DreamWorks Animation is set to launch a TV channel featuring kids and family programming in 19 Asian countries sometime in the second half of 2015.
The channel will represent DWA’s first foray into operating its own TV network in any part of the world.
Until now, the toon studio’s TV efforts have largely focused on licensing its properties to kids cable channels Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and producing original series for streaming service Netflix and its own digital platforms run by AwesomenessTV.
HBO Asia, based in Singapore, will manage affiliate sales and marketing, as well as technical services, for the channel, with larger markets expected to launch first.
Original content won’t be created specifically for the channel.
Instead, the network will consist of a combination of original shows produced for partners like Netflix, as well as pre-existing and new series based on Classic Media’s library of character that were developed for European markets and air in syndication.
“VeggieTales in the House” and “DinoTrux” will anchor the channel’s morning pre-school block, while the network will also serve as an outlet for other series like “All Hail King Julien” (see above), “The Adventures of Puss in Boots,” and “DreamWorks Dragons,” based on “How to Train Your Dragon.” The network will also promote the studio’s theatrical releases in the region.
“The Penguins of Madagascar,” produced for Nickelodeon, will not air on the new channel. That series can currently be viewed on Nickelodeon’s own network in Singapore.
“The DreamWorks channel will bring our premiere shows –- great humor and stories, imaginative worlds and, of course, the highest-quality animation –- to audiences across Asia through a new DreamWorks-branded platform,” said Eric Ellenbogen, co-head of DreamWorks Intl. TV.
DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg had said in 2012 that the company was considering launching a cable channel, but many thought the venture would debut in the U.S. first, as part of the distribution deal for its films with 20th Century Fox. At the time, Katzenberg called the branded channel “more than just a dream.”
In addition to shows produced for Netflix and those based on Classic Media’s characters, “We now have the critical mass of library content and new production to support a channel,” Ellenbogen told Variety. Ellenbogen was one of the founders of Classic Media, which DreamWorks Animation acquired in 2012.
Ellenbogen said a goal of the DreamWorks channels is also to work with local affiliate partners in order to launch apps and make programming available on multiple screens, including mobile devices — something that’s proved key in reaching younger audiences.
The irony in launching the network with HBO is that DWA opted to end its domestic output deal with the pay cabler two years early in order to move its content to Netflix in 2011. In 2013, it launched “Turbo F.A.S.T.,” the first original Netflix series for kids, based on the studio’s summer movie “Turbo.” It was part of an overall deal for DWA to develop more than 300 hours of exclusive programming for Netflix.
That programming will now also be distributed on DWA’s new TV channels, including over 2,000 hours of existing DreamWorks TV content in addition to more than 1,200 half-hours of original animation the company currently has in production or produced with Classic Media.
DWA is positioning the branded network as having more original content than any other kids’ channel in the region.
It’s also part of a strategy to distribute its TV content to as many viewers in as many regions as possible. Although not yet announced, DreamWorks is open to launching additional TV channels in other territories should the Asian network prove popular.
For now, Ellenbogen called Asia “a great market to launch in. It’s a youthful market, and pay TV is a growing business there,” he said, with an emerging middle class. “It’s by no means a mature market.”