Serious Lunch Feeds the Appetite for Lasting Brands

Genevieve Dexter, the founder and CEO of London-based Serious Lunch, talks to TV Kids about her distribution company and the importance of having long-running series that can break into the U.S. market.

While Serious Lunch is a relatively new entrant in the children’s entertainment business, Genevieve Dexter, the consultancy and distribution company’s founder and CEO, isn’t a new kid on the block. Dexter’s 20-plus years of experience in television entertainment, specializing in the commercial exploitation of children’s and family programming, informs her strategy for Serious Lunch, which she launched in January 2011. “Serious Lunch is trying to do things that other people aren’t doing,” Dexter says.

***Image***Over the years, Dexter has learned the value of having “long-running shows that you can spin into brands.” She explains that a distributor can find success if it has an ongoing program, one that runs four or five seasons, as those titles can help keep a catalog afloat. Double-BAFTA-winning Operation Ouch!, which was renewed for a fifth season on CBBC in the U.K. in May, falls into that category. Another offering from Serious Lunch that continues to expand is the live-action series Art Ninja, with season three having been announced recently.

According to Dexter, another pillar of success is the ability to place properties in the U.S. “When you sell into the U.S., the rest of the world wakes up,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter where the title has come from. At the moment that you announce the sale to the States, everybody else says, ‘If you can get it in there, it must be good.’”

Dexter adds: “Everybody still looks to the U.S. as the market leader, and it can break open new markets internationally.” Once a show enters the U.S. and other territories take notice, a property can go from being “a problem child to 90 percent ***Image***of [a distributor’s] revenue,” she says. Looking to the future, Dexter aims to bring the properties in Serious Lunch’s catalog stateside.

Serious Lunch strives to stand out in the crowded kids’ space by offering unique content that suits buyers’ needs. In particular, Dexter points to “STEM programming for older children, and then formatting those titles overseas.” Dexter believes there is a growing demand for this type of programming, and Serious Lunch’s catalog features two shows that fill this gap: Horrible Science and the aforementioned Operation Ouch! The book-based Horrible Science explores science in amusing ways, while Operation Ouch! sees Doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken investigate medical mysteries, share facts about the human body and encourage kids not to be afraid of going to the hospital. The two series fill a gap in the kids’ market, as they “bring science into the every day as opposed to it being stuck in an educational corner,” Dexter says.

In addition to its value as a science-focused program, Operation Ouch! is a key component of the company’s catalog because it “has sold very well internationally,” Dexter says. In addition to its season-five renewal in the U.K., Dexter notes, “We’ve done a Danish version and we’re now shooting a Dutch version.”

Video-on-demand platforms are a welcome programming destination for independent kids’ distributors. “The opening up of the VOD market has been the most significant shift, largely because it creates avenues for programming that otherwise finds it difficult to get a route to market,” Dexter says. In the past, there has been resistance to serials, but “with the rise of VOD and the change in the way that children watch programming, Studio Ghibli’s Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, a 26-part serial that we represent, has proved to be very popular,” she adds. VOD platforms also open up additional doors because they are typically more receptive to family programming, which Dexter says has all but died on linear television.

“We’re a small catalog with large-volume, high-profile brands, which we’re working very hard and very deep,” says Dexter. “We’re trying to stay small while also looking for new content.”

While she has her eyes open for new titles, Dexter will “continue focusing on Operation Ouch!Horrible ScienceArt Ninja and Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, and going deeper, longer and wider with them. As long as those brands keep producing, then it’s possible to generate revenue in more territories, and your energies get rewarded.”