Since the December 15, 2000 launch of TiJi, Canal J’s new off-shoot channel for the two to seven set, France’s dedicated kids channels and networks have been carefully tracking its performance. Even though most French channels don’t exclusively target preschoolers (largely because the zero to four demo isn’t measured in national TV ratings), they all offer early-morning fare for toddlers, and pundits see more tot channel launches in the cards.
Animation channel Teletoon plans to launch a new preschool channel called Mini-Toon, but so far no launch date has been set. ‘I think there is a great probability that most of the French channels will launch two, three or four offspring channels in the near future to diversify their brand and products,’ says Teletoon GM Francois Deplanck.
Although he doesn’t see TiJi posing an immediate threat, Deplanck is wary of the preschool channel’s dependence on acquisitions. ‘We have no common subscribers, but where TiJi could definitely bother us is in the acquisition of series rights, since we broadcast 20 preschool hours each week.’
Though his channel focuses more on the six to 12 demo, Andre de Semlyen, head of Cartoon Network France, is the only French caster that sees TiJi as a competitor. ‘TiJi covers almost the same satellite market as Cartoon Network on the CanalSatellite platform. It’s obviously a competitor as our preschool morning slots (8:35 a.m. to 11 a.m.) try to attract the four to six demo. However, it’s too early to measure TiJi’s impact and whether or not we will need to alter our morning programming.’
Eve Baron, Canal J’s former head of programming and schedules and who’s currently in charge of public terrestrial network France 3′s youth department, says ‘I don’t consider TiJi a direct competitor. At France 3, we’re responding to ratings results by focusing on the four to 12 demo rather than preschool right now.’
The rumor mill has Disney pegged to launch a tot channel sometime this year, but The Mouse wouldn’t comment at press time. PPL