TV Kids Summer Festival Recap

Generation Alpha may be unlike any other demographic kids’ media executives are used to catering to. Most are spending at least part of their busy days on gaming. And they’re consuming all kinds of content, from the beautifully animated, expensive-to-make shows on broadcasters and streamers all the way through to made-on-a-shoestring-budget videos found across the creator economy. The third edition of the TV Kids Summer Festival featured valuable insights from those working across this ecosystem. If you missed any of the sessions live, you can access the entire festival on-demand here:

As has become a tradition at our virtual kids’ summits, we opened the festival last Tuesday with our signature session on program buyers, this time taking a deep dive into the AVOD space as Kidoodle.TV’s Brenda Bisner, HappyKids’ David Di Lorenzo, Canela Kids’ Maggie Salas-Amaro and Playground TV’s Daniel Nordberg discussed the acquisition strategies at their platforms.

“There’s a lot of subscription cutting,” said Bisner on the streaming landscape today. “There are issues with the economy. There is a desperate need for content with no barrier to entry for kids and families globally. The drive for kids’ AVOD comes from parents being younger and having grown up with the internet and, of course, knowing the dangers that kids can face online and making wise decisions and researching where their children can safely view content.”

Di Lorenzo added: “It is about transitioning audiences. In the U.S., we lost about 6 million subscribers on cable and satellite last year. There’s been a paradigm shift in where audiences are going to watch content. Through the pandemic, we saw triple-digit growth in audiences. That slowed a little bit last year into high double digits. Audiences are moving into streaming now, and that’s where they find most of their content.”

A recurring theme throughout that session was content from the so-called “creator economy,” namely Moonbug Entertainment’s extensive slate of shows that have made an impact across the landscape, from YouTube to Netflix. Nicolas Eglau and Andy Yeatman shared the company’s approach on the festival’s first day.

“Our goal is to become the world’s most impactful kids’ entertainment company,” Yeatman said. “Our whole business is set up around IP that has started, found and proven to have a big audience on a digital platform. With the emergence of digital platforms as the primary way kids discover and engage with content, the choices are almost limitless. In a world of infinite content but limited time, brands become even more important. We’re taking this popular content that’s found an audience on digital platforms and investing time, resources, skill and money in building them into brands and franchises for kids and families all over the world. It’s all about the audience. We’re constantly testing new things. Does this new character resonate? Did this type of animation, this storyline resonate? The audience is our North Star.”

The opening day also featured insights from Disney Branded Television’s Ayo Davis, who articulated the company’s strategy for serving audiences across SVOD and linear. “We’re able to meet our audiences wherever they are, whether it’s linear, streaming, digital,” Davis said. “There’s very little overlap between viewers on these platforms. So we get to reach our broadest audiences. Whether something launches first on linear or streaming is based on the characteristics and circumstances of each of our titles. When I think about linear networks, we’re looking for shows that are highly repeatable. They lean into comedies. We emphasize multi-cams and music, and ultimately it’s our volume play. When thinking about Disney+, the storytelling here appeals to our broader audience and has a premium wow factor. We tend to do more limited episodes, and depending on the story, we’ll do an all-at-once drop or week-over-week cadence.”

Davis’s keynote came ahead of Disney’s extensive slate presentation at Annecy, with the company showcasing the investments it’s making in European animation. France remains the continent’s most vibrant animation market, one we put into the spotlight with a panel featuring Superprod’s Clément Calvet, Mediawan Kids & Family’s Julien Borde, Dandelooo’s Emmanuèle Pétry-Sirvin and HARI’s Sophie “Kido” Prigent.

Rounding out the opening day’s sessions, delegates heard from Mercury Filmworks’ Heath Kenny and Chantal Ling about the company’s innovative animation techniques and original content drive as it marks its 25th anniversary.

The second day of the TV Kids Summer Festival kicked off with a keynote conversation with Cecilia Persson, managing director of BBC Studios Kids & Family, as she showcased the division’s strategy for bringing content to broadcast and streaming partners worldwide. Next, we put the spotlight on innovation in animation, hearing expert insights from Cyber Group Studios’ Raphaëlle Mathieu, Toon2Tango’s Ulli Stoef and Sinking Ship Entertainment’s Matt Bishop about everything from using Unreal Engine to incorporating AI into development processes.

Animation innovation was also referenced in the day’s creative keynote with lifestyle powerhouses Drew and Jonathan Scott, who worked on the CGI series Builder Brothers Dream Factory with the team at Sinking Ship. “We worked with incredible partners to figure out a way to do it so that we can bring that top-tier quality for the animation but get enough content that we’re going to do it as a regular series,” Jonathan said. “It also helps take you out of this animation realm and make it even more believable. Kids want to believe that anything they put their minds to, they can accomplish.”

“Innovation is always important to us, with everything we do,” Drew added. “We’re one of the larger lifestyle unscripted producers in North America. This is an original 3D preschool series. To be able to have 40 episodes launching with this full 3D feel is pretty amazing.”

The show taps into the Scotts’ global recognition from their array of lifestyle series, with the importance of known IP a recurring theme across the four-day festival. Our Wednesday session on rebooting classic IP featured Banijay Kids & Family’s Delphine Dumont, Mondo TV’s Luana Perrero and Katharina Pietzsch, formerly with ZDF Studios, discussing what goes into bringing beloved franchises back for contemporary audiences.

The day wrapped with an illuminating session featuring thought leader Evan Shapiro, who offered his unique perspectives on cutting through a crowded children’s media landscape. “When you look at where they spend their video time, increasingly there’s this ‘yes/and’ point of view among all consumers, but especially among those under 20,” Shapiro said. “YouTube is one of the first places they’ll go for video content. Netflix is the second place. Twitch is where they spend a tremendous amount of time, but then also Disney+. There’s this real acceptance of the idea that I’m going to jump from free media on social video to premium video on a subscription platform and back and forth. The idea that publishers don’t see social video as premium video is a big mistake. They’re going to miss a whole generation if they don’t pay attention to social video consumption, which younger consumers see as equal to premium video. Mr. Beast is the biggest star in the world for consumers under the age of 14. The amount of time young people spend on Twitch, YouTube and TikTok, and all these other social media platforms is really important to pay attention to.”

Bertrand Villegas of The WIT expressed a similar sentiment in showcasing hot properties across social, linear and streaming for young audiences. “Kids watch the content, they remix the content, they co-create the content, and then they rewatch this content,” Villegas said.

M6 Group has become well-versed in catering to its young audiences across various platforms. We celebrated Maud Branly, children’s acquisitions director and international TV channels children’s programming director at the French company, for her achievements in finding the best brands from across the globe for the slate of services she oversees with the TV Kids Pioneer Award. She spoke to TV Kids Summer Festival viewers about what she’s looking for, noting: “It is now more and more important to acquire ‘deep rights’ and to be able to propose the right combination between linear broadcast and nonlinear exploitation. We are looking for content we can exploit across all our platforms without limits.”

FAST is rapidly becoming one of those key platforms for young audiences, and we spotlighted this segment with a panel discussion featuring’s David B. Williams and WildBrain’s Lara Ilie. currently operates two FAST channels, one serving as a companion to its SVOD service. “The economics of the SVOD channel are frankly a lot better than they are on the FAST channels,” Williams said. “We look at the FAST channels in many ways as a platform for driving awareness and excitement about our SVOD platform. But then also our other businesses: the consumer products and the games. It also helps create market enthusiasm for all our brands and lines of business.”

It’s a different approach at WildBrain, Ilie said. “We have focused on single IP channels. We have a healthy dynamic with our distribution arm. You’ll have a hard time finding a traditional broadcaster willing to buy 365 episodes of Teletubbies and air all those episodes. That left us with a lot of our beloved franchises that have found a new home in the FAST world. They thrived in this world.”

FAST also came up in our session on brand building, as 9 Story Media Group’s Katrina Hitz-Tough, Epic Story’s Ken Faier, Aardman’s Rob Goodchild and Cookbook Media’s Rob Bencal weighed in on how to build 360-degree properties in a fragmented market.

Rounding out the third day of sessions was a creative keynote with Brian K. Roberts, co-executive producer of the new book-based Netflix series Not Quite Narwhal, who highlighted how DreamWorks Animation has baked DNI and representation into the show. “One of the big keys to the type of representation and inclusion that we did in this show is that we wanted to have as much of it as possible while talking about it as little as possible. My hope is someday we’ll get to the point where all of us as creators are doing such a good job with this that it’s not the story anymore because it’s just expected; it’s the default.”

Catch up on all the sessions and screen trailers of a slew of new shows here.