Cyber Group Studios Sets Its Sights on Global Expansion 

Pierre Sissmann, the chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios, discusses with TV Kids the ambitious growth path that the company has set out upon.

Business is expanding at a rapid clip for Cyber Group Studios (CGS), and the company is extending its resources accordingly. From production to development to distribution, Cyber Group is going big in 2016—setting a course for even greater gains to come in the years ahead.

Pierre SissmannThis year marks the largest production slate yet for the French outfit, which is led by Chairman and CEO Pierre Sissmann. There are currently six series in production and another two will be added to that roster before the end of 2016. The slate includes a third season of Zou; a second season of Mini NinjasMirette Investigates, co-produced with KD Productions in Spain for TF1 and Canal+ in France, among other broadcasters; The Pirates Next Door, which Cyber Group is prepping for a number of broadcasters, including France Télévisions, and is based on a book from Jonny Duddle; and Gilbert & Allie, which the company is co-producing with Ireland’s Brown Bag Films for Disney EMEA. Cyber Group is also headed into production on a CGI preschool show for Disney worldwide called Gigantosaurus, which is also based on a Jonny Duddle book.

Adding to this list, Cyber Group will have a new full 2D cartoon comedy in production before year-end, the details of which Sissmann says will come ahead of MIPCOM. The company is also working on a CGI series based on the character of Tom Sawyer, with the support of broadcasters such as ARD and SRC.

Sissmann notes how the current production slate covers a range of different animation techniques, from traditional 2D to digital 2D to a mix of 2D and Gilbert & AllieCGI to full CGI. “It’s really great because it enables us to expand artistically and to try new things, which is what I always wanted to do,” he adds.

Cyber Group will arrive at MIPCOM with several new shows in development as well. The first is a live-action/animation hybrid series that is a co-production with Folivari and Winds called Menino and the Children of the World. The other is Enchanted Sisters, which Cyber Group is co-producing with The Jim Henson Company.

Alongside the growing production and development slates, Cyber Group is building out its distribution business. “We’re developing Cyber Group Distribution as a full-fledged unit of the company, distributing our shows and third-party shows,” Sissmann explains. “We have picked up a number of new series, some of which we will introduce at MIPCOM. One of them is a show called Zak Jinks, produced by Label Anim for France Télévisions. It’s a pure 2D comedy about the daily mishaps of a young schoolboy who is totally clumsy. We’ve also picked up a great series from Asia called Leo, The Wildlife Ranger, which deals with animals. It’s a great preschool show.”

The company is also gearing up to launch distribution efforts for Iqbal, its first feature film, which it will distribute for television. Two new series from French producer Media Valley have also joined the Cyber Group catalog as part of its increased focus on the distribution of third-party fare: Ernest & Rebecca, produced for TF1, and Dragon Slayers’ Academy, produced for Gulli. “This is very important for us,” states Sissmann.

Sissmann says that he doesn’t have an exact number in mind as to the amount of hours Cyber Group is looking to have for distribution. “It’s more about how much we can handle and how much we can sell,” he notes. “It’s also about what we really like, makes sense artistically and is compatible and complementary to our catalog. We want to make sure that we’re going to be able to devote enough time to each production.”

With all of the increases in the production, development and distribution business lines, Cyber Group Studios has an eye toward organic growth as it looks ahead. “We are growing our resources so that we can handle the development of even more series,” Sissmann says. “One of our objectives is to cater to as many different broadcasters as we can, which means doing very different productions. Whether it’s full CGI preschool or full 2D cartoon comedy—which requires completely different expertise creatively and production-wise—we have to develop a very strong culture within Cyber Group rooted in excellence and try to improve in developing ways and methods that enable us to [achieve this].

“At the same time, you can’t only rely on organic growth if you want to become a global player,” he continues. “So we’re looking at a number of different acquisitions that will help us to grow further, whether it’s partnering with producers that have different skills than we do, and whose productions we really like, or whether it’s establishing or acquiring production studios to increase the control we have over our own production to make sure it reaches the highest quality.”

Sissmann stresses that one of Cyber Group’s objectives is to reach a certain level of excellence in quality and to always keep progressing from there. “We want to make sure that we can express ourselves artistically the way that we want, discover new things and cater to the needs of our clients, whether those are traditional broadcast networks or [digital] platforms.”

One of the areas that Cyber Group is aiming to ramp up is its production for digital outlets. “We want to produce for the web in a much more active manner,” Sissmann says. “That involves different production techniques—and that is only one of the things that we’re looking at.”