When it comes to the qualities that make an animated show a hit, French terrestrial networks TF1, France 2, France 3 and M6-which initiate most of the top animated children’s television shows and characters in France-insist more on the design and personalities of characters created to host the shows than on the series themselves, which they say, above all, must be good stories.
Over the last five years, public broadcaster France 3′s daily afternoon show Les Minikeums has been topping the ratings. The program features puppets, charged with introducing animated series within the show, that appear in short sketches, and are funny, messy and finally very much like real children. Over past year, The Minikeums reached a 45.7 percent audience share on average among kids age four to 10. ‘What makes their success is that the puppets act, think [and] feel like children of that age and live with friends or in conflictual situations,’ says Bertrand Mosca, head of France 3 youth programming.
But France 3′s ratings hegemony is being challenged on Wednesday afternoons by private network M6. With its counter-programmed M6 Kid show, aired from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the channel has progressively gained market share. It jumped from an average 29.3 percent audience share in 1993 to 39.1 percent in 1997 with four- to 14-year-olds and 45.6 percent of children age four to 10. ‘The success of M6 Kid is not due to the marketing of our series or the style of animation, but to the choice of the stories. Children like sympathetic and strong characters first,’ says Natalie Altmann, head of children’s programs at M6.
At TF1, Dominique Poussier, head of children’s programming, points to Salut Les Toons, which is TF1′s early morning children’s offering. The fully animated Salut Les Toons is hosted by three funny and fresh 3-D mice: Bob, Scott and Zoé. Broadcast every day between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., Salut Les Toons is the leader in its slot. Its average audience share is 42 to 45 percent of children age four to 10. ‘Bob, Scott and Zoé have been conceived to give rhythm to the show and introduce series in a very familiar way. Because they were born out of technology, they are really fascinating children. It’s more modern than puppets,’ says Poussier.
Though not garnering the best ratings yet, public broadcaster France 2′s children’s show La Planète de Donkey Kong (DKTV), hosted by 3-D virtual monkeys playing irresistible parodies, clearly reaches a teenage audience and is regularly followed by half of 11- to 14-year-olds watching TV, which equals a 27 percent audience share. ‘The success of the show depends on a very modern design using new technologies and on trendy, funny and different series,’ says Rachel Kahn, head of youth programming at France 2.