After leaving her head of programming post at dedicated kids channel Canal J to join France 3 as head of the channel’s youth department in January, Eve Baron is jumping into her new gig by giving France 3′s morning preschool block a makeover and launching a live-action block for the six to 11 set.
Borrowing from Les Minikeums, France 3′s successful puppet-hosted afternoon block for six- to 12-year-olds, Baron debuted the tot-targeted Les Zamikeums on May 2. Hosted by a crew of 10 animal puppets created by Anabase-Expand, the preschool block now intersperses interstitial learning sketches featuring these characters with continuing series like Pingu, Little Bear and Beardless the Pirate, as well as the addition of Hilltop Hospital and a new season of Papa Beaver Stories this September. ‘When kids are watching TV, they want to be able to tell quickly what type of shows are airing,’ says Baron. ‘Preschool programs used to be lumped into the older-skewing Minikeums format, so we launched Les Zamikeums to make the preschool shows more clearly stand out.’ Previously airing on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, the revamped block’s frequency has been upped to include Wednesday and weekend mornings.
Cosmetic work aside, Baron is also planning to make some changes to the channel’s kid content. At 1,400 hours a year, France 3 devotes quite a lot of its overall schedule (around 19%) to programming for the four to 10 demo, 95% of which is animation. Baron is aiming to diversify the France 3 children’s lineup and catch older kid eyeballs with the September or October launch of a daily live-action block that will be broadcast as part of the Minikeums afternoon block. ‘The infiltration of dedicated children’s channels worldwide has generated a renewal of live-action programs geared to this age group,’ says Baron, who will initially rely on acquisitions to fill the block.
As for animation, France 3 is still developing children’s book classics into TV series, but the channel will also delve into new genres like comedies, parodies and magazines that chart extraordinary things happening to ordinary kids.
Devoting US$16 million of its US$24-million channel budget to co-productions (47% of which are initiated by French producers),14 co-pros are currently in various stages of development and production for 2000, and Baron has signed script development agreements on four new projects, including Children of Fire, a 26 x 26-minute In Fine Film series on prehistoric life, and Children’s Great Texts, a co-pro between Storimages and Les Films de l’Arlequin that will adapt well-known children’s fables and stories for the tube.
France 3 has also recently signed a multiyear output deal with Nelvana that covers six acquisitions and five co-pros each year, including new series Pelswick and Brace Face.