Given the kid channel proliferation evidenced by the recent expansion of the U.K. kid channel universe to include two new children’s digital channels from the Beeb and three from Disney, as well as L.A.-based Showtime Network’s intention to launch a new family channel and a teen channel in the U.S. in February 2001, it’s really no surprise that this year’s MIPCOM shaped up to be a seller’s dream.
Summing up the market mien from the sales side succinctly, Robby London, DIC Entertainment’s executive VP of creative affairs, reported having the strongest sales of kids fare in five years, adding that many European terrestrial casters seemed more willing this year to give up the exclusivity goat and offer windows to cable channels in their regions. Nan Kelly, marketing manager for The Australian Children’s Television Fund, also had a good sales market, but disagreed with London’s view on channels playing nice, saying that terrestrials seem to be digging in their heels about exclusive show rights more often.
From the buyer’s perspective, the BBC’s head of children’s acquisitions and co-production Theresa Plummer Andrews noted that there wasn’t much that was ‘unexpected or new,’ adding that the market is still flooded with too much unoriginal animation when buyers are starving for live-action offerings.
Keying into that market need, Toronto’s Sullivan Entertainment is gearing up for some heavy live-action development activity starting with a 13 x half-hour kids and family drama called Camp Have Not, which is about a teen troublemaker who takes a job as a counsellor at a camp for young delinquents. In the works for YTV’s new Limbo teen block is Pennington, a 13 x half-hour comedy drama about a musically gifted teenager who’s happier playing practical jokes than composing symphonies. Sullivan is also in discussions with Canadian pubcaster the CBC to co-produce DaVinci and Me, a live-action and 2-D animated series about an unlikely friendship between an eight-year-old boy and a school janitor who claims to be a descendant of Leonardo DaVinci. The two embark on a different topic-specific quest for knowledge in each of 13 half-hour episodes. The prodco did well at MIPCOM with another live-action/2-D hybrid; Super Rupert was picked up by both YTV in Canada and the BBC. On the licensing front, Sullivan has just launched a licensing campaign around Anne: The Animated Series, with HarperCollins doing books in the U.S. and Eden doing high-end toys and plush.
Seemingly not bothered by the overabundance of toons at MIPCOM, Nelvana and RTV have inked a deal to create and distribute more than three 26 x half-hour animated series a year, as well as acquiring more of each other’s programming for distribution in their respective territories. This new agreement builds on one signed last December, which saw the two companies agree to produce two toons a year, while RTV picked up TV, video/DVD and merch rights for 24 Nelvana series a year. RTV member of the board Peter Hille says his company’s production and co-production output for 2000 will extend to 15 series (26 x half-hour), up from eight last year.
Toon Factory has teamed with Canada’s Vivatoon and France’s Neuroplanet in a double series deal that kicks off with the production of a 52 x 13-minute animated series called How to Care For Your Monster. Slated for delivery to French broadcaster TF1 in spring 2002, the series targets the six to 10 demo and is based on a kids book by Clifford author Norman Bidwell. With a budget of roughly US$300,000 per half hour, How to Care For Your Monster stars a savvy kid who gives advice on monster upkeep to all the kids in his neighborhood.
The three partners are still looking for a French caster for Theodric The Quest, a 26 x half-hour action-adventure show that’s structured like a magic-centric video game. Hero Theodric goes on a quest to find his destiny and must collect a magic key in each episode to vanquish villain Aarkhostron. Theodric has a slightly higher budget of around US$350,000 per ep and targets an older eight to 14 age group.
Stepping up its commitment to interactive development, Fox Kids Europe has inked a five-year deal with Paris-based video game developer Kalisto Entertainment. The companies plan to create interactive franchises-spanning media like vid games for consoles and PCs, on-line games (narrowband and broadband) and mobile phone games-based on original property concepts as well as on FKE’s lineup of TV characters. The ultimate goal will be to build enough consumer interest in these original digital properties to warrant the creation of TV series and merch campaigns around them. The first game to come out of the deal is slated to roll out by Christmas 2001.
DIC is undergoing some pretty substantial reorganization this month in preparation for buying itself back from The Walt Disney Company. DIC president Andy Heyward is currently raising funds to purchase the studio’s facilities and name from the Mouse House, which scored DIC as part of its purchase of ABC. Disney will retain DIC’s film library, primarily for use on its cable outlet Toon Disney and for home video sales. To reestablish its status as a global player, DIC has hired Melissa Bomes as executive VP of worldwide consumer products, as well as naming long-time kids biz veteran Patricia Ryan as executive VP of international sales and Dan Waite as VP of international sales.