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Mipcom: Imira, FUN Union Ink Spanish, Portuguese, Italian-speaking Territory Distribution on ‘Riki’ Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Building on hugely popular animation brand - in Russia and China - move designed as first part of larger strategic alliance

CANNES — Imira Entertainment, the top Spanish distributor of kids and family content, has signed with Hong Kong’s FUN Union for distribution in Latin America, the U.S. Hispanic market, Spain, Italy and Portugal of FUN Union’s three animated series IPs:“BabyRiki,” “KikoRiki” and “PinCode.”

An edutainment creator/rights holder targeting pre-school and primary-school ages, Hong Kong-based FUN Union was launched in February 2017 as a joint venture between Hong Kong investors, including private equity company Meridian Capital, and St. Petersburg-based animation company Riki Group. FUN Union will exploit and further develop the three Riki universe properties outside CIS/Russia. The FUN Union-Imira deal kicks in at Mipcom Junior which bows Saturday Oct. 14 in Cannes, where Imira Ent. will introduce “BabyRiki,” “KikoRiki” and “PinCode” to buyers.

The deal extends to new titles created by Fun Union, said Sergi Reitg, Imira Ent. CEO. It is regarded by its partners as a first step in a broader strategic joint venture between Imira and Fun Union to build pre- and primary school edutainment content and brands focusing, in terms of distribution and licensing, on the same Latino territories.

“Our objective is to strengthen the alliance building it up in the long-term,” confirmed FUN Union CEO Christine Brendle.

Created out of the Riki Group with the help of child psychologist and early-learning experts, the five-minute 3D CGI/live video “BabyRiki” has five dinky 3D CGI round-ball heroes live an adventure and sing a song. A second 52-part season will be completed by December.

Vibrantly-toned and, slightly longer, at six-and-a-half minutes per seg, and targeting primary-school audiences, “KikoRiki” has three completed seasons, the first two in 2D, the third in 3D CGI. It features the same cast of characters who have grown up a bit from “BabyRiki” to develop unique personalities and now make friends in different settings in a world of adventure, real-life situations and life-lessons. Created for primary-schoolers interested in sciences, “PinCode,” combining CGI and 2D, takes the heroes across the globe accompanied by Pin, an inventor genius.

“Broadcasters and SVOD platform want comedy but now, increasingly, comedy and something more,” said Reitg. ”This is comedy with tech-science elements in the line of Nat Geo Kids or Discovery Kids.”

In general, “these are series of with the highest-production standards, a structure which allows the comedy and educational part to mix very well, and above all with a large number of episodes,” Reitg added.

The Riki world IPS have a proven track record in Russia, the CSI and now China.

FUN Union launched “BabyRiki” in China in digital markets this July, “BabyRiki” running up about 150 million views by the week before Mipcom, Brendle said. But they are still relatively ill-known outside these two core markets. Fun Union has also closed licensing deals for books, evokes plush and plastic toys and young children’s clothing, looking rosebuds a real sizable launch second quarter 2018.

“We have spent a lot of energy on creating the Riki universe’s successes in China and now it’s time to go being these two markets and go global,” said Brendle. The third season of “BabyRiki,” to be presented at Mipcom, will target global markets from the start, she added.

The deal leverages Imira’s large and firmly-established market presence in both Latin America and the U.S. Latino market and its strong positioning in a new kids and family economy driven in large part by digital streaming platforms.

Though owned by India’s Toonz Media Company and based out of Barcelona, Madrid and Vitoria in Spain, 90% of Imira’s latest fiscal year turnover came from outside Spain and 55% of that from Latin America and Hispanic markets,” according to Reitg.

Digital platforms now generates 50% of Imira’s sales, largely through package sales, he added.

Some examples: In the run-up to MipJunior and Mipcom, Netflix acquired Imira co-pro “Bat Pat” for Latin America (excluding Brazil) and Spain, having closed a seven-title deal earlier in 2017; Telecom Italy has picked up from Imira Korean Tuba’s first three seasons of “Larva,” for its channel Tim; Telefonica is taking a seven-title package for its platforms in Peru and Ecuador; leading Chilean SVOD service VTR, is taking six Imira titles.

Imira has also collaborated in the launch of kids channels in Latin America, such as Spanish pubcaster TVE’s Clan International, Reitg noted.

He added: “The SVOD platform boom is continuing, compensating the fall in free-to-air sales and partially those to pay TV, and another telecom boom is now setting in which sooner than later telcos will be tempted to create their own [kids/family] channels.”

That it turn could open up compelling co-production and partnership deals which go beyond mere supply relations. As even more competition sets in between SVOD platforms, key digital players are likely to demand exclusivity, ramping up payment rates.

The first stage in the deal, however, is “to make the brand known and popular,” said Brendle. “We are loved by kids, trusted by moms when it comes to small children. That’s why a lot of the content is parenting related. Now we have to build on that trust.”

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