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WildBrain’s Josh Scherba at the TV Kids Festival

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Josh Scherba, the president of WildBrain, told TV Kids Festival participants about how the kids’ and family giant is navigating the complexities and opportunities in the global children’s community.

Scherba took part in a keynote conversation with Anna Carugati, group editorial director, at the TV Kids Festival. You can watch the session in its entirety here. The session began with Scherba articulating WildBrain’s 360-degree approach to brand management. “We have a unique set of capabilities at WildBrain,” Scherba explained, referencing “our library of world-class IP, our best-in-class creative development, our production facility in Vancouver, our experience and expertise in digital distribution as well as traditional distribution.”

Scherba continued, “On the digital side, we’re able to leverage our WildBrain Spark network. At WildBrain CPLG, we have global expertise in consumer products and licensing. In combination, all of those aspects of WildBrain give us the ability to take IP from the ground floor, amplify it, build it up and ultimately [get it] onto retail shelves. It is a unique capability for an independent in the kids’ and family space.”

Understanding how audiences consume content today is critical, Scherba said. “It’s been evolving quickly, so it’s something we have to stay on top of consistently. It needs to inform your distribution strategy because, ultimately, your distribution strategy is how you’re going to connect with kids. You need to know where they are. And the storytelling and creative do need to be informed by this information because the way content is being consumed on specific platforms varies. The content we’re producing at WildBrain Spark is intended to be optimized for consumption on YouTube. That takes a lot of different forms. You think about run time, themes. We think about the detail of what the thumbnail image that best represents that content is going to be. And I would point to how [content is] being consumed on other platforms and informs our other development.”

For example, in developing the latest Peanuts special for Apple TV+, Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne, it was crucial to make sure “we were putting enough layers in there for a multigenerational audience. So thinking about how and where the content is going to be consumed is critical.”

The scale of the AVOD network WildBrain Spark “gives us a real advantage,” Scherba explained. “We have around 800 channels and 245 million subscribers. It’s a really large audience—that allows us to have insights into the types of content being consumed, how long they’re being consumed for, which countries [they’re] being consumed in. All of that information can be used to form insights for the types of content breaking through with kids. That is utilized for our own brands and IP, but often it’s with partners as well. So whether it’s an existing brand that they’re attempting to reconnect with a new audience, or it’s a new product line coming out, there are lots of ways we can work with brand owners, as well as on our own IP.”

Asked how WildBrain determines the best positioning for a property, Scherba discussed Strawberry Shortcake. “We’re producing an 80×4-minute series that is going digital-first. It’s launching first on WildBrain Spark and then we’re rolling it out to additional AVOD platforms. We’re using the information from how that content is being consumed to iterate our processes as we produce. We’re also producing four seasonal specials for Netflix. Our ability to have that brand connect in a premium SVOD environment as well as in the YouTube environment is how we’re approaching reconnecting with an audience. We have a roadblock scheme that was launched back in October. We’re bringing the brand everywhere kids are today. It’s the beginning of a journey to reestablish the IP.”

Scherba then discussed the role linear TV still plays in the ecosystem. “Our channels in Canada give us real insights into how kids are consuming content. It also provides us with curation expertise. We leverage that in other parts of the business, including [the] many new AVOD platforms and how we do packages for those platforms. It’s interesting how these skill sets are highly transferable.”

Linear also continues to be a vital funding mechanism, Scherba added, despite the “big shifts” in financing models. “The global streamers are focused on global deals, where they are in most cases funding the entire production. That’s a new model. It’s been a good one for the industry in a lot of ways. On the other hand, it does reduce the opportunities you have for distribution and reduces the control you have over distribution. We try to balance our slate between fully funded global streaming series along with series we put together through co-productions and partnerships. That’s where being Canadian gives us an advantage from a financing standpoint. And our global relationships become important and who we partner with.”

Scherba then discussed how WildBrain is exploring opportunities in the metaverse. “It’s a space we’re keeping a close eye on. Kids tend to be at the forefront of these technological changes. We’re seeing that again now. Consumption on Roblox is massive. We’ve seen it with Fortnite. Those are early test cases of the metaverse. We need to be everywhere kids are; that’s why we’re watching this space closely. We started small with our first Roblox game, a Strawberry Shortcake game. We announced a partnership with Gamefam, one of the top publishers of games on Roblox, where we’re selling some ad inventory for them. Long-term, great characters, stories and known IP will continue to be important, regardless of how storytelling and technology change.”

Indeed, Teletubbies marks its 25th birthday this year. “When you get to that age of a brand, you start to get into a generation now having their own kids who want to pass it on. We’re coming up with ways to get it back into the zeitgeist. We’re also continuing to engage a preschool audience. We released some new music videos and an album last year on WildBrain Spark. There’s more in the works around new content.”






About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on mdaswani@worldscreen.com.

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