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Indie Survivor mantra: Outwit, outplay, outlast!

With ad revenues, broadcast budgets and license fees down, the kids entertainment market is anything but conducive to risk-taking and growth. But despite that rather sobering reality, several industry veterans broke away from large entertainment conglomerates to hang indie shingles in 2002. KidScreen's Advisory Panel pontificates on the survival strategies these new outlets will need to make it in an ever-shrinking production pool.
January 8, 2003

With ad revenues, broadcast budgets and license fees down, the kids entertainment market is anything but conducive to risk-taking and growth. But despite that rather sobering reality, several industry veterans broke away from large entertainment conglomerates to hang indie shingles in 2002. KidScreen’s Advisory Panel pontificates on the survival strategies these new outlets will need to make it in an ever-shrinking production pool.

Michael Hirsh, Advisor, Nelvana

‘The new indies have to show that they are nimble and ready, not only with great creative ideas, but with solid financing behind them. They will have to understand the market – both the targeted kid audience and the programmers who buy for them. And with the business becoming more international every day, they also will have to demonstrate that they follow worldwide trends and tastes.’

Robby London, Executive VP of Creative Affairs, DIC Entertainment

‘Some people seem to thrive on adapting to market changes. Others crave stability and flourish in an environment in which they can focus on producing rather than surviving. One person’s creative flexibility is another’s chaotic nightmare. Many in the first category are very cost-conscious and apply those principles – borne of necessity in hard times – to the good times as well. This increases their chances of both survival during bad times and great success during good times.’

Theresa Plummer-Andrews, Head of Acquisitions and Co-productions, CBBC

‘It would appear that large entertainment conglomerates run by accountants and lawyers have been stifling much of the creativity in the kids industry, and this may be the reason why many creative executives have departed to set up their own businesses. Much of the programming we have been offered in the recent past has very obviously been based on the deal and what money could be made on ancillary rights, with the creative element often forgotten. If the new independents get their source funding right, we might see new, innovative programming coming through that is concept-, story- and character-led. Such projects will be a joy for broadcasters to consider. And if the indies don’t get greedy when the market swings up again and sell out to larger organizations for a quick buck, they just might survive.’

Adam Shaheen, President, Cuppa Coffee Animation

‘Kids TV has become a disappointing, risk-averse wasteland that lacks insight and creativity. The lowest common denominator and fast reward have become king. Future success stories will be indie producers with long-term visions of their product, in which building brand, design and story excellence and good relationships with distributors will be key. Sounds obvious, but look at the plethora of mediocre one-season programming out there. Putting unique ideas first will breed the financial success that all too often drives a project’s inception and quick demise.’

Bill Schultz, Co-owner, Mike Young Productions

‘A proven performer with a track record is easier to sell than innovation – even for the independent. And everyone loves a brand name because there is no risk. Having said that, mixing groundbreaking creative ideas and production techniques enables producers to forge strong property-driven business models. Co-productions, co-distribution, co-financing – independents have the flexibility to turn every shift in the market to their advantage. It gets me up every morning!’

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