Canadian partners set kidvid fund

TORONTO — Jay Firestone, founding president of Fireworks Entertainment Inc., has teamed up with YTV Canada Inc., operator of a youth-oriented specialty channel, to lend a helping hand to producers of children’s TV programming.

The two Toronto-based partners have established a new development fund, the Fireworks/YTV Initiative, to stimulate production of more Canadian TV shows for kids. The fund’s initial capital of C$250,000 ($182,500) is expected to be sufficient to get seven to 10 projects off the ground.

While that works out to roughly $18,000 to $25,000 per project, Firestone said there is no maximum.

Judged on merit

“If one project turns out to need more than another, and merits it, it will get it,” said Firestone, ex-vice chairman of Alliance Communications Corp. before he set off on his own to form Fireworks in January 1996.

The idea of the fund is to bring a new project to a “refined stage of concept,” said YTV president Paul Robertson. After that, the fund’s administrators can determine whether the project should proceed.

While Canada has a plethora of public and private sector film and television production funds, most require a first-window broadcaster or a film pre-sale to qualify and some assistance programs are being replaced by tax credits which provide money only at the back end. None are available to an emerging producer with no track record.

Between them, Fireworks and YTV have the wherewithal to provide independent producers, particularly first-timers, with development, production, broadcast, distribution and financing expertise.

In exchange, YTV obtains first rights to air and international distribution rights. The partners share profits equally, if there are any, but money earned from one show will likely be plowed back into another, Robertson said.

Stimulate interesting projects

“We’ve just announced the fund and hope that will stimulate interesting projects to come forward,” he said.

Nielsen Marketing Research says YTV’s average weekly reach tops 10 million viewers 2 and older. YTV is owned by Shaw Communications Inc. of Calgary, a large cable TV operator and broadcasting company, which also controls Canada’s version of Country Music Television (CMT).

Fireworks produces TV shows “La Femme Nikita” and “F/X: The Series” and has interests in other series, TV movies, feature films and animation.

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