Benoit Runel took the reins as executive director of programming and acquisition for all 30 Fox Kids channels in Europe early last month. Runel is pumping a substantial chunk of the budget into acquisitions targeting the six to 11 set and plans to expand the net’s girl-targeted block into new regions.
‘In order to be competitive, we want to infuse channels with freshness and modern programming,’ Runel says. The percentage of the budget earmarked for acquisitions depends on the region, according to Runel, but ranges between 20% and 60%. ‘On a pan-European basis, we’ll buy 100 to 200 episodes.’
Fox Kids Europe considers regional differences and treats each country separately, rather than applying a general brush-stroke policy across all markets, and each country also acquires its own programming. Runel, for example, is looking for more 11-minute series for the U.K. to balance out the number of 26-minute shows airing in that region. In Holland, regional productions like the live-action Sinter Klass helped to boost the channel’s market share this year. ‘It’s a very weird and funny show,’ Runel says, ‘and it’s performing almost as well as Pokémon.’
The channel will also start to export other regional-based successes, like its girl-targeted Boys Forbidden block, which began in Holland and France in 1998. The one- to one-and-a-half-hour block, comprised of three to four half hours of programming, airs girl toons like Princess Sissi, Happiness and the recently acquired Stella and Jewel Riders. ‘Mattel and Lego are specifically requesting to be on the Boys Forbidden block,’ Runel says, adding that he plans to expand the block into all Fox Kids Europe regions this year.
Fox Kids Europe currently reaches 16 million households in Europe. It took a 24.2% market share average on the CanalSatellite platform in France for ages four to 10, where it rated as the number one channel. It ranks behind Teletoon in France nationally as the number two kids channel and in Holland, its market share jumped from 16% to 22% this year.
Runel moves into this new position from his previous post as deputy general manager and programming director at Fox Kids France, where he was instrumental in the channel launch. Prior to that, he worked for three years at France’s TF1, where he oversaw acquisitions in the children’s department.