Nina Hahn on Navigating Industry Upheaval


Industry veteran Nina Hahn shared her thoughts on where the kids’ media business is headed and how producers and distributors should navigate the new landscape at the TV Kids Summer Festival.

Formerly senior VP of production and development for global kids and family at Nickelodeon, Hahn runs the consultancy Luna Bean Partners. You can watch her keynote conversation with TV Kids’ Kristin Brzoznowski here.

“It’s very important that the industry and all of us in it take a beat and ask ourselves what we would do if we were looking at the kids’ business for the first time as a startup,” Hahn said. “Instead of looking at the uncertainty as a threat, how does it feel to imagine it as an endless possibility? When you flip it like that, you begin to be able to think of things and look at things differently across the deals, the content making, the partnerships, and most importantly, the product and the end user: the kid. So, forcing yourselves to approach this whole kids’ business with a sense of passion, purpose, vision, innovation, collaboration and, most importantly, humility, will allow some of the stress, pressure and defensiveness [to ease] and allow you to feel like you are much more in control and be a bold thinker in how you navigate it.”

Brzoznowski asked Hahn about the current reliance on known IP and whether franchise fatigue is rising among audiences. “There’s room at the table for everyone. There’s room for franchises and new, wonderful projects that come out from under a rock. When we swing the pendulum extremely in one direction or another, both present their problems. When you look at the franchise fashion we’ve experienced to date, you understand why. Platforms are having to build a business based on subscribers. How do you build a business based on subscribers? You have people at home willing to pay $20 a month to subscribe to your service because they know they will get Star Trek or The Smurfs. That’s the business box-tick. But what’s the creative box-tick against that? The creative box-tick against that is you see that franchises work, but they cannot be the only tentpole holding the situation up. People want a breath of fresh air, and we’re starting to see that. In an atmosphere where kids have very limited time and many options, they ultimately want something new and appealing. I think we’ll swing back to somewhere in the middle, where there’s room for franchises and originals.”

“Chaos,” Hahn said, can be a boon to creativity. “Chaos allows you to agitate and think differently. It allows you to be über-innovative in a world where the deals are a little bit confusing and hard to find, and you’ve got to be super resourceful as a creative person. Creative genius comes out of that creative freedom. It’s important to look at how we make content, what we’re making and who we’re making it for in a way that is half startup mentality but also half absolute resourcefulness. Looking at things through a different lens will allow you to look at content in another way, whether it’s the length of it, the end user, where you’re doing it, how you’re funding it or how close you are working with the commercial side of things. The ingenuity and entrepreneurial aspect of chaos as it attaches to creative is a fantastic runway.”

Hahn stressed that creators must be bold and nimble as they navigate the current landscape. “You have to be good at toggling through all the things that get thrown at you and all the things you want to create to proactively evolve toward. You have to be strong, nimble and flexible through your teams, your dealmaking and the size of your company. You have to look at all of those things, again, under this idea of what a startup looks like, and figure out: How can I switch across a series of dotted lines and rows so that I can be everywhere I need to be to take the best bet of what things are going to look like up ahead? That is size-agnostic. Whether you’re a giant conglomerate or a small independent, you can still be nimble.”