Freshly ensconced in her new position as president of the Jim Henson Television Group, Margaret Loesch, the former head of Fox Kids Worldwide, is looking forward to putting her stamp on the enterprise as she attempts to grow it from a ‘vulnerable little company’ into a globally significant family entertainment business.
At Henson, Loesch is responsible for all current and future television programming opportunities, including all television development, production and distribution, both domestically and internationally; domestic and international program acquisitions; worldwide video; and the creation of a new family-oriented cable channel.
Acknowledging that the cable channel component of her mandate has been widely talked about since her appointment was announced in February, Loesch says getting it off the ground is one of her first priorities.
Refusing to speculate as to when the channel will actually launch, Loesch says the initiative is intended to ‘recapture’ the family market and extend the Jim Henson brand globally. She explains that with such shows in its library as Sesame Street, Muppet Babies and Bear in the Big Blue House, many people have come to think of Henson as a company that primarily produces programs for young children. It’s a perception she’d like to see change.
‘We feel that we’re a company that appeals to the whole family,’ she says. ‘[Launching the cable channel] is going to recapture the broad appeal of the company and will help to ensure that we have product that represents that wide interest.’
Admitting that ‘there doesn’t appear to be room’ for another family-oriented cable channel on the spectrum, Loesch thinks Henson can do better than some existing channels, which she wouldn’t name. She does suggest, however, that Henson may develop a partnership with an existing cable concern. ‘There are a couple of different ways for us to go,’ she states.
‘Ultimately, I think my job is to make sure that we’re making as many good Henson shows as we can and getting them seen by as many families across the world as possible. A cable channel is simply a component of the overall business we want to be in.’
Loesch says she hopes to attract some new writers to Jim Henson Television with experience in both kids and prime-time shows ‘to provide some more diversity in the talent pool.’ She’s hoping to have two ‘really good’ family shows on in prime-time television ‘to round out the great work the company is doing in kids programming.’
Other ventures Loesch is concentrating on include building a direct-to-video business through a distribution deal with Sony, attracting partners with which to do international co-productions, and moving Jim Henson Television into some animation projects.
Loesch freely admits that her choice to join Henson instead of Warner Bros., where she had been offered the helm of Kids’ WB!, was ‘by far the hardest decision of my career.’ Yet, she says, she felt a strong personal need to lay the groundwork for the growth of a relatively small and independent organization like Jim Henson Television.
‘I didn’t take the challenge lightly when I decided to come [to Henson] instead of going to Warner Bros.,’ she offers. ‘The Warner Bros. opportunity was very seductive, because I love that company, I like the people there, and I loved being at a network, but I also personally love to build things and this is a great company in which to do just that.’