The second biggest thematic channel in France in terms of subscribing households (over 2.3 million), dedicated children’s channel Canal J, with all-genres programming aimed at children ages three to 14, is nevertheless faced with hard competition.
Besides very involved terrestrial networks such as TF1 and France 3, cable and satellite competition has increased in the last two years with the arrival of five new children and family channels that mainly broadcast animation (Teletoon, Disney Channel, Fox Kids, AB Cartoons and Cartoon Network). To consolidate its position, its brand and to maintain independence through TV rights exclusivities for the French territory, Canal J, which has always been a minority co-producer is annually engaging in the co-production of a few international series as the only Gallic broadcast partner.
Backed by a programming budget that has been raised by 30% for 1998/99 to US$15.3 million, Canal J will invest at least 25% of its global co-production budget in the first four series concerned, which are currently in production. Two are produced by Paris-based Millimages: Archibald the Koala, a 26 x 13-minute (US$3.6 million), HIT-distributed series aimed at children five to eight that was inspired by books by French artist Paul Cox featuring a cool Koala detective who solves mysteries on his island; 64 Zoo Lane is a 26 x 13-minute preschool series (US$3.2 million) developed with Itel, which features the relationships between young Lucy and her strange neighbors, the residents of the zoo.
Other Canal J exclusives include the Montreal-based Cinar and Paris-based Alphanim co-production Animal Crackers, a 52 x 26-minute comedy (US$9 million) set to air in January, and T’Choupi a 52 x 5-minute, US$2.2-million preschool series in production that tells the story of a wee penguin’s life. Co-producers include Paris-based Les Armateurs, Nathan Editions publishing company, Belgium’s Symax service company, itsy bitsy Entertainment and VIP, a Paris-based licensing and merchandising company that’s entering into animated co-production for the first time. VIP plans to co-produce one or two such series a year, in an attempt to get a leg up in the increasingly crowded kids market.