Top Kids’ Programmers Talk Trends, Local Resonance


ABC TV’s Michael Carrington, Turner’s Patricia Hidalgo, SUPER RTL’s Janine Weigold and Gloob’s Paula Taborda dos Guaranys discussed how they are serving their audiences at MIPJunior this morning before each being presented with a World Screen Kids Trendsetter Award.

These four professionals, honored by World Screen and Reed MIDEM for their contributions to children’s programming, took part in the View from the Top panel at MIPJunior, moderated by Anna Carugati, the group editorial director at World Screen.

Carrington, the head of children’s and education at Australia’s ABC, said that even in today’s fast-moving media sector, the role of a public broadcaster hasn’t really changed. “We’ve always wanted to reflect and engage our children’s audiences from a local perspective and give them a window on the world.”

Diversity has become a key mission for ABC in Australia. “Children want to see themselves reflected [on-screen]. They may be disabled children, indigenous children, children from families who have immigrated to the country. Part of reflecting who they are, we are very aware and very open to telling those stories and making sure that not only do we see the kids on-screen, but also [have diversity] behind the camera. We want people behind the camera telling that story so that it has an authentic voice.”

Carrington added, “In a world like today, which is quite fragmented, and the things that are happening—Brexit and Trump and North Korea—we know that children are hearing about that stuff, they’re seeing it on the news. They feel unsettled. This is a way of grounding them where they are and ensuring they feel well protected.”

Hidalgo, chief content and creative officer for EMEA and international kids strategy at Turner, discussed the tight collaboration between her team and her programming colleagues in the U.S. “We share everything from a very early stage, whether it’s an idea, a development, we’re always involved in sharing those materials. We give our feedback. Of course, the U.S. wants to make sure that what they’re making is going to travel as far and wide as possible. So if there are any cultural issues, we’ll address them. It also works the other way around. We do create content internationally,” Hidalgo said, citing The Amazing World of Gumball, which hails from Europe. “We share the same values when it comes to our brands. And when it comes to gaps in the schedule, we have a great organization. Cecilia Persson heads international acquisitions, and then with Adina [Pitt] they collaborate to get global acquisitions.”

Gloob’s Taborda dos Guaranys, the head of content and programming, discussed the background of the five-year-old channel, which originated from a significant research endeavor at parent company Globosat. “We understood that there were channels for preschoolers and others for 8- to 12-year-olds, but none for kids 5 to 8. We did research with more than 2,000 families. We understood that within Globosat’s portfolio it would be a good thing to have a children’s channel.”

On the heels of Gloob’s success, Globosat is launching a preschool service, Gloobinho, next week.

Taborda dos Guaranys stressed the “Brazilian DNA” of Gloob, thanks to its slate of original productions, which have helped the channel differentiate itself from the international kids’ nets in the country. “But the values we have are universal. The content we produce will resonate with kids all over the world.”

Weigold, the head of children’s content at SUPER RTL, said the German channel has continued to thrive thanks to its mix of local and international brands. She also discussed the Kividoo SVOD service and how it is different from the SUPER RTL linear channel. “For the linear channel, we focus on the target of 3- to 9-year-olds. We need to reach the mass as we’re an ad-financed channel. For Kividoo we can go more into niches—we can go younger, older, in different angles that you probably wouldn’t for the linear channel.”

Each programmer then addressed their programming wish lists. “When you see it you know it,” said ABC’s Carrington. “Broadly speaking we’re always looking for stories that engage with children. Normally that’s through a sense of humor, whether that’s animation or live-action comedy-drama. The uniqueness we’re looking for is that emotional connection between the characters, which then translates into a screen experience that engages with and emotionally stimulates the viewer.”

Hidalgo is continuing the hunt for animation for Cartoon Network and Boomerang. “We’re really looking for partnerships. We want to find the right partners we can co-develop content with. That content should be franchisable.”

“We want the next hit,” said Gloob’s Taborda dos Guaranys. “There’s no formula. We want stories that are character-driven. We need to engage the children.” The channel’s acquired to original split is about fifty-fifty, she said.

SUPER RTL’s Weigold is looking for “great characters and inspiring stories. It should have a life on different platforms. And a long life—we repeat content very often, so it needs to stay on for quite some years.”

Carrington added that “the quality of the content that comes into Australia from abroad is so high, our audiences have this massive expectation that what we deliver them is also movie quality and has an impact. So when we’re talking to potential partners, we’re looking for that edge that brings that distinctive, high-quality, engaging visual material. Also, as a public-service broadcaster, we can afford to take risks.”

The conversation then moved to co-productions and prebuys. Gloob’s Taborda dos Guaranys said that “it’s hard to buy only for Brazil and be competitive. The way we achieve great results is by entering into co-productions.”

At Turner, Hidalgo says there are various models, from enhanced acquisitions to bigger co-pros. “It depends on the IP and the overall business proposition. What’s important is to find the right partner. It’s no use going into a co-development or co-production with a partner who doesn’t have similar values to yours.”

ABC’s Carrington noted the level of multiculturalism in Australia, and as such, “We’re interested in broad-ranging stories. They can come from anywhere. Co-production is interesting for us because we also like to help our industry. We’re a small country. We want to bring [our viewers] stories that help stimulate their interest in the rest of the world, as well as our own local storytelling. We tend to try to work through Australian producers. They’ll come to us with their own IP and with co-production opportunities with international partners.” The country has several co-pro treaties with countries across the globe.

Carugati then asked the panelists to address how they’re engaging with audiences outside of the linear screen.

“We have to be [serving them] in all ways,” said Weigold at SUPER RTL. That’s not easy, she said, as “their habits change quite quickly.” But being multiplatform also opens up a world of potential. “In marketing, we used to kick off big campaigns and roll them out for three months. Now you have to adapt and be quick and maybe smarter. It enriches the industry and the engagement with the children. We try to be everywhere.”

Gloob is producing different stories for different platforms, creating spin-offs shows for digital devices.

“Kids are consuming not just the video content, they’re consuming games and apps,” Hidalgo noted. “Whatever IP you’re trying to grow, you must make sure you have that bespoke content for specific [platforms]. As you’re creating the series, you should be thinking about how it looks on different platforms.”

“Television is still very important to children,” Carrington added, “although it may just be on in the background these days. The majority of our audience still watches television, but there’s no doubt that they are moving to a video-on-demand scenario. We have free VOD, apps for our channels, our websites and partnerships with YouTube. We’re trying to be everywhere that children are. We’re creating stories and episodes that will migrate seamlessly between the platforms. We’re genre-driven not platform-driven.”

As they embrace new platforms, broadcasters are also acutely aware of the impact OTT services such as YouTube and Netflix are having in their markets. Netflix, for example, has seen “a huge uptake,” in Australia, Carrington said. “We’re driving the audience with original [Australian] production,” he noted, adding that ABC is also collaborating with Netflix.

Hidalgo said that the effect of the streamers has been good and bad. “Disruption is good; it makes you rethink what you’re doing. It means there’s more money out there for the industry. And there are more platforms to have our content exposed.” On the other hand, however, “they are competitors. They are competing for the limited time kids have.”

Weigold said that SUPER RTL is working hard to “celebrate free TV,” having “more live moments where kids want to tune in and talk about it the next day in school.”

“We’re in their face all the time,” Carrington said. “And they can interact with us on a daily basis. They just send us stuff. We’re almost live in their lives.”

“We’re going to see that same kind of connection in the nonlinear space,” Hidalgo added. “Shelves and shelves of videos is not going to be enough.”