Paramount’s Layla Lewis

With the introduction of Paramount+, Paramount extended the ways in which it can deliver its roster of top-flight children’s programming to kids around the world. Layla Lewis, senior VP of global acquisitions and content partnerships for the kids and family group at Paramount, tells TV Kids about using the filter of a kid’s point of view to guide programming decisions across multiple platforms.

***Image***TV KIDS: What role do acquisitions play on the Paramount services you oversee?
LEWIS: Acquisitions and content partnerships play a very important role for us at Paramount across our Nickelodeon kids and family channels, Paramount+ and Pluto TV. We look to complement and be additive to our original slate and have acquisitions and content partnerships that reach that audience across all of our platforms and are a significant part of our offering. We look at how we can manage and window across those platforms to create this strategic approach to a launch.

TV KIDS: What are some of the brand values or directives that you have to keep top of mind when sourcing programming?
LEWIS: We have the ability to program across multiple platforms, but in order to do that, you have to have characters that resonate with the audience in all of those touchpoints. Nickelodeon has always stood for the celebration of being a kid and understanding what it means to be a kid, so having that filter of a kid point of view is really important for us. Having characters that really resonate with our audience and that they want to hang out with. The age appropriateness, the celebration of things that are important to kids’ lives—family is obviously something we really want to show and celebrate and explore—and also diversity. That is really important to be done and represented authentically, not just to have it there but to think about those characters and what their story is and why they’re there and how they are part of the show or that bunch of characters. So, those brand filters apply. Even more important, it’s about making sure that content can be used everywhere.

TV KIDS: In terms of genres or age demographics, what are you currently on the lookout for?
LEWIS: Acquisitions and content partnerships are very important to us. I sit in a role that looks at those opportunities globally and have a team that is based around some of our different locations internationally, so we’re always looking first and foremost for a global opportunity. We then sometimes look for a local, regional opportunity. In terms of demo, we have a broad spectrum of platforms, so we’re still programming for linear channels like Nickelodeon, which has a broad demographic of 2 to 12. Within that, we have Nick Jr. and Nicktoons. There are separate brands within that. We are programming across preschool and big kids animation for those linear channels. We’re also working with our streaming platforms to shift that content there, but also looking more at co-viewing opportunities. We also have another area that we look at, which is Noggin, serving the much younger end of our preschool demo, with a shift to the more educational preschool part of that demographic.

A lot to look for and a lot to discuss with everybody that’s coming with their pitches. We have had a long history of being able to connect with kids with the best-known and beloved brands that they have. We have some of those that sit in our original space; we’ve also partnered with IP owners on that. In terms of where we’re going and what we’re looking for, we’re looking to identify content for 2024. The short-term acquisition space is filled at the moment. We do like to get involved early. We’re looking long-term, for people to come to us with their ideas at an early stage so that we can potentially look at the opportunity to work together and shape the next hit together.

TV KIDS: Is there anything you’d like to pick up for the channels and platforms that you’re just not seeing enough of out there in the marketplace?
LEWIS: Everybody is so intentional about wanting to make sure that we are representing our audience, and we do so much research and talk to our audience, and it’s clearly driven by them. It’s [about] how you connect that and how you make sure that it’s not just a visual representation—it is something deeper than that, and it is there behind the scenes, in terms of the writing and the producing and everybody involved creatively. If we’re on board with a content partnership, we work with the companies to help with that and draw on some of [our] resources. Certainly, in the linear space, our audience has gotten younger. To hold on to that upper end of the demographic is tough. To have the sophistication in the writing and everything you need in broad comedy, gender-neutral, for 6 to 11, is a challenge. But we’re always interested in seeing those ideas and things that surprise us—things that feel irresistible.

TV KIDS: With regard to exclusivity and rights, is this less of a make-or-break deal point, or is it still a hot-button negotiating issue?
LEWIS: Exclusivity and windowing are very important when we look at the linear side and what we’re trying to achieve with Paramount+. We want to reach our audience everywhere they are. If you have a broader scope of rights, you can work to meet them there. That’s not always the opportunity. When we have the pitch at an early stage, we can discuss that with the partner to say, what is the opportunity? How best can we navigate through the platforms and the rights? As everything has shifted and the proliferation of platforms continues, we try to think about what’s best for both of us in terms of our partnerships.

TV KIDS: What advice can you share for producers or distributors looking to land programming on your channels and platforms?
LEWIS: It about being aware of the shows we have and how anything will sit among them. We don’t want to get into a situation of, what do you do with it? We have seen a lot of pitches in the bridge space, and we do now have quite a lot of shows in that area. We’re looking to complement that and maybe focus more on the younger end of the preschool demo. Another point that’s come up is around ancillary. We have within Paramount other lines of business. We can leverage those in terms of our content partnerships and co-productions to look at how we can partner with our in-house CP teams. We also have a movie studio. We are looking at exploring opportunities quite far out now. Know the audience and think about them in everything that you do. Know our shows and some of those brand filters. And have fun and surprise us.