Spanish casters and prodcos fight for a shrinking kids audience

According to United Nations figures released last year, Spain's birthrate is among the world's lowest, plummeting to 1.1 births per woman--well below the 2.1 rate needed for a population to regenerate itself. Responding to this demographic shift, every terrestrial except TVE's La 2 has axed its Monday to Friday lunchtime kids slot in recent years, and both Telecinco and Canal+ have gone one step further by canceling their weekday morning children's lineups. To fill the gap, Spain's commercial nets are coming on strong, offering Spanish kids the opportunity to reclaim their own programming.
October 1, 2001

According to United Nations figures released last year, Spain’s birthrate is among the world’s lowest, plummeting to 1.1 births per woman–well below the 2.1 rate needed for a population to regenerate itself. Responding to this demographic shift, every terrestrial except TVE’s La 2 has axed its Monday to Friday lunchtime kids slot in recent years, and both Telecinco and Canal+ have gone one step further by canceling their weekday morning children’s lineups. To fill the gap, Spain’s commercial nets are coming on strong, offering Spanish kids the opportunity to reclaim their own programming.

But even with dedicated kidnets popping up all over the dial (most recently, Canal Megatrix in April 2000 and Nickelodeon Spain in March 1999), there is still not enough real competition to faze terrestrials–or prod them into changing their programming strategies. According to August 2001 stats from Spanish ratings organization Sofres, the total general marketshare for commercial nets rested at 7.7%, in stark contrast to terrestrials TVE (32%), Antena 3 (21.4%) and Telecinco (19.8%).

Although maintaining the status quo appears to be the current modus operandi of Spanish terrestrials, commercial encroachment is beginning to sound some alarm bells. ‘Satellite and pay-TV channels will eventually be superior to terrestrials, and the time will come when they will dominate,’ says Jose Luis Roncal, director of acquisitions for TVE.

While the pseudo-competitive environment seems to have little effect on programming strategies, it is changing the broadcast landscape in Spain, as acquisitions budgets have continued to grow between 20% and 35% in the last two to four years, due in part to a dollar upswing and the higher prices resulting from heavy competition among newer commerical nets to snag the best kids programs.

Even so, increasing budgets do not necessarily translate into higher revenues. ‘The leading broadcasters have enough advertising income to offset rising costs, but those with less ad revenue run into problems,’ says Roncal. ‘The satellite channels that run on subscriptions can’t raise their rates because competition is so strong. This is a dangerous situation, with the possibility that some broadcasters might fall.’

The school year remains an important factor in scheduling. Spanish casters ramp up their kids fare for three months in the summer, one week in Easter and two weeks at Christmas. And since most Spanish kids have lunch at home from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., casters have a unique, built-in weekday window with which to reach kids.

With The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones looming on feature film horizons, science fiction and fantasy are pegged to lead the way in helping Spanish kidcasters solve the connection conundrum. ‘The [impending] success of the Harry Potter movie will open the door to magic and spells,’ predicts Tony Gratacos, program director for Disney Channel Spain.

The casters

Canal+ Spain

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Canal+ is a pay-TV channel that regularly airs a total of four hours of kids programming on the weekend in its Pim, Pam, Plus block from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The net adds a daily summer sked running from 9:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. in July and August.

Contact: Maria de los Llanos Munoz, children’s programming coordinator,

MIPCOM shopping list: Not looking for any kids programming; the schedule is full for the next couple of years.

Hottest kids series: X-Men, The Zeta Project, Jackie Chan Adventures, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot

Reaching between 50,000 and 100,000 kids, Canal+ targets four- to 12-year-olds and nets a 3.5% kids marketshare on average. With no production facilities of its own, Canal+ acquires all of its kids fare (82% animation and 18% live action). The channel recently added animated films to its children’s lineup on holidays, and would like to begin running live-action movies as well. Canal+ has exclusive output deals with several major studios and prodcos such as Warner Bros. and Columbia TriStar, so it is not open to pitches at present.

Antena 3 Television and Canal Megatrix

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Antena 3 is a 24-hour terrestrial channel, while Canal Megatrix is a dedicated kids pay-TV channel that started broadcasting in April 2000 on the Via Digital satellite platform.

Contact: Elena Vaquero, acquisition executive,

MIPCOM shopping list: Megatrix S.A.U., which manages the Club Megatrix lineup, is seeking innovative and entertaining series with a touch of intelligent humor and a little bit of edge. Unique formats and interactive content also top the list.

Hottest kids series: The Wild Thornberrys, Three Friends & Jerry, Dragon Ball Z, Generation 0!

Targeting kids eight to 12, Antena 3 broadcasts 18 hours of Megatrix-branded children’s programming per week (from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. weekdays, and from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekends). It licenses this lineup from independent producer Megatrix S.A.U. as part of an exclusive deal signed last year.

With a 39.1% marketshare of the four to 12 demo in July, Megatrix is the most seen terrestrial kids block in Spain. Antena 3 is not open to kids pitches as Megatrix S.A.U. is responsible for acquiring and producing all of its kids fare. Megatrix S.A.U. productions make up approximately 23% of the Antena 3 kid sked, with the other 77% consisting of acquisitions and co-productions from international markets.

Also owned by Megatrix S.A.U., Canal Megatrix broadcasts to 600,000 households daily from 7 a.m. to midnight, targeting kids up to age 16 and claiming more than a million kid club members. The channel is financed by subscriptions and advertising, and is open to international pitches.

Canal Club Super 3 and Canal Buzz

Location: Barcelona

Channel description: Owned by Spanish broadcasting conglomerate Media Park, Canal Club Super 3 and Canal Buzz share the same frequency on the Via Digital satellite and cable platforms, but they air on separate channels terrestrially.

Contact: Gerard Hausmann, Canal Club Super 3/Canal Buzz director,

MIPCOM shopping list: Canal Club Super 3 is seeking non-violent, high-quality movies and animated series. Canal Buzz is looking for sitcoms and series, extreme sport programs (specifically focusing on surfing, snowboarding and motor sports), anime and innovative formats centered on technology, music concerts and interviews.

Hottest kids series: Canal Club Super 3–Doraemon, Tintin, Sonic Underground, Sakura, Donkey Kong

Canal Buzz–The Vision of Escaflowne, Trigun

Canal Club Super 3′s strategy is to acquire non-violent programming for its core target of kids two to 12. Hausmann notes that while anime has hit with Spanish kids, it has also met with a great deal of parental criticism for the level of violence in some shows. The channel shares its branded live-action wrap materials and interstitials with provincial net Televisio de Catalunya, but determines its own animated lineup.

As a youth channel catering to an older demo of 13- to 24-year-olds, Canal Buzz’s sked features a heavy dose of music shows, movies, video game shows, extreme sports and anime series and doesn’t stick to the anti-violence stance of its sister channel. About 80% of programming is acquired, while the rest is made up of co-productions and in-house work. Both channels acquire from international and Spanish prodcos, but have yet to enter into any local co-pro deals. Together, the two channels reach over one million homes, with Canal Club Super 3 broadcasting from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily and Canal Buzz following from 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily.

TVE’s La 1 and La 2

Location: Barcelona

Channel description: TVE is a public broadcaster operating two terrestrial channels, TVE1 (La 1) and TVE2 (La 2), both of which are financed by advertising and government subsidies.

Contact: Jose Luis Roncal, director of acquisitions, 34-91-346-8767

MIPCOM shopping list: TVE is looking for classic animation for kids two to 11, live-action adventure series for teens and tweens 10 to 16, and reality TV for kids.

Hottest kids series: La 1–Digimon, Batman, Men in Black, Scooby-Doo, The Triplets

La 2–Cow and Chicken, Tweenies, Rugrats, Casper, Growing Pains

With a kids programming budget of roughly US$17 million, TVE looks for colorful, family-oriented programming with universal and politically correct messages. La 1′s kids block airs classic animation on the weekends from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. year-round. On weekdays, La 2 airs a morning kids block from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., as well as a lunchtime slot from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and a teen block from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Together, the channels carry about 50 hours of kids programming per week and are open to global pitches. In terms of acquisitions, TVE looks for three years with three transmissions, flexible windowing and between 5% and 50% merchandising rights. With co-productions, TVE is generally after a 10-year license with unlimited transmissions, flexible windowing and between 5% and 50% merchandising rights. A co-pro partner with Cromosoma on The Triplets, the caster was recently granted a license to launch a digital terrestrial channel, and long-term plans may include a kids specialty channel.


Location: Madrid

Channel description: Telecinco is a terrestrial broadcaster that airs kids programming solely on weekends, with some extra slots during holidays. Telecinco’s total children’s lineup amounts to roughly 5% of the channel’s overall programming.

Contact: Alvaro Augustin, head of content,

MIPCOM shopping list: Telecinco is on the lookout for shows with a broad audience reach and is leaning towards family programming.

Hottest kids series: Pokémon, Buzz Lightyear of the Star Command, Art Attack

As a terrestrial, Telecinco’s strategy skews to a general family audience, with four and up as a kids target. The channel’s kid sked consists mainly of two weekend Disney blocks–Club Disney, which nets 22.2% of its target on average; and Cine Disney, a Saturday block of animated and live-action flicks that attracts 22.8%. According to Sofres stats (January 2001 to August 16, 2001), the Club Disney block captured a 7.6% share among kids four to 11 and a 5.7% share among tweens 11 to 14. Pokémon alone captured an 8% share among kids four to 11 and a 5.6% share among tweens 11 to 14. Although it acquires most of its sked from Disney, Telecinco has also co-produced animated series such as Fantaghiro and Toonymals with Spanish prodco BRB Internacional.

Fox Kids Spain

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Fox Kids Spain is a children’s specialty channel broadcast via cable and the Canal Satellite Digital platform. Airing 15 hours of kids fare daily (with an extra hour in the summer), the channel has a dual revenue stream of subscriptions and advertising.

Contact: Carlos Ortega, managing director,

MIPCOM shopping list: Fox Kids Spain is in search of programming for three demos–four to eight, nine to 12, and 13 to 16. It is specifically keeping an eye out for animation and live-action series for girls eight to 14 centered around themes including high school, adventure and mystery.

Hottest kids series: Pokémon, Digimon, Power Rangers, The Triplets, Three Friends & Jerry, Flint the Time Detective

Aiming to carry the best and most successful kids programming based on age, theme and category, Fox Kids Spain’s channel strategy centers on acquiring the freshest and most dynamic action, adventure, mystery and preschool shows. The net broadcasts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, with a sked that is predominately animated. Although it relies heavily on Saban’s library, Fox Kids Spain still acquires globally and is open to pitches, requiring exclusive Spanish cable and satellite rights.

Disney Channel Spain

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Disney Channel Spain is a 24-hour pay-TV channel broadcasting via the Canal Satellite Digital platform and cable operator ONO, relying on subscriptions as its sole source of revenue.

Contact: Tony Gratacos, program director,

MIPCOM shopping list: Disney Channel Spain is on the hunt for live-action family-oriented TV movies and feature films, renewable family sitcoms with at least 20 episodes, and animated action-adventure series for boys nine to 12.

Hottest kids series: Moesha, Are You Afraid of The Dark?, So Weird, Recess, Weekenders, Buzz Lightyear of the Star Command

Disney Channel Spain positions itself as a kid-driven family channel targeting a core demo of kids nine to 12. ‘We want kids to feel that there’s someone behind the TV screen,’ says Gratacos, ‘so we foster interactivity with on-air promotions and our live show Zon@7.’ The daily hosted block running from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. stimulates interactivity through games, contests and follow-along shows. Disney Channel Spain gets about 55% of its sked from the Disney catalog and acquires roughly 35% internationally, with the remaining 10% consisting of in-house productions, largely in the form of original framing for its hosted blocks. Distribution agreements vary in length, but Disney requires exclusive Spanish rights for a set time period.

Cartoon Network Spain

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Cartoon Network Spain is an all-animation pay-TV channel broadcasting 24-7 via cable and satellite on Canal Satellite Digital, as well as from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on terrestrial digital feeds through Quiero TV.

Contact: Vincent Sourdeau, programming manager,

MIPCOM shopping list: Cartoon Network Spain is seeking comedy shows for all targets and adventure shows for kids eight to 12 and teens.

Hottest kids series: Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls

Cartoon Network Spain’s overall programming strategy is based on humor and fast-paced animation targeting 500,000 kids ages six to 15. The success of reality TV shows like Big Brother has recently prompted the channel to look more closely at interactivity. ‘Apart from interaction with the remote control, we have to make sure that our shows and the tones of stories reflect reality and speak directly to kids,’ says Sourdeau.

In response, Cartoon Network Spain launched a block in March–Dexter Presenta–that hosts a locally produced show about video games, the Internet and new technologies. Action-adventure animated series such as Detective Conan and the November-slated The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest are also shown within the block. Although the caster has yet to enter into any co-pro deals, it is in the process of establishing a co-production strategy and is open to kid pitches. About 25% of its kids programming is European, and10% is local.

Nickelodeon Spain

Location: Madrid

Channel description: Nickelodeon Spain broadcasts daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to approximately 1.5 million subscribers via cable and the Canal Satelite Digital platform.

Contact: Cristina Guzman, channel director,

MIPCOM shopping list: Nick Spain seeks quality properties with strong story lines across all genres, with a focus on live action for kids nine and up. In an effort to connect with its local audience, Nickelodeon Spain is looking to increase its work with local partners on new and fresh ideas for acquisitions and co-productions.

Hottest kids series: Rugrats, Blue’s Clues, Tweenies, Kenan & Kel, Cousin Skeeter, Rocket Power

Nick Spain is committed to broadcasting contemporary productions that mirror kids’ interests and current demo trends. ‘Audience participation is key,’ says Guzman. ‘We interact directly with our viewers through voting, phone-ins and interviews, as well as by turning our program content over to kids themselves so that they can vote on the schedule or the host.’

Nick Spain targets kids two to 14, with a core demo of six- to 12-year-olds. Roughly 50% of the channel’s sked is animated, with the other half divvied up between live action (30%), preschool (15%) and game shows (5%). Apart from its two blocks–PequeNick and Nicktoons–the rest of Nick’s day is composed of various kids shows. Around two-thirds of the lineup is mined from the Nickelodeon library, with the other 30% supplied by local, European and international pick-ups.

As Spanish kidcasters grapple with a shrinking–and rapidly maturing–kid audience, prodcos in Spain (like their international counterparts) are witnessing a waning demand for preschool series. In light of this, Spanish prodcos are now heralding the nine to 14 set as a hot kid target demo, noting that it both captures the aging kid segment that spends more money on licensed merch and is able to drag in younger demos on an aspirational level.

Since Spain as a territory is generally viewed as a closed market–a mere 3% of animated shows aired there are Spanish in origin–prodcos are ramping up efforts to sell into international markets. ‘We have a large capacity to produce and sell, but it’s a hard sell in our own country,’ says Sergi Reitg, managing director at Cromosoma.

Co-productions are making rather slow progress in Spain; although Spanish kidcasters see co-pros as a great way to create and strengthen their own kid brands and properties, most hold back from such deals, citing the financial investment and long period of return as obstacles.

The origin of acquisitions poses a further hurdle. According to the Television Without Frontiers mandate drafted by the European Union for all its member states, 51% of Spanish casters’ lineups must be European. A full half of that 51% should be Spanish-language fare, and 10% should come from indie Euro prodcos. These figures can all be reached progressively, with the broadcaster increasing its numbers yearly until the specifications are met four years after launch.

The prodcos

BRB Internacional

Location: Madrid

Background: Founded in 1972 and with offices spanning Madrid, Barcelona, London and Rome, BRB Internacional produces, distributes and licenses animated children’s series, TV movies and live-action programming. The studio is capable of producing four series per year. This year saw the birth of BRB’s animated theatrical division, SCREEN 21, with three full-length films in development.

Contact: Carolina Godayol, director of co-productions and developments,

New series

Zip & Zap

(BRB, 52 x 15 minutes, budgeted at US$5.6 million)

Targeting kids six to 10, the series follows the adventures of 10-year-old twins who constantly get into double trouble. Plans for the property also include a 75-minute film. BRB is seeking co-production partners as well as buyers at MIPCOM for the series.


Location: Barcelona

Background: Established in 1988, Cromosoma has carved a market niche for itself as a producer of book-based animated series.

Contact: Sergi Reitg, managing director,

New series

Motel Spaghetti

(Cromosoma, 13 x 26 minutes, budgeted at US$175,000 to US$200,000 per ep)

A la Beavis and Butthead, this 2-D animated series for teens 16 and up follows the adventures of two young guys with artistic aspirations and low expectations; their basic goals are to make ends meet while working as little as possible. Cromosoma is seeking co-production partners and buyers at MIPCOM.


(Cromosoma/Norma Editorial/EBU, 26 x 26 minutes, budgeted at US$9.2 million–including webisodes)

A big-hearted dinosaur teams up with two lost children to help them find their way home. Targeting kids six to nine, the concept will also be produced as a 52 x three-minute web series. Tom is set to air in Q4 2003 on EBU broadcast partners the BBC, France 2/France 3, ORF, RAI, RTBF, TSR7TSI, TVE, VRT and ZDF.

D’Ocon Films

Location: Barcelona

Background: A major player in the Spanish market for over 15 years, D’Ocon Films boasts its own D’Oc Animation System, credited with giving greater flexibility to the traditional animation process by accelerating the time of production. D’Ocon is now developing new animation software designed to offer a ‘total operating system’ for cartoon animation.

Contact: Antoni D’Ocon, president,

New series

Kumba Park

(D’Ocon Films and Club Megatrix, 26 x 26 minutes, budgeted at US$6 million)

On a lost island, an unscrupulous scientist makes a pact with extraterrestrial beings to adopt a hoard of embryos from other planets in exchange for access to their advanced technological knowledge. Only Kumba and her father Noah can save the planet. This 3-D action-adventure series for kids six to 14 is set to hit Spanish airwaves on Antena 3 and Canal Megatrix in 2002, with production wrapping in June.

Neptuno Films

Location: Terrassa

Background: Established in 1991, Neptuno Films creates, develops and produces animated series and feature films for the international marketplace with 3-D services. Although it has six projects in development, Neptuno will bring only three to MIPCOM.

Contact: Cristina Brandner, managing director,

New series

Ambi & Lance

(Neptuno Films Deutschland/Victory Film Productions, 104 x seven minutes, budgeted at US$55,000 per ep)

Lance the doctor and his ambulance Ambi look after the health of their patients in a most original and amusing way, turning each episode into a series of gags for kids one to five. Production is scheduled to start early 2002.


Location: Madrid

Background: Founded in 1993, Anima2 is an animation-only production company that handles merchandising and promotions for its own properties as well as for others including Smiley, Mr. Bean and Simsala Grimm.

Contact: Pablo Oliveri, head of international sales,

New series

Family Doctor

(Anima2 and Italian broadcaster RAI, 26 x 26 minutes, budgeted at US$5.3 million)

Based on a live-action series of the same name that aired on Spain’s Telecinco, this animated version centers around a grieving widowed doctor and his three children, who must find a way to carry on living. The doc educates his kids with the aid of his father, the cleaning lady and his sister-in-law (with whom he eventually falls in love). Family Doctor is targeted at kids and families.

It’s So Nice To Survive!

(Anima2/Telecinco, 13 x 26 minutes, budgeted at US$2.5 million)

This intelligent and sarcastic animated sitcom targeting kids and families deals with the day-to-day life of the erratic Balor family. Dad is a good-natured, daydreaming hospital guard who has trouble accepting his wife’s job as a taxi driver because she brings in more money than he does. Their only son Gus is slightly off his rocker and is a sucker for lost causes. The series is currently airing on Cartoon Network Spain and will debut on Telecinco later this fall.

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