CANNES — “Never predict, especially about the future,” the saying goes. Three of MipJunior’s key speakers and kids industry players – from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the BBC – took that to heart on Cannes’ Saturday afternoon when addressing the panel subject, “View from the Top: Gazing into the Future of Kids Media.” Rather than addressing where the business is headed – if they knew, they’d have ankled their jobs – Nickelodeon’s Jules Borkent, the BBC’s Jackie Edwards and Adina Pitt at Cartoon Network drilled down on major changes and challenges affecting where the kids media business is today. Here are five insights:
1.THE NEW NAME OF THE GAME: PARTNERING
What has changed in the last couple of years? asked Borkent, Nickelodeon senior vice president, global acquisitions and international programming. “For us, it’s about figuring out [how to meet] the desire for more and more content than we’re currently producing.” Nickelodeon’s solution: Partnerships, whether on wholly-owned or shared content or acquisitions. These have become “far more forefront on how we deliver content,” he commented. One case to point: Nickelodeon Latin America’s has just gone into production on fantasy fiction musical “Club 57,” its first co-production with Iginio Straffi’s Rainbow Group in Italy. “We’re working with partners that five years ago we wouldn’t necessarily have,” Borkent said.
“We’re focused on building brands and franchises,” said Pitt, VP, content acquisitions & co-productions, Cartoon Network & Boomerang US.. “That’s not just about looking for new franchises and experimenting, but also staying true to brands,” and re-tooling them, she suggested, instancing “Total DramaRama.” Created by Tom McGillis and Jennifer Pertsch for Fresh TV and distributed by Cake Ent., the Canadian animated action comedy series, which bowed on Cartoon Network on Sept. 1, places the characters of “Total Drama” in an alternate universe aging them down from teens to toddlers. “It’s an important lesson: Sometimes go back, retool or reimagine the IP you have,” Pitt argued.
3.LOCALIZATION – A BOON NOT A BANE
Considering China – “a great opportunity for new collaborations,” said Edwards, head of the BBC children’s acquisitions & independent animation – discussion turned to the ever more global industry. “It is a global industry and I think in the future that will be everybody’s challenge,” said Edwards. She went on: “When everything is everywhere and there is so much content, so many platforms, how are you to stand out? Sometimes localization gives you distinctiveness. As a public service broadcaster, I think that’s going to save us.”
4.LIVE ACTION OPENING UP
For many years, the multi-camera preserve of Disney, live action is one program option with ever more opportunity, as recent successes, such as Federation Kids & Family’s “Find Me in Paris,” illustrates. “We’re testing the waters with telenovelas,” said Borkent. “Live action is opening up more, as viewers are opening up to other cultures.”
5.NEWS OF THE LONGTERM DEMISE OF THE TELLY IS SOMEWHAT EXAGERRATED
According to Nickelodeon research, 65% of kids still regard a TV set as the “easiest model” to access content, Borkent said. “Most children are watching content on TV. They love character and story. Television is a showcase for the very best of it,” said Edwards. She added: “What will happen in the future is that channels will still endure for pre-school, while older kids will search for the same content on VOD platforms and YouTube.” That of course is already a growing reality. A Eurodata TV analysis – referred to during its MipJunior overview on Saturday of new trends in kids entertainment – suggests that daily TV viewing by younger and older children in both the U.S. and U.K. has fallen by pretty much one hour in both countries over 2012-17, from over 2 hours 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes for 4-6 year-old kids in the U.K.. The future is now.