Mondo TV CEO Matteo Corradi tells TV Kids why the company’s pivot towards international co-productions has been transformative and reveals how he is positioning the company for future growth.
Since its creation as an importer of animation into Italy more than 50 years ago, Mondo TV Group has carved out a position as a significant producer and distributor in the global kids’ landscape. Under Corradi’s leadership, Mondo TV has stepped up its co-production efforts, aligning with companies across the globe to build on its portfolio of IP, which stands at more than 1,600 episodes, plus a slate of animated features.
TV KIDS: Co-productions have become a major part of the Mondo TV strategy for the last few years. Why was this shift important?
CORRADI: The content world is getting more crowded and more competitive. Investment risk is greater than it was. At the same time, there has been in recent years a greater influx of strong creativity from markets like China, Korea and Latin America. For creative as well as financial reasons, therefore, co-productions are becoming a very attractive option. They allow partners to share the financial risk but, at the same time, greatly expand the pool of talent that a series can draw on. For some time now we have been involved in co-productions—we worked with CJ ENM for series two of Robot Trains, for example; with Henan York Animation for Invention Story; and with Aurora World for YooHoo to the Rescue. Our sister company Mondo TV Iberoamerica worked with Alianzas Producciones on our first-ever live-action show, Heidi Bienvenida. Co-production has become an increasingly strong feature of our output and we’re very pleased with the results.
TV KIDS: What have been some of the key lessons from this strategy in terms of how to best partner with companies creatively and financially?
CORRADI: We’ve learned that there are a lot of good companies out there! We’ve also learned that the arrangements—financial, creative and strategic—will vary from one partnership to another. It’s a matter of doing what is best for the property. Invention Story is, unusually, a five-season commitment due to the strength of its combination of humor and learning, notably as a potential source of licensed products. YooHoo to the Rescue is based on a hit line of plush toys. This gives it a firm base for character development, which is a strong part of the show. MeteoHeroes has a very specific theme—kids who can control the weather—so needs a partner that can help us bring it to life while being technically accurate. In this case, it’s a co-production with MOPI [Meteo Operations Italia, also known as Centro Epson Meteo or Meteo Expert].
Sometimes, we take on the co-production of an established series. For example, we were solely a distributor for Robot Trains to start with; we became a producer for series two, which takes the characters in new and exciting directions.
No two co-productions work to the same strategy, so the only lesson perhaps is to make sure that you and your partner agree on what is best for the property.
TV KIDS: How are you balancing the business between rolling out shows based on established brands versus original ideas?
CORRADI: We are aware that many broadcasters are happier with known quantities. But we’re also proud of the fact that we don’t rest on our laurels. It’s true that YooHoo is based on an established plush toy brand, but our take on it—a magical eco-adventure—is highly original. The same goes for Heidi Bienvenida, a modern approach to a classic story. However, we are pleased to say that most of the output we are promoting at present is highly original and succeeding on its own terms.
TV KIDS: How has your L&M and toy business been, given the challenges in that marketplace?
CORRADI: It’s still growing! Robot Trains, in particular, has attracted a lot of interest in a number of markets, and with the arrival of series two, and the master toy category well established—along with many other categories—we have high hopes for continuing growth.
In addition, thanks to a collaboration with Bitbuu Games, a company that has developed a free-to-use Robot Trains AR app, Mondo TV is able to pioneer new possibilities for imaginative play, giving fans a personalized experience with their favorite characters. It’s accessed by scanning the packaging of products from licensees. This is a new concept for our market and has gained a lot of coverage.
YooHoo to the Rescue evolved from a hit line of plush toys, which certainly helps the licensing program. Heidi Bienvenida has already inspired a number of category launches, which is unusual for live action. It’s been particularly successful in Italy. So, while L&M is always going to be a fast-changing business, at the moment we’re very happy with our position.
TV KIDS: How is Mondo TV working with OTT platforms, both in terms of finished sales and new commissions?
CORRADI: YooHoo to the Rescue is the first-ever Netflix original series from co-producers Mondo TV and Aurora World. Its success will, we hope, lead to more such sales. We have also agreed to a deal with SVOD provider Ameba TV for a number of shows from the Mondo TV library, including Playtime Buddies, Robin Hood, Cinderella and Turtle Hero, to roll out on the platform’s branded channels in North America. We are strongly committed to all platforms and the opportunities they can present.
TV KIDS: You’ve had great success with Heidi Bienvenida. What other plans do you have for your live-action business?
CORRADI: Season two and a forthcoming film have certainly encouraged us to do more in live action. In fact, through our sister company Mondo TV Iberoamerica, we aim to develop more content for the youth fiction series genre, a genre that works well internationally.
In addition, a very different property is in the works at the moment, confirming our objective of expanding our audience and diversifying the Mondo TV Iberoamerica business model. It’s called 2050. A sci-fi drama made up of eight episodes of one commercial hour each, targeting viewers from young adult upwards, it tells a thrilling and highly original new story in which messages from the past bring hope to the people of a terrible future. It is a co-production of Mondo TV Iberoamerica together with VIP 2000 TV and Casablanca from Brazil. It’s in its early stages at the moment, but the production phase for the pilot of the show has just been completed, and I have to say it looks really good!
All of these developments are driven by a growing demand for Mondo TV’s content and its services.
TV KIDS: What are the greatest challenges for animation studios in Europe today, and what are your greatest opportunities?
CORRADI: Financing, competition, cooperation and innovation: all are opportunities and challenges. But multiplatform viewing environments are the greatest challenges, and opportunities, of all.
A property can be transmitted to audiences everywhere quickly across multiple media, which is a boost for licensees, but can [also] aid targeting of innovative shows to smaller audiences willing to pay to see them. This is a boon to animation.
On the other hand, how do you measure audience numbers when viewers are watching your show on a smartphone? How loyal will audiences be to nonlinear platforms? And will you be ready to bring shows out in multiple languages simultaneously?
Platforms are changing and, where appropriate, we will adapt to that change, though we will not overlook linear TV, which will be around for a long while.
TV KIDS: What are your primary goals for Mondo TV for 2019 and 2020?
CORRADI: We have enjoyed a lot of success in co-production. We will continue to pursue partnerships for new projects. We want to keep growing our distribution and licensing businesses. And we are looking forward to success for new seasons of Sissi, the Young Empress, Robot Trains and Heidi Bienvenida as well as the arrival on screens of Invention Story, YooHoo to the Rescue and MeteoHeroes.