworks Media. The comedy-drama is currently in production in Canada.

“The new Kids & Family division is driven by inspiration with one team, one slate and one budget. We are now more agile; we can combine business, commercial, development, production and content strategy to maximize end-to-end value. We will pursue more opportunities as a combined division with access to more resources. Kids & Family produces, develops and distributes hundreds of hours of critically acclaimed and award-winning content that delights millions of children and families around the world. We now have the capacity, creativity and capability to do more. And we want to do it with you.”

In her Q&A with Carugati, Persson expanded on how her remit differs from that of Patricia Hidalgo, director of Children’s & Education, who oversees the CBBC and CBeebies services and the kids’ section on iPlayer. “In BBC Studios Kids & Family, we are a production entity, a distribution platform, we are doing the digital support of content. We are doing the international commercial business of the BBC. We pitch to [Hidalgo’s] commissioning team our original ideas and also independent ideas we might be representing. We talk about the brands that we jointly work on together.”

Assessing the landscape today, Persson discussed the changing nature of discovery—“how our audience is finding our original ideas and the stories we’re telling. That is an ongoing journey. The audience is changing their patterns. Also, how do we get productions together? How do we work together? We’re a resilient business, the kids’ business. We always find ways to partner with each other to get great content produced.”

Asked about her goals for the division, Persson noted: “To have an open-door policy; we want to see the ideas out there and not miss working with fantastic talent. We are leaning into certain areas more than others, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting to hear great ideas. Right now, we are looking to expand our animation, we have a great independent slate, but we want to do more with our in-house slate. And we’re also leaning in on the scripted side, on drama, more than we have in the past. And we’re looking at formats to see if we can find that next format for children.”