New programming laws in Italy require RAI to fill its children’s blocks with domestic animation, but pick-ups are still going strong at the pubcaster, thanks to the addition of kids blocks to two RAI channels that previously had none. Paola De Benedetti, long-time deputy director and current consultant to Cecilia Valmarana, film and fiction acquisitions says: ‘At this moment, all three channels of RAI are putting on children’s programming.’ She adds that RAI launched on Italy’s pay TV (TELE+) with a satellite channel devoted exclusively to children’s programming on July 1.
RAI’s newly boosted kids blocks will compete with Italia Uno (RAI’s head-to-head competitor in kids on weekday afternoons) and secondary rival Mediaset. Italia Uno’s fees are reported to be higher than RAI’s. De Benedetti notes that ‘they have much more advertising than we do.’ In total audience share, Mediaset is nearly tied with all three RAI channels combined, whereas Italia Uno has about half the total audience of RAI 1.
Of the three channels, family channel
RAI 1 has the most children’s programming and substantially more hours than Italia Uno. RAI 2 is an eclectic entertainment channel programming to adults and kids during different dayparts, providing popular programming from Italy and around the world. RAI 3 is the only channel that contains no advertising, focusing on cultural and political programs, with an emphasis on local news.
Over the next two years, De Benedetti says kids acquisitions will stem the lag time necessary for the commissioned domestic product to be produced. Pick-ups are generally acquired for four to five years with unlimited runs, so that repetition can spur increased merchandising potential. While outside agencies handle merchandising, RAI receives a small percentage of the revenue from licensing and merchandising.
With the new schedule, RAI 1 will continue to target kids six to 12 Monday through Saturday afternoons, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Freshening its slate for older kids-especially those in the 12 to 13 age bracket-RAI 1 has snapped up live-action hits including Scholastic’s Animorphs, Cinar’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Saban’s Addams Family. RAI 1′s long-standing output deal with Disney remains, providing animated features for prime time and Disney toons for a Saturday time slot.
In July, RAI 2 added kids blocks in the morning from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. The blocks include a hit show brought over from RAI 1, Albero Azzurro, targeting kids three to five with a different educational topic each week. Tom & Jerry and other animated cartoons fill the remainder of RAI 2′s children’s slate.
New preschool blocks that launched on RAI 3 on January 8 of this year include an hour-long weekday strip at 3 p.m. RAI 3 kids acquisitions are frequently educational, such as the pick-up of Teletubbies, which will air this fall. ‘It’s a very important program, and we expect great success [with it],’ De Benedetti notes. Prime-time animation is newly fertile ground for acquisitions and co-productions. RAI 3 recently increased its episode order for two series from Spain’s BRB-Bruno Bocetto and The Spaghetti Family-both family-oriented animation series. ‘We currently do not have family programming that is animation,’ De Benedetti notes. ‘This is a first attempt.’