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Opinion: A view from Europe: Children’s programming trends hard to find

Even though a considerable number of international markets and trade shows have already taken place this year, it seems rather difficult to define a real trend in children's programming....
October 1, 1997

Even though a considerable number of international markets and trade shows have already taken place this year, it seems rather difficult to define a real trend in children’s programming.

Trendsetting shows comparable to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman or Power Rangers haven’t risen to the top, nor is any other kind of program influencing the production market. The demand for preschool programming, which was very high for some time, also seems to have reached the saturation point.

In addition, technological improvements, such as 3-D animation or fully computerized animated series, certainly mark the beginning of a new era in producing by reducing production costs and accelerating the process. Nevertheless, it is not the technique, but plot and its characters that seem ready to create the new trend. The success of Toy Story was not due to the fact that it was fully computerized. Anyone who watched the film will agree that the fascination over the technique of the film was forgotten about 10 minutes into the story.

Program buyers throughout Europe are, more than ever, looking for programs with strong content. Besides high technical standards, which are taken for granted nowadays, the design and characters should be able to be internationally accepted without being cold and anonymous. International productions, in most cases, demand that this be taken into consideration.

One remarkable trend, though, is the worldwide growing number of children’s broadcast outlets. The question is whether this large portfolio is matched by an adequate demand in terms of viewers. In Europe, a new children’s channel is established every month. With the start of digital television, even more kids channels will evolve.

This growing number of children’s programs will make it extremely difficult to successfully promote a single program. Therefore, some channels are combining their children’s programs in program blocks, such as ‘The Disney Club’ or ‘Tabaluga Tivi,’ in which animated real-life series are combined with studio games, short documentaries and interactive show elements. These branded program blocks offer new possibilities for promotions and events that single programs nowadays cannot provide.

Florian Haffa is a member of the board of EM.TV & Merchandising AG (formerly EM-Entertainment), a Munich-based diversified communications company.

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