Keynote: Banijay Kids & Family’s Benoît Di Sabatino


Benoît Di Sabatino, the CEO of Banijay Kids & Family, laid out his growth strategy for the company, which includes a dedicated distribution and commercial arm and production labels across Europe, at the TV Kids Festival ahead of a screening of Topo Gigio. 

Di Sabatino took part in a keynote conversation with TV Kids’ Anna Carugati that you can view in its entirety here. The discussion began with Di Sabatino highlighting the company’s scale in the kids’ sector with its slate of production labels, delivering the advantages of “talent, creativity and a strong position for financing and commissioning.”

Di Sabatino continued: “With six production companies, we have six times more opportunities to develop amazing shows and potentially global brands.” Each label is “led by a great producer with strong teams and good track records in creating high-quality shows. All those companies are based in important financial territories with key commissioning broadcasters and tax incentive policies. Thanks to this organization, we can cater to a wide range of audiences from preschool to kids, young adults and family in live action and animation.”

Banijay Kids & Family currently includes Kindle Entertainment in London, which focuses on live action; Monello Productions, based in Paris; the Milan-based Movimenti Production; the U.K.-based Tiger Aspect Kids & Family; Zodiak Kids & Family France; and Zodiak Kids & Family Productions UK. On the prospects of further M&A, Di Sabatino said: “We are pursuing a build-up strategy. This is the best way to consolidate talent, track records and IPs. I’m working actively on two new targets. With a new commercial drive, we need to look particularly for brands with consumer-product potential at a local or global level.”

Di Sabatino continued, “Banijay Kids & Family is an umbrella for production companies with an entrepreneurial DNA. We provide background support around distribution, digital marketing, PR and consumer products with our exploitation department, led by Delphine Dumont. We are also keen to help with the editorial developments if needed. Each label is building its own financing, but we help with our distribution network around gap financing, presales, co-production and minimum guarantees. Our method is to encourage producers’ initiatives and provide them with support if needed.”

The conversation then moved to the challenges of raising financing today. “Every show is a financial prototype. The broadcast market is constantly changing and, for us, challenging. We have to adapt our business model and be creative in terms of financing. It’s being agile to find solutions to suit the players. For me, financing kids’ shows is like a Rubik’s Cube. We have to find the perfect strategy to align commissioning broadcasters. And make sure the huge range of rights they are asking for to protect their expansion strategies can coexist. The producer must ensure he retains enough rights to address this business model, which is not always the case with streamers.”

Securing the best exposure for a property is also a challenge, Di Sabatino continued. “The premise of huge exposure starts at an early stage with our commissioning broadcasters, but also in our capacity for selling the show worldwide. You also have to spread your exposure on social media, digital players, live events, PR and ad campaigns, music partnerships and new actors like the metaverse. To address all these new partners, you have to create specific marketing content. Ideally, you would spend lots of money on publicity, social and marketing to tap into and exploit potential audiences. Still, you can also mitigate your financial risk by working with broadcasters and licensees on publicity, social and marketing strategies. This needs to be 360 degrees where possible.”

Carugati asked Di Sabatino about how L&M strategies are evolving. “Securing linear broadcast is not always enough. You need at least international exposure and success. However, success is not only defined by linear ratings anymore. Success can come from everywhere: digital, social, publishing, gaming and even specific platforms like TikTok. One thing that never changes is that exposure alone does not guarantee a successful licensing campaign. To get merchandising success, you need to answer this question: How will the beloved character of your show find a place in children’s bedrooms? No one has the answer, of course. You can only do your best. You need authentic products or experiences and to work with the best partners.”

Di Sabatino then talked about what goes into ensuring a show’s longevity, with the Zodiak Kids & Family Distribution slate home to such enduring properties as Totally Spies, Mumfie and Topo Gigio. “Long-running shows are incredibly important to us. They must be constantly tweaked and adapted to the new world to ensure longevity. We are always adapting and modernizing long-running shows and retaining their DNA.”

With more than three decades in children’s media, Di Sabatino said he has become adept at adapting to a shifting environment. “We are facing a complex market,” he noted, amid a shrinking pay-TV landscape, budgets under pressure, rising production costs and a mature streaming market. Pubcasters, he said, “seem to have retained audiences and can be a sanctuary for children’s TV.”

He continued, “Despite the complexity of the market and thanks to our talents, producers and long-running brands, we have a huge range of productions to come. As a large group, we have to be responsible partners and suppliers. Our stories must be diverse and authentically told and produced. There must be a cross-section of character representation in our shows, and we must continue looking for new talent for new stories. Sustainability is also important. We must be mindful of our carbon footprint in how we produce our shows and run our business at large.”

On the outlook ahead for the next one to two years, Di Sabatino said: “We have to keep growing and make further acquisitions to expand our talents and brand opportunities. We can consolidate production for new labels with support from our group departments. As a bigger group, we have a stronger position in the market and more opportunities to establish global brands. We are also focused on commercial growth through our strong brand-licensing strategies and digital exploitation. Thanks to our huge catalog, FAST channels would be an interesting area to grow, as well as looking for potential future opportunities like gaming or the metaverse.”