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Fox Kids UK gets Miles ahead of the crowd

As the U.K.'s children's broadcasting market becomes increasingly crowded with new digital and cable offerings, Fox Kids UK's new managing director Annie Miles steps into this fiercely contested arena this month hoping to steal away a greater share of Britain's 9.5...
January 1, 2000

As the U.K.’s children’s broadcasting market becomes increasingly crowded with new digital and cable offerings, Fox Kids UK’s new managing director Annie Miles steps into this fiercely contested arena this month hoping to steal away a greater share of Britain’s 9.5 million kid viewers. ‘On top of the existing competition from the five regional networks, Disney, Cartoon Network, Nick and Sky One, we’ve got CBBC being offered on one of the digital platforms soon and we’ve got growing rumors that CITV will become some kind of stand-alone channel on the ONdigital platform,’ says Miles. ‘The question then becomes, `What has Fox Kids UK got that is uniquely our own that will enable us to have a special voice amongst all our rival broadcasters?”

The answer may lie in targeting the under-five crowd with a different kind of programming than most U.K. casters offer. One of Miles’s objectives is to work with the other channels in the Fox Kids Europe umbrella to develop a strand of pan-European preschool fare that focuses on the draw of entertainment rather than hard-core education. ‘I can be fairly sure that we won’t be dealing with cultural- or language-specific lessons like ABCs or 123s-series development that involves this level of learning is difficult for us because the core material changes from country to country,’ she says. ‘The strand will, of course, have a very strong moral architecture, but entertainment is at the heart of the Fox Kids brand, and our preschool stuff will reflect that.’

Coming to the channel off a two-year stint as director of animation at Granada, Miles will use her toon expertise to refine Fox Kids UK’s development slate with a focus on comedy animation. ‘Flexibility is key for a broadcaster like Fox, and comedy animation tends to be more cross-gender than storytelling animation, which often gets split into action-adventure for boys and gentle narratives for girls,’ says Miles. ‘Fox Kids stuff is visually-driven rather that script-driven, so that we can pull in a younger audience. It’s nice to have witty, punchy dialogue, but what we call scratch and squash-the knock-about stuff-is essential for picking up an under-seven audience.’

Miles is also hoping to use her extensive experience in marketing to develop a multifaceted branding campaign that will boost awareness of Fox Kids UK with British kids. ‘There is no doubt that one reason for the channel’s less-than-impressive performance has been its inability to connect with the U.K. kids audience. We’ll be taking an integrated approach-tying together elements like on-air and off-air promotion, scheduling, wrapping and interstitials-to build a relationship with our viewers.’

Miles seems particularly well-positioned to do so as she worked for ad agencies Leo Burnett and Foote, Cone & Belding in the early days of her media career before breaking into TV in 1992 as marketing director and GM of the now-defunct Flextech-owned The Children’s Channel. ‘Marketing and children’s television are actually parallel industries in a sense,’ she says. ‘Being a marketer teaches you to put aside your own prejudices and beliefs and step into the shoes of the target market you’re addressing, and that’s exactly what you have to do in kids TV. It’s the one of the few areas of television where you aren’t the audience.’

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