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Paramount Global’s Jules Borkent


Having joined Nickelodeon in 1998, Jules Borkent has been with the company through many shifts in the kids’ programming industry. Today, he serves as the managing director and executive VP of international kids and family brands at Paramount Global, which puts him in charge of all aspects of content and business operations for Nickelodeon-branded channels and platforms internationally. This includes content for the Paramount+ streaming service, which is continuing its international rollout. For his role in so carefully shaping the programming that reaches young ones around the world, Borkent was honored with the TV Kids Pioneer Award at the TV Kids Summer Festival.

TV KIDS: With the Paramount rebranding and previously the Viacom-CBS merger, as well as the rollout of Paramount+, what are some of the changes you’ve been navigating under your remit?
BORKENT: There are a lot of changes, but one thing about working at Nickelodeon—and I’ve been working here a long time—is that there’s always change. I look at change as another opportunity for us to really service kids around the world with our great content. What we’ve been finding is, with the proliferation of the platforms and the rollout of Paramount+ around the world, there are a lot of changes, but all good. I’m super excited about what’s ahead. There’s never a dull moment in the kids’ industry. 

We are working hard on getting our streaming services off the ground in France, Germany and Italy [later] this year, so I’m working very closely with my teams in those markets. Kids is a super important part of our platform. We’ve always known this; Nickelodeon is a shining star in [the portfolio of what is] now Paramount, and that’s no different for Paramount+. From what we already know in the U.S. and see in Latin America, Australia and the Nordics, Nick content is incredibly popular with our audiences. So, I’m super excited to be on this big, new adventure.

TV KIDS: How have launch strategies evolved as more viewing has transitioned to on-demand, and what’s guiding the current content strategy?
BORKENT: The content strategy really opened up a lot more opportunity. We looked in our vaults at the content that was popular in the past, and we’ve brought some of the big shows back. A good example is iCarly, one of our most beloved shows that is still very popular, also with an older audience. We did something really interesting there. She’s still the same character, so she’s older now. What was exciting for us is to bring that show back in a new format for a new audience—both a nostalgic audience, but also a new audience, an older audience, and that is what’s really exciting to me. The streaming platform is offering an opportunity to step out of our traditional box of content for 2- to 11-year-olds, which we still do and make a lot of, but that’s what has been fun for me—how we have been able to bring shows like Rugrats and iCarly back with great enthusiasm from both nostalgic, older, now-adult viewers who grew up with that content and bring it to a brand-new audience.

TV KIDS: There have been a number of hit series that are being extended with new iterations and spin-offs. Tell us about the franchise strategy and how that is balanced against brand-new concepts coming to the screen. 
BORKENT: We do have a lot of well-known and beloved franchises, including SpongeBob SquarePants and PAW Patrol. We did a great spin-off called Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, where we went back to how SpongeBob and his friends first met at camp, which was one of the first spin-offs. It launched on Paramount+ in the U.S., and it was a fantastic success. While we launched it as a Paramount+ exclusive in the U.S., we very quickly transitioned it to the linear service as well, and there it did phenomenally well. That really showed us that kids, our audience, will follow us to wherever we bring that content. That was the first, and since then, a lot more have been in the pipeline. We did the The Patrick Star Show, which was another SpongeBob spin-off. For PAW Patrol, we have announced a spin-off around Rubble, which we will be launching [next] year, as well as bringing back Dora the Explorer. Dora is coming back in two iterations: one is a new CGI preschool series that updates all the old, famous, well-beloved characters, but we are also in development on a show more in the tween space with Dora that is based on the Paramount movie we did a couple of years ago. 

It’s a fantastic pool of content that we can delve into that can work for the different platforms. The Dora live-action show will definitely not be for the Nickelodeon linear channel; it’s very much for streaming. I am hoping for international that the Dora show will not just be on Paramount+ but can also find a home on linear after. We cross-pollinate our platforms, and these franchises are ideal for that. 

Originals are also continuing. While I love the franchises, and obviously these shows are beloved, we are known for bringing brand-new content to the market and to our audience, and that’s what we’re continuing to do in the U.S. and internationally.

I’m also really excited about some of the shows that we have been developing internationally. We [recently launched] Rock Island Mysteries internationally. We did it together with our partners at Network 10 and Fremantle in Australia. We shot it during the pandemic, which was a challenge in itself, but it was fantastic. We did a lot of outside filming. It really taught us something about how we can, even in really difficult circumstances, still deliver strong products. The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj, a new show that we’re doing with our partners at Viacom18, is also launching later this year. That is one of the first Indian co-productions that we’ve done. Nickelodeon India has been producing a lot of home-grown content for the Nickelodeon India channel, and we’ve been trying to work with them: How can we make a show together that works in India and also will work internationally? We really hope that this show is going to do that. 

With [the new] launches for the Paramount+ platform, we’re looking at local markets like France, Germany, the U.K. and Italy to find content that will build our platform internationally. We’ve had some great success recently with an acquisition we did, Barbapapa, which came out of France. The Smurfs is another franchise that we did, with our partners in Belgium, and that launched this year with great success. We are about to go into a second season and in development on a Paramount movie for that.

TV KIDS: What are you and your teams looking for currently in the way of acquisitions and content partnerships?
BORKENT: We’re flexible. What streaming has done for us is that we are more open to different formats. In the past, we were pretty prescriptive about what we needed: two 11s, 22 minutes, maybe some short-form. We have had short-form shows with great success; Peppa Pig is a famous example of a five-minute show that has done phenomenal for us. 

We’re looking for shows that still very much fit the Nickelodeon ethos, making the world a more playful place, comedy, laughter and grounded in reality for kids to recognize themselves in that. And, not necessarily just recognizable characters, but also new and innovative ways of looking at content. But we are open to different formats now. We’re even looking at one-hour versions, potentially for streaming, in shorter orders. Still longer orders for linear because, despite what everybody says, linear is still very much alive and a very important part of our business. So, we are looking for all platforms. 

Mainly, what we are going to be looking for in the animation space is comedy. Action-adventure is also going to be of some interest to us, given that we are about to launch Transformers with our partners at Hasbro later this year. We’re looking for what more we can do in that space. We’re looking at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a new iteration. We also announced Avatar Studios, where we really are looking at the Avatar world and how we can bring that back for Paramount+ but also potentially for linear services.

TV KIDS: Tell us about the current programming strategy.
BORKENT: Linear is still very key. Each piece of content is being treated on its own, so, where is the best place to launch this? And it could be on streaming, it could also be on linear, and it could stay on streaming forever and never move, or it can stay on linear and not go to streaming. I think most of our linear content will eventually transition to streaming, but it’s important that the platforms also have a unique offering. We really think about these things. Our linear channels are shifting in how we program them. It has changed. When I started, I was a scheduler; I planned networks, and I remember the days where everything was to the minute, planned at every half-hour was a new piece of content. We’ve noticed over the years that is shifting a lot. There’s a lot more volume of content that kids want to see over and over again. So, we are expanding also on our linear services. In the U.K., we have two Nick Jr. channels that both are showing such breadth of content. And that is why linear is still really, really important. It’s a real shop window for us, for our best and finest, and that is what we absolutely want to continue to do. But we have to acknowledge that kids have a voracious appetite and are on a ton of platforms, not just on Paramount+, but also on other streamers, and also on networks like Pluto TV, our FAST service that has launched in a number of markets in Europe and the U.S. and Latin America, where we are having incredible success with some of our big Nick IP 

TV KIDS: What are the areas of growth and opportunities you’ve identified for the kids and family business internationally?
BORKENT: One of the things that’s really exciting for us right now is our strategy around YouTube. We know our content is incredibly popular on YouTube, and we know kids are on YouTube in vast amounts; it’s staggering numbers of kids watching our content. What we’ve been doing over the last couple of months, and years, really, is figuring out how we can expand that even further. We recently launched Nick Jr. Español for our Latin American service, and that channel’s being watched all over the world, not just in Latin America; there’s a huge Hispanic population all over the world watching that content. We’re about to launch Nickelodeon Korea and Nickelodeon Japan. SpongeBob Germany launched recently as well. We’re really looking at YouTube as a platform to bring our content to [an even wider audience], in a different format

Gaming is another really important part. We’re doing a lot in the gaming space, mainly around our key franchises. 

Pluto TV is a huge opportunity as well to dig into our library of content. Some of that content no longer lives on current linear services, but there’s still a real appetite for some of those shows on Pluto. From linear channels to streaming services to FAST services to YouTube, [we’re looking at] how we manage to make our content available to as many of our fans as possible.

TV KIDS: You’ve been with Nickelodeon for more than two decades. What have been some of the biggest shifts that have created new and exciting challenges and led to where the business is at present?
BORKENT: Nickelodeon has given me amazing opportunities to have a great job. I’m really, really fortunate. I’ve worked here a long time. It’s been a great ride, and it’s still going 

When I started, Nickelodeon was early in the pay-television world. And it was very, very different. What was exciting and what I love about what I do is that the content that we create, the shows that we create, still to this day put smiles on kids’ faces. They love our shows. Despite the proliferation of platforms and that there’s so much choice for kids, I love that they still come to us and watch our shows. I’m really proud of my team and the people I work with, and to be a part of this. I always say change is good. You have to be able to cope with change, and that’s tough sometimes, especially after the two years we’ve had, but that’s where you have to keep looking forward—there’s always something to look forward to.






About Kristin Brzoznowski

Kristin Brzoznowski is the executive editor of World Screen. She can be reached at kbrzoznowski@worldscreen.com.

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