Netflix and Amazon Energize Europe’s Toon Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

Netflix and Amazon Energize Europe's Toon Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

TOULOUSE, France — With networks increasingly tightening their purse strings, digital platforms like Amazon and Netflix are opening up a whole range of opportunities for European animation producers and sales agents.

“Netflix and Amazon are the first players in broadcast history that are global and do not own a kids library and production unit so they are willing to invest. It’s a big change,” said Philippe Soutter, co-founder of Paris-based PGS Entertainment, which handles “Monchhichi” and “The Jungle Report.”

Netflix, which launched last week in France (along with Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg), has been on a buying spree, picking up five shows, including “Pok et Mok,” “Alfred,” “Franklin” and “La Petite Geante,” from Gaumont Animation. Ahead of its launch, it had already acquired Ankama’s “Wakfu,” based on the videogame.

“Netflix has already energized the market in France, they’re eager to buy local content,” said Pierre Belaisch, managing director of Gaumont Animation. “Netflix and other multi-territory digital platforms can buy non-exclusive second- and third-window rights. And those deals can prove crucial because they help us cover the 5% to 10% gap we’re often left with to complete the financing on a show.”

Amazon, which attended Cartoon Forum for the first time, is having a more cherry-picking approach than Netflix, but still ensures series great visibility across multiple markets, said Malene Iversen, head of sales at Copenhagen Bombay, pitcher of “Me and Sonny” at Cartoon Forum.

Indeed, “Amazon streams pilots on Amazon Prime Instant Video, which means more stories and more characters are visible to our customers than if we made selections behind closed doors,” said Monica L.H. Dennis, Amazon’s development executive for kids programming, adding that she’s looking for high quality preschool programs and six to 11 projects.

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Amazon Studios has just greenlit three animated kids pilots: “The Stinky & Dirty Show,” “Buddy: Tech Detective” and “Niko and the Sword of Light,” plus two live-action kids pilots: “Table 58” and “Just Add Magic.”

But as Iversen said, these deals are not the most lucrative. Platforms don’t cover the cost of dubbing (which is usually handled by broadcasters in traditional deals) and they seldom pay a minimum guarantee.

Like more and more platforms, Amazon aims to board series at an early stage to participate in the creative process and is looking for diverse shows from different nationalities.

“We bring a diversity of  senses of humor, approaches, and aesthetics to the table based on our own cultural touchstones. With open minds and thoughtful production pipelines, these pairings can create products that stand out in both U.S. and European markets,” Dennis said.

Public institutions in Europe are also encouraging producers to think digital.

While at Cartoon Forum, Cine-Region the association of European regional orgs, announced the creation of a fund dedicated the financing of animated series developed with a transmedia approach. The fund will invest up to €1 million ($1.3 million) in one to three projects per year.

“Urbance,” a dystopian twist on Romeo and Juliet produced by Montreal-based Steambot Studios and pitched at last year’s Cartoon Forum, is the first project to be backed by Cine-Region. The series project, comprising two seasons of 10 episodes, will be directed by Joel Dos Reis Viegas and Sebastien Larroude, with Studio Ghibli’s Hiroshi Shimizu on board as  lead animator. Steambot is financing the pilot via Kickstarter.