Deirdre Brennan Calls for Innovation in MIPJunior Keynote


CANNES: Kids’ producers and distributors must be more willing to look beyond the traditional 11-minute and half-hour formats, Deirdre Brennan, the VP of content at Corus Kids, said in her MIPJunior keynote.

Brennan laid out what she referred to as her “ABCs of the children’s world.” The former head of children’s Australian pubcaster at ABC noted, “A, adapt to the audience and the market and most importantly, understand amortization. B, build trust through great partnerships and always be passionate. And C, collaboration doesn’t mean a loss of control. Always put creativity first. And work with Canada!”

Brennan went on to say that “Canada has played such an influential role in the development and success of the global children’s industry.”

She questioned, however, if the country’s funding support system “has hindered creative ambition. Volume is not a content strategy.”

She continued, “However, I strongly believe that with the extensive talent pool available, the world should work with us. We’re outstanding partners, not just a great source of financing.”

Addressing the format of kids’ content, Brennan said, “Netflix and Amazon remind us that it is possible to break out of standard content formats. Yet we continue to stick with 11-minute animated comedies that give you a sense of deja vu because you’ve probably seen it before…. These formats are shaped by a traditional distribution model, which has moved on. It’s not shaped by the demands of our audience. Why have we handed complex storytelling over to SVOD services, movies and books? Are we underestimating kids or even sending them elsewhere?”

Brennan later discussed what the kids’ content community can learn from YouTube. “It’s not just about the platform. It’s actually the content young people are seeking out. It’s so much more than shareable cat comedy! YouTube shows us that our audience wants information. It’s brought a new meaning to the term ‘how to’ as well as experiences and opinions. Vlogs are a new form of expression.”

Brennan went on to discuss family viewing, noting, “with our expertise in children, isn’t it time we embraced the rest of family?”

Brennan concluded, “I believe the world really needs a voice that is optimistic and aspirational…. The world is very nervous. Brexit, the U.S. election and the ongoing threat of terrorism. So much is out of our control. But it’s good to remember that we are responsible for each other. The last 15 years have proven to me that the children’s industry can adapt to the rapidly changing entertainment environment better than anyone. Broadcaster investment is down. We’ll find another way to build a finance plan. Audience fragmentation. We’ll find them. New technologies. Bring it on! So let’s focus on what’s really important. Children want a deep variety of entertainment and information. Content that will provide an imaginative escape as well as guidance on where they fit in in an increasingly complex and sometimes scary world. We are a unique voice into the adults of tomorrow, so let’s embrace that. Kids are creative, resilient and fearless. So why should they expect anything less from us?”