Having firmly established itself as a major player in the country’s expanding cable market in its first year of operation, Israel’s Noga Communications is now looking global.
The Tel Aviv-based company, which runs the Childrens Channel and the Culture and Documentary Channel, hopes to make its mark on the international scene by forming co-production partnerships to develop entertainment and educational properties that cross cultural lines.
The Childrens Channel, launched in September 1996, has become the most successful of the five local-origination cable networks in Israel, garnering a 20 percent audience share during afternoon hours. Approximately one million of Israel’s 1.4 million TV households are wired for cable.
The channel, which airs 10 hours a day, produces over 500 hours of original programming and acquires over 1,100 additional hours from distributors including Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., Disney, Canal+ and Saban. Original production emphasizes socially responsible programming covering topics such as values, tolerance, the environment, safety and health and fitness.
‘We realized from the beginning that it wasn’t so difficult to get the children, it’s more difficult to get the parents,’ says Ehud Miron, director general of Noga Communications. ‘In order to lessen objections from parents, we made the channel very educational.’ And to grab the kids, hip, fun, twenty-something on-air hosts were put in place.
Miron is hoping to duplicate that success with an international co-production package called ‘Noga’s Friends,’ substituting animated hosts for their live-action counterparts. Miron terms ‘Noga’s Friends’ as a ‘programmer’s toolbox,’ a flexible programming block that independent children’s channels can use as they see fit to create a local identity and establish brand recognition in the face of looming international expansion.
‘The challenge of any independent producer in the children’s area is [figuring out] how to prepare yourself for the American avalanche,’ he says. ‘How do you use the American marketing tools, and still inject your values, culture and attitudes into shows?’
As Noga begins its second year of operation, it hopes to engage its audience by expanding The Childrens Channel across a variety of media platforms, such as monthly magazines and kids clubs. With the impending arrival of new delivery services like direct-broadcast satellite, and the wave of international channels that brings with it, the company wants to firmly establish the network’s identity in the face of potential new competition.