IP Owners Talk Reinventing Classics


Amid strong demand for brands with built-in recognition, Banijay Kids & Family’s Delphine Dumont, ZDF Studios’ Katharina Pietzsch and Mondo TV’s Luana Perrero took part in a TV Kids Summer Festival panel on the keys to rebooting classic properties.

Dumont is chief commercial officer at Banijay Kids & Family. Pietzsch is director in the ZDF Studios Junior department. Perrero is head of content sales at Mondo TV. In the session, which you can view here, they discussed tapping into nostalgia, modernizing elements and extending brands across platforms with TV Kids’ Jamie Stalcup.

Dumont has noticed an increased interest in known IP from both broadcast and streaming partners. “It’s been a resounding demand in the last couple of years,” she said. “We’ve been doing a deep dive of our catalog of IPs. The element that has been very important for us to work with is the digital factor. We are very lucky to be quite strong in this area. We’ve got more than 70 YouTube channels for our own IPs. When we look at developing an old IP into a new IP, those metrics have been very important for us to consider.”

That’s been the case for Topo Gigio, she continued, and for Totally Spies!, with Zodiak Kids & Family Distribution rolling out reboots of both brands.

Pietzsch says she and her team use a track record of success to determine if a brand should be resurrected. “Content-wise, we always look at what’s at the heart of the IP. What do we love most about it? What is it known for? And then can it still be relevant for kids today and how can it be made that way?”

It’s been a similar case at Mondo TV, which is working with ZDF Studios on the rebooted Grisù. “We have been looking for a positive image and the values that would appeal to the children today. [Grisù] is known in a number of territories and that has been developed in a way that the children today and also the grown-ups can enjoy.”

The conversation then moved onto striking a balance between the charm of the original IP while also making it contemporary and relevant for current audiences.

“That’s the tricky bit—that’s what everybody is trying to get right,” Pietzsch noted. “You want to take what’s most appealing about the brand and what everybody loves about it or loved about it and then bring it into today.”

In the case of Grisù, for example, the messages of the original have been kept intact, with a refreshed modern look and some additional tweaks. Of note, Perrero said, “the relationship of father and son has been modernized.”

For Totally Spies!, which has a seventh season coming in 2024, “some of the things had to be toned down,” Dumont said. “We kept the humor and the values of the series, but some subjects haven’t been put forward as much as others. And we transcended the personality of the three heroines and gave them new layers for today.”

Dumont continued: “We do a lot of research and insights about who is the target [audience] to make sure that we we’ve got all the values and what they really care for and that we make sure that we can incorporate that in some ways into our show as well, without losing the original DNA. You want to get the older generation on board as well.”

Stalcup asked the panelists about how to develop reboots that encourage co-viewing by tapping into a nostalgia factor for parents and caregivers.

“The fact that it’s a classic kids’ IP will transcend generational and country divides,” Dumont said. “That’s not always easy, because a show is not always a global success. Topo Gigio was a huge success in Italy, LatAm and Spain, but we also have now the challenge to make it known to the rest of the world, even though you don’t have the classical side of things. For Totally Spies!, the approach is going to be different because we have seen the globalization of the brand. To answer your question, I think it’s going to be all about layers—in the script, in the appeal of the brand. We need to make sure that we don’t alienate our fandom. When we look at our social media and our digital footprint, it’s a lot of adults and those adults hopefully will have children and those children are the new core targets for these new products.”

Pietzsch added: “It’s really important to keep the original DNA, so parents can recognize the original. They will still see what they loved about it. Sometimes it’s really fun to work with subtle references, inside jokes, visual references, character names, voices, iconic lines. Parents really go for that. We get a lot of feedback from properties where the new version is different look-wise from the original. And that’s a tricky part because a lot of people don’t like that. Keeping visually and tonally something from the original keeps the DNA alive.”

Co-viewing is crucial, Perrero said, referencing Grisù’s multigenerational appeal. “Switching from 2D to 3D, we kept the soul of the original show but added the technique of the 3D and modernized the look of the series.”

The conversation moved to the extent to which the streamers have boosted the demand for classic IP.

“Discoverability is, of course, a key factor for everybody,” Pietzsch said. “If you already have a known brand, it’s just simply easier to find. But we’ve actually been rebooting classic IPs for a long time, and not just for the streamers. There’s always been a trend to revisit classic properties. It’s sometimes a safe bet; your chances for success might be higher.”

For broadcasters and streamers, “It’s almost less risk for them because they need to bring in audiences,” Dumont added. “They always say, those classic IPs are very important, but ultimately, you cannot deny that of the huge successes of today, a lot are brand-new IPs.”

FAST is potentially a lucrative area for classic IPs, Dumont noted. “We’re trying this out with Mister Maker, Totally Spies! and Mr Bean, where we have volume, where it’s known, but we have yet to have visibility on the revenue. We’re very happy to go there and to explore. It’s going to evolve a lot.”

Using social media is crucial for relaunching classic brands, Dumont noted. “It’s a start in terms of analyzing data and metrics. Going forward, for the launch of that new series, throughout development and production, it’s key for us; it’s a tool for preparing the launch as part of our branding strategy. We also aim to keep when we negotiate with commissioning partners as much as possible some exclusivity on certain rights for digital exploitation. Sometimes it’s a bit of a fight with the commissioners, but I’m convinced that having your content available, it doesn’t have to be the full-form content that you have on digital, but having, you know, a snippet to be able to play with that brand, it benefits everybody. People pay money for exclusivity, but if you want your brand to exist and thrive, you need that non-exclusivity. As an IP owner, it’s a benefit to us to keep our brand alive.”

Pietzsch agreed, adding: “You can really start creating or building momentum before the launch, once you start creating the new reboot, and then just keep feeding social media, even if it’s only snippets—behind the scenes, pictures from the cast or the crew. It just creates such buzz even before you launch. And that’s really helping on a lot of our brands.”

“The parents can be the influencers of their children,” Perrero added. “The parents will be our strongest supporters.”

Thinking about brand extensions also begins early, Dumont noted. “The licensing world is in a bit of turmoil. It’s tough. All we can do is make sure that we’ve got all of those boxes ticked. It’s also important nowadays to have events and live experiences for the kids. Those are really good for those classic IPs because you have the interest of the parents and the kids at the same time.”

There are instances where L&M related to a classic IP is still doing well, Pietzsch explained. “You don’t want to harm that part of the business with the reboot. In those cases, we work with a ‘classic’ line where we promote the old visuals, the old designs and then a new line for the new program or the reboot. So, they don’t compete against each other too much. You will always have hardcore fans of the original that will absolutely hate whatever you do with the new version. If there’s a really good business with the classic IP, we’re trying to preserve that and then add on a new line for the new version.”