LONDON: U.K.-based producer/broadcaster Granada Media (GM) has earmarked up to US$400,000 for the development of new children’s properties. Although the fund is intended to stimulate production right across the kids genre, GM’s head of children’s programs Stephen Andrew has made live action for eight- to 12-year-olds a priority.
‘We have put a lot of effort into live action for the last eight months, and expect to keep that up in 1999. In particular, I’d like us to come up with comedy dramas that can compete with shows like Keenan & Kel and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.’
Andrew’s emphasis on comedy ties in neatly with the mandate of ITV kids (CITV) controller Nigel Pickard, who is the main buyer of GM’s kids shows. Pickard has just commissioned three comedy dramas from GM Kids, including live-action series Big Meg, Little Meg, zany puppet series Rabbit in a Hole and an as-yet-undisclosed project. CITV has also commissioned the factual show Jungle Run from Granada.
Although ITV is Granada’s main source of commissions, Andrew is keen to produce live-action shows that appeal to the international market. ‘It is difficult to find stuff that works for both markets,’ he admits, ‘but we have done a lot of research into what does work internationally.’
The company is also increasingly asking itself if it is possible to find the right project and finance it without ITV. ‘To this end, Granada is looking for strategic partners who share our sensibilities and can help us fund high quality shows. There is no point in trying to make shows on the cheap,’says Andrew.
Currently, Granada has a development deal with Nickelodeon UK, and has been talking to Disney in the U.S. about producing a family movie. It is also discussing a feature-length co-production with ITV and Showtime.
With the U.K. kids production market getting so competitive, Andrew is aware of the need to establish a distinctive niche for GM. ‘The appetite for live action in the U.K. is definitely coming back. But the market is so cluttered, we are hoping to distinguish ourselves with shows that are offbeat. We want to make high-quality stories that are weird and funny, but empower and stimulate children.’