Kidvid programmers expanding their focus

At a packed NATPE seminar Tuesday, a clutch of producers and broadcasters argued that children’s “educational” programming needs to find different ways to attract advertisers, convincing them that they’ll be buying some important intangibles, not just eyeballs.

Most of the “Not Just Kids Stuff” panelists — among them Nickelodeon president Geraldine Laybourne, DIC president Andy Heyward, Buena Vista TV’s senior VP sales Janice Marinelli and the BBC’s head of children’s programming Anna Home — argued that education and entertainment must go hand in hand and that the built-in prejudice of advertisers must be overcome.

Several of the panelists are taking seriously the U.S. government’s call in the Children’s TV Act for broadcasters to devote more time to educational and informational programming; most also say they are making something of a success of it.

Pat Roddy, ABC News director/special projects, told the delegates: “We need to rethink how we’re pitching the advertisers … and look anew at what advertisers can get out of these shows.”

Roddy and others pointed out that advertisers must be encouraged to think of these shows as part of a mix and to realize that their appeal is often not just to kids but to older viewers as well.

He also suggested that the advertiser pool seeking to attract kids is widening; it doesn’t include just toy manufacturers, but others such as high-tech companies.

Added Home: “Europe is getting more like the U.S. Because there is more competition for money, we are fighting to maintain this mixture (of animation, live action, news, music for kids, etc.) but it is being challenged by a more commercialized animation base.”

Children’s Television Workshop VP Marjorie Kalins argued that the “co-viewing element” of programming should be encouraged and that programmers should stop segregating viewing so strictly by age and interest group. Advertisers, presumably, would then look at the advertising possibilities differently.

As for the question of violence in children’s programming, several speakers fingered local news coverage, rather than Wile E. Coyote or Bugs Bunny, as the real culprit in the debate that has Washington so hot under the collar.

The session was produced by Tom Herwitz of Tom Herwitz Communications, and moderated by Linda Ellerbee, president of Lucky Duck Prods.

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