Gearing up to both play host to Cartoon Forum and celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, S4C International has launched The Children’s Strategy Group, a US$7-million initiative designed to foster co-production efforts and trigger more than US$17 million in kids programming over the next two years.
The move marks an effort to strengthen the kids lineup of the group’s broadcasting entity S4C. Over the years, the channel has built up and maintained a small viewership that appreciates the fact that 30% of the net’s schedule is aired in Welsh. However, S4C has never really been a force to be reckoned with in children’s programming–particularly since most Welsh homes also have access to the full dial of 23 U.K. channels that carry kids fare. S4C’s reputation lies instead in docs, news, sports and drama.
Currently, the channel’s Planed Planet kids block airs shows like Superted, Fireman Sam and Star Hill Ponies daily from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The channel plans to start the evening block a half hour earlier beginning sometime next year, and S4C International managing director Wyn Innes says that the length of the kids block could grow further to accommodate any new programming that comes out of the Strategy Group initiative.
To help hunt for projects to run through the new program, S4C has tapped Anna Home, the former head of CBBC who is credited with discovering the Teletubbies, to chair the group along with Meirion Davis, S4C’s commissioning editor of children’s programming, and Chris Grace, S4C’s director of animation. The trio will initially be scouting for a multimedia preschool concept that has strong merdandise potential–possibly from book circles. S4C plans to position this as its signature kids show, and will hang onto international distribution rights.
The company would like to have two to four other series in the works, and animated pitches will be high on the priority list so that the Welsh entity will have a strong showing at next year’s Cartoon Forum.