Buyer Valeri Manera says RTI-RETI Televisive Italiane’s acquisition of the Pippi Longstocking animated series typifies the network’s strategy of filling a good number of its kids slots with book-based properties. Recent acquisitions in this category include The Secret Garden, Little Lord Cedrick, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Jungle Book and Robin Hood.
Manera, who’s been the kids buyer at RTI-RETI Televisive Italiane for 18 years, buys a weekly total of 42 hours of kids programming that are shared by three of the company’s stations in Italy, namely RETE Quatro, Italia Uno and Channel 5. Manera says the channel trio reaches an audience of one million viewers, 10% to 15% of whom are children, and that approximately one-tenth of the programming aired targets kids and/or teens. A majority of its kids slate is acquired from producers outside Italy, as in the case of Pippi Longstocking, which targets kids six to 11, and is a co-production between Canada’s Nelvana, Germany’s Kirch Group (parent company of Idunafilm, Betafilm and Taurus) and Trickompany Filmproducktions, and Ab Svensk-Filmindustri in Sweden.
The pick-up was handled by Betafilm exec Eric Welberg, and as to the price tag, according to Manera, the network limits kids buys to properties that can be obtained for a standard license fee.
The integrity of the Pippi Longstocking series to the classic book property was a major draw. Indeed, the animated show and the August 1997 feature film were OK’d by original author Astrid Lindgren, through her relationship with Sweden’s Svensk Filmindustri. The 89-year-old author retains script approval rights.
Although the book series began in 1945, Manera was attracted to the show’s contemporary feel. Although she leans heavily towards pre-existing characters, Manera’s kids strategy is open-minded. ‘We look at everything on the market, and we have chosen products that are very different, from Smurfs to Power Rangers. Our main concern is things that may cause problems for kids,’ she notes, adding that her company tests products with kid experts, psychotherapists and teachers before they’re acquired. The group has rejected some unsuitable kids products, the anonymity of which Manera preserves.