When Janie Grace stepped into the role of CiTV controller in September 2000, she quickly identified a crucial targeting weakness that needed immediate attention. Research suggested that the CiTV weekday output was only delivering to kids nine and under, and in this, Grace saw a flawed strategy. ‘I have always believed in serving the total kid demographic,’ says Grace, who defines that demo as kids ages four to 15. ‘Why only go after half the audience in fragmenting times?’ So since taking the reins, Grace has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to broadening the channel’s youth audience by going after older kids.
How is she going about it? ‘I am gradually weeding out the mediocre, soft-and-safe programming that is nice to have, but not must-have. In addition, I am commissioning much more adventurous programming by way of contemporary, funny, kid-centric series. I am also adding in minority interest ideas, such as reality shows and a revival of the kids documentary,’ not only giving kids a voice, but also putting them directly behind the camera.
The introduction of a stripped schedule is another key component of Grace’s channel strategy. Incoming programming execs generally inherit a set-in-stone schedule and are stuck with material and formats they wouldn’t have chosen. Grace decided on a stripped schedule in order to take out what wasn’t working and work in what could. ‘My number-one goal for 2001 and beyond is to turn CiTV into a place where kids feel at home, where they belong. This entails shaping programming and presentation, which they should feel reflects their lives,’ she says. Claiming that ‘wallpaper programming’ simply isn’t good enough anymore, Grace will be ruthless in her quest for stronger fare. In terms of what she’s looking for, Grace quips: ‘Anything written, produced and directed by someone under the age of 30.’