Media savvy and sophisticated. That’s what Australian programming executives want distributors to remember about kids in the land Down Under.
‘We have one of the most evolved markets for both adult and children’s programming,’ says Donna Andrews, director of programming at Nickelodeon Australia. ‘The kids shows here that do well have intelligent storylines and high-quality production, be it animation or live action.’
Of the three terrestrial networks and two public stations, four of them buy foreign children’s programming. Federal government regulations require that they air at least five hours a week of locally produced Australian children’s shows, and the three networks also have output deals for foreign programs with entertainment companies such as DreamWorks and Warner Bros.
Cable channels include Fox Kids, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which carry a 50/50 mix of animation and live action. They pick up both local and international productions.
‘Kids here are exposed to both North American and British shows,’ says Ross Crawley, assistant director of programming at FoxTel, Australia’s Fox Network. ‘But there are subtle differences here in comparison to other Western markets.’
Australians are staunchly opposed to violence, and kids programs that show weapons or have a military theme have little chance of making it to air.
‘In response to a massacre that occurred here, the Australian government recently offered to buy back weapons from citizens,’ says Crawley. ‘Controlling violence in society is a truly serious matter.’
Attitudes about sex and nudity, however, are more liberal than in North America. Shows like Sweet Valley High and Breaker High (both produced by Saban Entertainment and Shavick Productions), which both target 12- to 15-year-olds in North America, skew a couple of years younger in Australia. The same is true for animated programs. Preschoolers may start watching the same shows at the same age as their counterparts in North America, but as they get older, they move on to more mature programming at an earlier age.
‘Australian kids don’t want to be preached to,’ says Dave Piperni, director of sales at Toronto-based Cambium Releasing. ‘In the North American market, educational programs with a prosocial message do well, but they are not as well received Down Under.’
Like young people in other parts of the world, Australian kids love to laugh, expecially if the humor is intelligent and empowering. Rugrats (Klasky-Csupo/Nickelodeon), which runs on Nickelodeon Australia and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), is extremely popular for that reason, says Nickelodeon’s Andrews.
‘They have a wicked sense of humor here,’ she says. ‘When a program is a little twisted and edgy, it does even better. Those are the kinds of shows that we are always searching for.’
Who to pitch in
Terrestrial channels 7 and 9
Both have several hours of children’s programming a day. Depending on the time slot, daytime children’s programming targets preschoolers to preteens. The networks carry a near equal mix of animation and live action, including shows from North America, Australia and the U.K. Co-production possibilities exist with these networks.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
A government-owned network that runs high-end, quality kids programming that is targeted to preschoolers to preteens. ABC produces some of its own programs, and acquires both animation and live action from North America and the U.K. Co-production possibilities exist with this network.
Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Fox Kids
All run their signature North American productions, but they also acquire programs from Europe. Their target audiences are kids age two to 12.