As the lucrative tween market continues to grow as a significant consumer block, programmers and buyers remain on the lookout for the latest trend and the hottest property to capture this group. The tween audience has changed in recent years, emerging into a more sophisticated and highly demanding group. KidScreen asked a number of leading television executives how they perceive this audience and what they believe is motivating the elusive tweens.
‘I think that the tween market itself is hot. As they become a bigger and bigger demographic component of the kids viewing audience, more and more broadcasters are targeting them and that core audience. And that is changing the nature of the kinds of offerings that we have. We have a much more diversified plate.
‘When you look at the baby boomers, the age of their kids and the large number of tweens, [tweens are] essentially an echo of the baby boomers.’
Michael Hirsh, chairman, Nelvana, Canada
‘Our strategy is to reflect the intelligence of that age group a little more than has been done in the past. . . . They are looking for content and not just style. [Five years ago], it was all simply style and fast cutting and ‘We think you know what you’re looking for; you have no attention span so here is some eye candy.’ It has changed.
‘There is too much eye clutter for that age group. So we are going to slow it down a little and start telling some stories. There aren’t that many shows out there that are reflecting that.’
Norman Grossfelt, president, 4Kids Entertainment, U.S.
‘The tween market is looking for more animation. We follow the leaders in the market who have developed more sophisticated programs [for that market]. My view is that technology has allowed animation to come to life and [has brought] a live-action feel to the animation.’
Vincenzo Mosca, head of television and video sales worldwide, Sacis, Italy
‘What is important to us is that it is contemporary from the kids’ perspective, a bit quirky, a bit funny, and a little bit odd. It d’esn’t talk down to the kids.
‘On the animation side, there are quite a few programs around, but there is a real void in the live-action side. . . . It is very difficult to buy a live-action series that has an 11-year-old lead character in it; not a lot of people are making that stuff. There definitely is a gap in the market.’
Howard Litton, head of programming and acquisitions, Nickelodeon UK
‘[The tween market] has developed into a very healthy market and a distinct market. . . . The dynamic of the market is changing so that there is a healthy market there and that it is attracting a good portion of the demo that is available. I think that the audience is starting to be well served.
‘They are looking at more sophisticated stories, and it has meant that the animated segment has had a much broader appeal in terms of its reach for an audience. . . .
‘Access to sophisticated equipment is going to be much easier and much cheaper [in the future]. It’s going to lend itself to the fact that you can do live-action material that was only available to animated subjects in the past. That to me is very exciting. The more varied you make the programs, the greater your chance of finding success.’
vice president, programming and acquisitions, USA Networks International, U.S.
‘It is a very difficult age group to capture. What you really need are very high production values, lots of pace, a lot of entertainment, and substance to go along with it. [The programs need to] have an attitude about them that is rather irreverent and value and substance that matter to that age group.’
John Ford, senior vice president of programming, The Learning Channel, U.S.
‘I think that live-action programming is hot. By the time kids hit nine, 10 or 11, they start moving out of animation and much more into live-action programming. Live-action programming is always appealing.
‘Generally, programming that [d'es well includes] story-driven concepts, game shows, action/adventure and sitcom/soaps. What’s motivating is that it is potentially a very lucrative advertising market and it is a very difficult market to reach. So if you can produce programming that reaches that market, there is a potential goldmine in the form of advertising for the broadcaster. Broadcasters are realizing that this is a very attractive market to try to get.’
Brian Lacey, president, Lacey Entertainment, U.S.
‘What’s hot in the tween market seems to be anything horrific, whether it be a series or anthology drama where there is some jeopardy, some schtick, some humor, some off-center comedic elements, some drama. [These elements] translate very well across borders. Kids want to be entertained; they want to be scared in a non-threatening way. They’re looking for schlockerama. Maximum weirdness without any personal jeopardy or gratuitous violence. Good production values, good story, good script, good acting with a quirky ending.
‘I think that genre is very popular. There is a preponderance of semi-horrific-what I call light drama, as opposed to the heavy stuff. Why d’es it work? I think that kids, regardless of borders, are attracted to the same thing. It is beyond the six- to nine-year-old [type of] humor and into more sophisticated story and plot line. Kids are compelled to watch this stuff.’
Dale Taylor, vice president of programming and production, YTV, Canada