Day two of the TV Kids Festival continued this morning with a keynote conversation between Vince Commisso, 9 Story Media Group’s president and CEO, and TV Kids’ Anna Carugati.
The session, which you can watch here, saw Commisso discussing the state of the kids’ media market today and articulating how 9 Story is navigating the challenges and opportunities in the landscape. “What we’re seeing is a belief—an accurate one—that the current business model as a result of streaming content is not as lucrative as the one that preceded it,” Commisso said.
“That’s caused a bit of a pause in the marketplace, manifesting itself in two ways. One is a reduction in the commissions of shows and then the reduction of budgets. That’s going to be the case for the foreseeable future. I think it’s time for companies like us to look at how we do everything and adjust for the way the world is moving forward, especially in the area of content.”
In terms of the opportunities ahead for the company, Commisso noted: “We’re looking at all kinds of partnerships that were not looked at before. Digital is becoming more relevant in terms of how kids consume content today, especially the young ones. So that’s an area we’re looking to grow in. We’ve established a live-action division in the U.K. that has a show in production that will be aired soon on CBBC and a platform in the U.S. I’m excited about how we’re going to move forward as a company, both in terms of the conditions we’re in now and when we get past them—and we will get past them. Content will be in great demand, always. There’s a little bit of a pause. Once that pause is worked through the system, the great demand will emerge again.”
Commisso said that kids today have demonstrated an appreciation for “storytelling in more formats than what was delivered in the past. That means we have to look at how we tell our stories to children in various formats—3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 11 minutes and 22 minutes. What does that do to story structure?”
On the commissioning landscape today, Commisso noted: “There are two factors at play, both in terms of the budget and the content. Budgets are coming down. I think that’s healthy. There was money being spent that probably didn’t need to be spent, and there was an artificial inflation of budgets for things that probably didn’t have the return given the spend. So now we’re being forced to be more efficient, and every dollar spent has to have value that goes on the screen. I also think there’s a focus on content that is broad-range; that serves mass audiences. There was a bit of a focus on content that super-served segments of the population, which probably didn’t do a good enough job of serving other segments adjacent to it or broad audiences. When you create a show, you first need to get an audience. Once you do that, you can serve segments of it as necessary, given the authentic creative conceit of the show.”
Commisso then discussed the company’s focus on expanding its live-action slate. “Live action’s a focus because we think it’s a growth opportunity. We think there’s a movement toward it from kids’ perspective, especially as they get older. And we made the conscious decision to serve our younger kids with animation and then to bolster that with serving the older kids as they leave animation and move to live action.”
The conversation then moved to the growing role of AVOD and FAST channels in the kids’ media ecosystem. “AVOD has given new life to some fantastic older properties in our library. These brands live on, and we often see parents who used to love these shows as kids go on to introduce them to their children. Those great legacy properties now have new outlets and ways to access children. On the FAST channels, we’re just starting to expand our reach. We used to view these channels as competitive or potentially cannibalistic to other platforms and channels. We now believe that the best strategy is ‘more is more,’ since audiences are consuming content in such different ways. Because there are so many platform opportunities, audiences are fragmented. Whenever we can access them with great content, we take that opportunity. FAST channels give us a significant opportunity to do just that.”
He then went on to speak about the best strategies for building a brand in a highly fragmented market. “Getting eyeballs on the content is a continuous challenge. When we talk about bringing content to market, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to lean into what makes each brand unique and then create a strategy around presenting that brand to the targeted audience for that brand. You have to be willing to invest in that brand to ensure its discoverability. And this includes all the basic tenets of marketing, from publicity to paid spend, from a digital strategy and on-the-ground events. As the brand owner, all of the marketing tactics can no longer be left to the broadcast partner because many platforms that deliver and distribute the content no longer create opportunities for promotion in linear spaces, so we have to.”