This issue, KidScreen’s MIPCOM report looks at the increasing use of the web as a TV development tool, by both networks and producers. The upside for network development execs is the unfiltered real-time audience feedback they can glean from webisodes, and the speed with which they can test out the subsequent tinkering and retooling based on on-line reaction. The upside for producers also touches on the speed and economic benefits of on-line demos over pilots, and the chance to reap some viewer kudos as ammo to woo programmers. Overall it’s cheaper, faster, less prone to skewed alphakid focus group domination and offers wider access to net development execs. Where could there be a downside in this?
The downside-spotted through surfing kid on-line options-is that outside of games and on-line comics, a whole lot of material out there doesn’t really make the most of the web’s interactivity. With many kid entertainment gurus focusing their on-line efforts on something that will readily transfer to TV (or that is an on-line offshoot of existing TV properties), it stands to reason that the most important aspects of the property are not reliant on interactivity. For the most part, if the endgame is passive TV pick-up, you don’t really capitalize on the platform’s potential.
The traditional development model is translating other media, or creating something new. If the original iteration of a property is not designed solely for the media it launches in, it starts off with strikes against successful breakthrough. If the on-line version is based on a pre-existing property, as with any other translation, you have to add elements that capitalize on the potential of the platform you’re developing for, or else you have a `why bother?’ scenario for fans. As the models for successful kid webisodic formats are still in their infancy, material needs to be very well sussed out and adventurous to draw a crowd on-line. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of material out there that is about as exciting as an on-line poster. You can’t do a property justice if you’re restricted by what the brand does in other media, and to draw a web following you need to do things that aren’t possible in other media. It takes totally out-of-the-bag thinking, like the Gobler Toys boys and their zany hoax site, to cause a buzz and thereby birth a brand on-line (see ‘Gobler Toys make it up on the web,’ page 52).
That said, given the full-blown assault everyone is making in on-line kids entertainment, this issue KidScreen is launching a column to track the new offerings, so check out Webisodes, as the Net turns (page 50) for your monthly webtoondex update. As well this issue, dial into the 411 on the smallest, smartest platform for piping entertainment to kids: Their cell phones (‘Will cell sell?’ page 44).
Other programming trends duly noted in the MIPCOM coverage is the new and improved approach toycos are taking to production (see ‘Toycos play around with a new production role,’ page 100 and ‘Viewpoint: Toy companies are from Mars, producers are from Venus,’ page 116).
Other growth areas being capitalized on are the pop licensing biz and reality programming. In this month’s retail section, we look at the explosive growth and the sophistication of the music merch sector (see ‘Tween and teen pop products-music to retailers’ ears,’ page 78). And while Brits have been glued to their docusoaps for years, the fact that the rest of the world took longer to clue into the format means that the current global craze for reality is just hitting high stride with new entries sweeping through kids skeds. For what’s coming down the TV verité pipeline for kids, click to ‘Kids reality fare delivers the goods,’ page 21.