The encroachment of dedicated kidnets onto terrestrial turf seems to have slowed down over the past year, with recent Médiamétrie results showing virtually no erosion in the terrestrial share of the four- to 14-year-old audience. The French ratings tracker puts the latest terrestrial take at 54.7% (December 31, 2001 to June 16, 2002)–up marginally from last year’s 52.8% (February 19, 2001 to July 29, 2001). In keeping with this ratings stability, most terrestrial nets are sticking with their current strategies, which have them moving away from a be-all-things-to-all-kids approach in favor of greater demo specialization and kid-to-channel connection.
TF1 seems to be holding onto its main target of four- to 10-year-olds, with ratings for its key kid slots leveling out over the past six months to 53.5% on weekday mornings, 44.9% on Wednesday mornings, 40% on Saturdays, and 52.3% on Sundays. This equilibrium can be partially chalked up to the success of animated hits like Pokémon and Totally Spies! (which net 11.2% and 11.6% respectively on Wednesday mornings), as well as the popularity of a 3-D channel design (by Big Nose Productions) that was introduced last fall and the success of the net’s themed programming specials and promotions, which run every four to six weeks.
Last February, for example, TF1 ran a screenplay contest inviting school classes to enter short scripts centering on the theme of tolerance. TF1 received 112 entries and worked up the winning class’s concept as an animated short that will air in Q4 2002. This year, the channel plans to run programming specials, drawing and writing contests and quizzes that tie into holidays like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
As far as series programming goes, the channel will introduce 12 new shows by January 2003, including Ghost Spirit (26 x 26 minutes), a US$5.7-million animated co-pro with Carrère and Safari de Ville about a young detective who lives with his grandparents in a house haunted by three friendly ghosts.
Also falling under the co-pro category, into which TF1 plugs 50% of its US$23-million programming budget, is a 52 x 13-minute adaptation of children’s book series Kitou Scrogneugneu that’s being produced in partnership with Dargaud Marina. Written by Ann Rocard, the books are about a kind-hearted little monster who gets adopted by a little human girl.
New TF1 acquisitions this year include Pecola (Nelvana), Tracey McBean (Egmont) and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron (Nick).
United under public service holding France Télévision, France 2, France 3 and France 5 spent last year working out the kinks in a new strategy that split the total youth audience three ways: France 5 (which used to be La Cinquième) serves toddlers and young kids, while France 3 takes on the four to 12 crowd, and France 2 programs for 11- to 18-year-olds.
Although France 5 is keeping quiet about its fall launch plans for now, look for preschool to become more of a channel priority. Last season, F5 stripped its Debout les Zouzous morning block, which airs pick-ups and co-pros such as Rolie Polie Olie (Nelvana), Capelito (CNDP/La Cinquième), Jasper the Little Penguin (Millimages) and Le Nidouille (Storymage), as well as introducing a half-hour midday extension called Midi les Zouzous every day at noon. Since launching, the noon block has garnered an average 29% share of the four to 10 audience. Sticking with this strategy, F5 recently announced the fall launch of an early-evening weekday block called Bonsoir les Zouzous on its cable and satellite offering. Starting at 7:15 p.m., the block will be home to classic French shows Nounours, L’île aux Enfants and newer offerings like Rolie Polie Olie and Monster Planet.
F5′s new youth unit, which officially launches this month under the leadership of Céline Limorato, will be on the hunt for more animated co-pro opps.
France 3′s editorial mandate is focused squarely on animation for the four to 12 crowd, with all series tying into one of the key kid themes that define the channel’s schedule: Tenderness & Emotion, Humor, Action-Adventure and Tribe & Friends.
Adapted from a kids book series by Antoon Krings and produced by Ellipsanime for a weekday morning slot, Funny Little Bugs fills the Tenderness & Emotion bill. The 67 x 7.5-minute show’s insect microcosm mirrors reality, and its cast of ants, bees, mosquitoes and cockroaches must learn to cooperate and compromise to co-exist. Futurikon’s Kaput & Zoski, Saban International’s Mon Colle Knights and Nelvana’s Beyblade (debuting in November) also join the fall sked.
Branching out slightly from its animation slant, France 3 is working on its first original live-action co-pro with Elzévir, which is due out for the 2003 season. The as-yet-untitled series will be a collection of five 26-minute segments on the lives and questions of eight- to 12-year-olds. For this season, F3 has renewed its Sunday evening prime-time family block, with new episodes of Lucky Luke (Xilam/Dargaud Marina/Lucky Comics/Super RTL/
Tooncan Productions) ready to go. The channel also replaces its signature kids news show A Toi l’Actua@ with a similar, family-oriented format from 2P2L called Mon Kanar that will air daily at 5:35 p.m.
Though live-action imports from North America like Sister Sister, Sabrina and Degrassi: The Next Generation comprise 95% of France 2′s KD2A and TD2A blocks that air on Wednesday and Saturday mornings (pulling in an average 30% of kids 11 to 14), the channel has great expectations for a short called Les Durs du Mur. Produced by B Productions in association with Carrère, the 39 x seven-minute Flash series centers around the hilarious social and parental relationships of three suburban teen boys. This season, France 2 will also begin testing a few teen-focused documentaries and a new magazine show that will air every Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Fall strategy over at M6 is determined by past success, and according to youth unit head Nathalie Altmann, this year was a no-brainer: ‘Adventure and humorous animation for six- to 12-year-olds is definitely the leader in our slots, which net a 33.1% average audience share on Wednesday afternoons and peak at 41.8% on Saturday mornings.’ To add to its portfolio in these genres, M6 picked up the European TV, merchandising and music rights for its first 3-D series called Zentrix from Hong Kong-based Imagi Studio, successfully testing the show on-air in May. Set in the future, Zentrix (26 x 22 minutes) follows the adventures of Princess Megan and her robot friend Zeux as they try to rescue the human race from the super-robots that have enslaved it.
Another major acquisition, for which M6 has Euro TV and merch rights, is 4Kids’ Yu-Gi-Oh!, and co-pros that will air on the channel this fall include the latest series of Inspector Gadget and the Gadgetinis (Saban/DIC) and Odyssey (Marathon).
Magazine formats abound at Canal J, which has made real-kid programming a key goal this season. First up will be Mission 414 (Esteban Production), a weekly 15-minute series in which kids explore different lifestyles, cultures and extraordinary people and events. Blagadonf uses hidden-camera techniques to capture real-life kids unawares, and later in October, Canal J will launch a daily game show format and a weekly format for girls.
Despite the reality format four-pack, animation and fictional live action still rule the roost, comprising 60% and 20% of the channel’s schedule respectively. Canal J, which invested US$1.8 million in animated production in 2001, will debut new co-pros such as Malo Korrigan (26 x 26 minutes/Futurikon) and Martin Mystère (26 x 26 minutes/Marathon) this season. New pick-ups include As Told By Ginger (Nick) and Nono Chan (Toei Animation).
Over at TiJi, the fall sked will see the introduction of Dora the Explorer (Nick), Make Way For Noddy (Chorion), Oswald (HIT/Nick) and a new season of Teletubbies. Sometime before November, TiJi will also launch Marathon documentary series Baby Wild Animals (26 x five minutes).
Working with Upside TV (Carrère Group) and prodco Okidoki, Disney Channel France has created a new preschool morning block called Wazoos that will air daily from 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Hosted by a group of little 3-D martians, the block will run interstitial gags and four-minute magazine segments exploring human weirdness between episodes of animated series like Disney’s The Legends of Tarzan. Spin-off brands Disney Channel (on a one-hour delay), Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney join Disney Channel proper on CanalSatellite this month.
Both of Fox Kids France’s September launches–Pig City (CinéGroupe) and Shin Chan (an anime sitcom import that’s described as Japan’s answer to The Simpsons)–reflect the nature of the channel’s core audience of kids four to 10, centering on streetwise protagonists with attitude. But Fox Kids Europe executive director of programming and acquisitions Benoit Runel says another key goal will be to up FKF’s draw of girl viewers. To that end, the net will debut Hamtaro in a weekend and Wednesday morning slot in October, and Totally Spies! in an after-school slot this November.
To bolster its new channel design, Cartoon Network France is shaking up its block mix this fall. Toonami becomes a daily block anchored by Justice League, with new entries Power Paillettes (a weekend block for girls ages four to 10 offering series like The Powerpuff Girls and Angela Anaconda) and morning/afternoon preschool block Boomerang (airing series such as Captain Pugwash, Leo & Popi and Droopy & Dripple).
Teletoon France, also offered on a one-hour delay this fall, premieres two new co-pros–The Lost World (26 x 26 minutes/Dargaud Marina and Vivitoon) and short-format comedy Les Gonflés. Nelvana series Cyberchase also joins the lineup, along with a movie block that will air films including Jungle Jack, which is about an exotic animal that discovers life in the city.