Top Buyers Discuss the Future of the Kids’ Business


A panel at MIPJunior this weekend saw Nickelodeon’s Jules Borkent, Cartoon Network’s Adina Pitt and BBC’s Jackie Edwards weighing in on the future of the children’s media business and discussing their content remits.

“We don’t have unlimited budgets—we have good budgets, but they have to stretch further and further,” said Borkent, the executive VP of content management and network strategy at Nickelodeon. “For us, that’s been about figuring out the best partnerships we can enter into. That has become far more forefront in how we look at content on a global level.”

Linear is here to stay, Borkent said, adding, “the question is what those channels will look like.”

He went on to note that Nick’s multiplatform strategy is shifting: “Not all content is right for every single platform. Some content might stay on the app or the VOD service and not go on the linear channel.”

Another new development for Nickelodeon is its experimentation with Latin American tween telenovelas, following parent company Viacom’s acquisition of Argentina’s Telefe. “The live-action drama genre is opening up,” Borkent said.

Edwards, the head of BBC Children’s acquisitions and independent animation, also believes that “TV will survive. There is an absolute need for us to respond to children’s changing habits and be thoughtful about making additional content for different platforms. It’s a circle of goodness we have to perpetuate to survive. TV is first and foremost, but we have to respond to the audience’s changing habits.”

On BBC Children’s programming remit, Edwards noted, “Our primary pocket of money is spent on commissioning content which reflects the lives of U.K. audiences.” The acquisition budget at CBeebies is mostly spent on pre-buying animation. For older kids, “we have a mixed bag of requirements. We buy animation and drama. We pre-buy and [acquire] off the shelf. And we’re looking for content for 6- to 16-year-olds—that’s quite a broad sweep.” For older kids audiences, acquisitions are usually just for the iPlayer and not also for the linear channel.

Pitt, VP of content acquisitions and co-productions at Cartoon Network and Boomerang, said, “We all have very brand-specific targets we want to hit. We’re very focused on what the consumer wants and consumer behavior. We’re mindful of how that has shifted. We’re focused on building brands and franchises. It’s not just looking for new partnerships and experimenting with conversations about models, but also staying true to our brand and finding things we think can be brands in the future, that can sit alongside our vast library of originals.”

On financing shows, Pitt noted that models continue to evolve. “Sometimes our budgets are cut, sometimes we have an abundance, and it really forces us to rethink. There are certain things we need, and we have to make those budgets work. One of the things I think is going to be very important for us is having a scope of rights for whatever it is we make or acquire. That could mean the model shifts because we have to pay more and pick up less, or maybe not. It depends on what [the producer] comes to the table with. A lot of times people expect us to do that math for them. We know what our budgets are, we have co-production models, acquisition models, pre-buy models. Each one of those is different. So when you come to us with an idea, we will ask you, What’s your budget? What do you bring to the table? Do you have some financing in place? And then we figure it out together. I don’t think that is going to shift extraordinarily in the future. It will be a continuation of that. It’s just a matter of how are we partnering: Is it 50-50, 20 percent, a straight acquisition? It could be a number of things.”

Pitt says she frequently tells producers not to be hesitant about partnering with distribution companies. “They come to the table with an understanding of what the global marketplace can tolerate and whether or not you can monetize that show you are making.”