Mediatoon Distribution’s Jérôme Alby

Jérôme Alby, the managing director of Mediatoon Distribution, tells TV Kids about the value of having timeless characters and working with partners to give properties a 360-degree rollout.

Belonging to the Média-Participations group, Mediatoon Distribution offers a broad mix of animated series, including a wealth of product from sister companies such as Dargaud Media, Ellipsanime, Dupuis Audiovisuel, Belvision and Storimages. The company’s catalog is also home to third-party programming from various producers, giving it a well-rounded slate that has something for all age groups, from preschoolers to teens to family co-viewing.

***Image***TV KIDS: How did the idea come about to expand The Crumpets franchise with Teen Crumpets?
ALBY: The Crumpets features a massive family of 142 kids! Within the six or seven kids that stood out, there are a couple of teenagers. When season one aired, the feedback from viewers was that the teens and tweens were the ones that had the most appeal. So the commissioning channel, Canal+, and 4.21 Productions focused on them more in this new season, thus the title Teen Crumpets. The drawing board was still hot; they started to work on 52 new episodes for the channel. The series has already been prebought by RTBF for OUFtivi, where season one was a huge hit! The first season has been sold in Latin America to Gloob, in Spain to regional channels, to multiple SVOD platforms and very recently to Canada.

TV KIDS: Why is now a good time to revisit the series Yakari?
ALBY: The character is timeless! For this fourth season, Yakari was produced using CGI animation, but with a 2D rendering, thus making sure children can clearly feel that there is a real continuity throughout the seasons. Nevertheless, the CGI treatment allowed multiple shots and zooms that weren’t possible in 2D. For example, now you can have a shot of Yakari from the top of the mountains that will move closer to Yakari in a way that feels like a dolly shot rather than a simple zoom. Since Yakari puts a strong emphasis on nature and landscapes, the photography is even more beautiful with this treatment.

Launched last MIPCOM, this additional series has been acquired by many broadcasters internationally (DR, Minimax, NRK, ORF, Amazon, Télé-Québec). Commissioned by France Télévisions and WDR/ARD, the series premiered on KiKA and scored number one among children 3 to 13.

TV KIDS: Miru Miru has a similarly timeless look.
ALBY: The character and the production are brand new, even though it has a timeless look. The books have just been released in Europe by the publisher Dargaud. The producer Folimage and director Haruna Kishi, who created the character, have a safe bet.

TV KIDS: How do you work with fellow companies and licensee partners to give a property a complete 360-degree rollout?
ALBY: It depends on the territory and the L&M potential a series has. We usually plan an L&M timeline of how things are meant to happen, but at the end of the day, it’s the market that chooses what will actually happen. We can only try to influence or guide it.

Take Yakari for example. When the TV series was released, it took more than five years for the merchandising to really get started. Luck and chemistry always play a big part.

TV KIDS: Are you mining the catalogs of other Média-Participations companies for IP to distribute as series?
ALBY: Our in-house production labels look at everything, and their creative teams have a massive development slate. And the IP catalogs of our fellow publishing houses are also proposed to independent third-party producers. This is true for animated series, but also for movies. Take Valerian & Laureline for example: the animated series was co-produced by Dargaud Marina, but the live-action movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was produced by EuropaCorp. Same thing with The Darwinners, produced by Haut et Court.

At the end of the day, the goal is to find which production team (fellow and/or third-party) comes up with the creative proposal that will best serve the IPs we curate and manage.

TV KIDS: How has business been with selling to the various digital and VOD platforms?
ALBY: Like many other content providers, we have some things in our portfolio that might be good for digital-first. You have to see how the market responds, and you have to look at your P&L. Today, it’s still the traditional linear broadcasters that seem to come first. I’m sure eventually it will change; right now, we want the transition to be done in a very safe way. Ours is a family-owned group, and one of the reasons it has been around and lasting for so long is maybe because it is not public. They have a very simple saying: It’s very easy to get rich—just spend less money than you earn. None of our shows have premiered just on digital yet. However, the digital business is very much a focus for us. We have a dedicated internal team who manage our YouTube account with more than 100 official channels with key brands such as Yakari, Lucky Luke, Taratabong, Crumpets and Cedric that are working really well. We try our best to always be ahead of the game with new platforms.

TV KIDS: What are your priorities for the company as you look ahead?
ALBY: In terms of properties we have quite a big lineup, with at least three shows coming out in 2017—of which two come from third-party studios. We’re going to put a lot of effort into Teen Crumpets. We have a show from our new partner in Canada, Frima Studio, which is a video game company: MaXi. We also have a show from our in-house producer Dupuis Audiovisuel called Little Furry, which comes from a comic book that has been published very successfully for the last ten years.