With ITV losing its insanely popular SM:TV Live hosts Ant & Dec last month and with CBBC having replaced its Live & Kicking Saturday morning block with the Saturday Show at the end of 2001, Brit kidcasters are in transition. To Channel 5′s controller of children’s programs Nick Wilson, the shifts translate into an opportunity to steal straying tween eyeballs, and he’s moving full steam ahead to capitalize on it.
To take advantage of the changing programming landscape, Wilson gutted C5′s Saturday morning teen block The Core (which skewed to the 13 to 17 set) in January, remodeling it with elements from the net’s Milkshake preschool brand and injecting new tween programming into the lineup. Milkshake FM targets eight- to 12-year-olds from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 12- to 15-year-olds from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Since it shares some branding characteristics with Milkshake, which starts Saturday mornings off from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Milkshake FM lends the programming day a much smoother transition from preschool fare to programming for older kids.
To tweak the lineup for a younger audience, Wilson got rid of The Core’s older-skewing teen offerings, such as MTV’s Daria, Water Street’s Edgemont and Peter Engel’s USA High. Keepers include Sony Wonder’s Fat Dog Mendoza, Ellipsanime’s Xcalibur, Columbia TriStar’s Max Steel and Cloud 9′s The Tribe. Wilson is also looking for additional tween dramas and an action-adventure companion series to follow Max Steel.
In addition to scoping out new tween fare, Wilson is planning to slide further down the demo scale late Sunday mornings to target five- to eight-year-olds. The idea is to get aspirational preschoolers who are already tuned in for Milkshake from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. to stick with the channel throughout the rest of the morning. Two new live-action co-pros with Southern Star and Channel 9 in Australia–a comedy that’s in pre-production and an adventure series in development–will provide the backbone of this new block, the length and name of which were still being nailed down at press time.
Wilson is also in constant need of preschool shows, whether they be commissions, acquisitions or co-pros. Each year, Channel 5 commissions 100 half hours of preschool programming out of its 250-hour annual kids total. Tot shows like Bear in the Big Blue House, Babar, Muppet Babies and Tintin air in Milkshake on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
License fees at C5 are low to competitive. For kid-targeted co-pros (animated or live-action), Wilson says he has gone as high as US$30,000 per half hour, and preschool commissions run between US$7,000 and US$14,000 per half hour.