Given the current broadcast climate, many producers may be feeling all dressed up with no one to pitch to. But KidScreen’s market reconnaissance uncovered a wealth of opportunities at several international kids channels. Read on for tips to steer your pitch to the right desk in any territory…
Deirdre Brennan, ABC Kids Programmer
Looking for: ABC Kids’ 2002 results have clearly shown that kids ages six to nine have very different needs than the channel’s preschool and eight-plus audiences. To serve that demo, Brennan is scouting for non-violent, entertaining animated series and will consider programming with either a boy or girl skew. A minimum of 26 episodes is preferred, and five-minute, 10- to 13-minute or 25-minute episodes are the best fit for ABC Kids’ current sked. Brennan is also open to pitches for half-hour animated comedies targeting the 10-plus set.
Preferred approach: E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with concise details relating to the program/concept, target audience and program availability. Send additional material via snail mail for further consideration.
Pitch turnoff: Distributors/producers who do not really understand the nature of the network they’re pitching to.
Market circuit: KidScreen Summit, MIPCOM
Canal J/TiJi (France)
Emmanuelle Baril, head of acquisitions
Looking for: Soft, funny 2-D or 3-D series for TiJi’s preschool audience (kids two to six). Baril looks for a minimum of 26 episodes (five minutes to 26 minutes long). Edgy, animated, comedy/action-adventure projects (seven to 26 minutes in length) that reflect the kid experience fit the bill for Canal J’s seven to 12 target demo. Baril is also scouting for live-action sitcoms, ‘scary’ programs and sci-fi for kids.
Preferred approach: Call (33-1-4954-5414), fax (33-1-4222-8767) or e-mail (email@example.com) with a brief project description. If Baril feels it might be interesting for either channel, she will request a pitch package by fax, e-mail or snail mail (91 Bis Rue du Cherche Midi, 75006, Paris, France).
Pitch turnoff: Pitches for projects that are nothing more than initial concepts with scripts. (A bible – even a thin one – is essential.)
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, Cartoon Forum, Annecy
Cartoon Network (U.S.)
Terry Kalagian, VP of programming
Looking for: Gender-neutral animated series for kids ages six to 11 and younger-skewing daytime programming – not preschool fare. Kalagian prefers comedy-driven story lines with lots of high-jinx and visual gags. A minimum of 26 half hours is required in order to launch the series in a strip. Each episode or short within the half-hour format should be at least seven minutes long. Kalagian is also looking for feature-length, contemporary animated films – preferably in English or already dubbed.
Preferred approach: Kalagian prefers not to receive unsolicited e-mails or cold-call pitches. A producer’s best bet is to mail (1050 Techwood Drive NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30318) a pitch package – including demo tape (completed half hour, dubbed or subtitled in English), story synopsis, character bios, etc. – then call (404-885-2263) for an appointment. Be prepared to flesh out characters more thoroughly, discuss the number of seasons available or planned, and explain why your program is a good fit for Cartoon Network.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, NATPE, Licensing Show
Discovery Kids Latin America
Bilai Joa Silar, director of programming
Looking for: Discovery Kids Latin America has shifted its focus to preschoolers (up to age seven), and Silar is seeking established, character-led hits with high awareness and promising merchandise potential. Series content should include a combination of cognitive, personal, social, emotional and physical skills. The channel requires a minimum of 13 episodes, and half-hour formats are ideal.
Preferred approach: To set up a pitch meeting, e-mail materials – series description, treatment details and/or pitch package – to programming supervisor Maria Badillo (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, MIPCOM
Discovery Kids UK
Lucy Pryke, program editor
Looking for: Factual or inspirational animated series aimed at four- to nine-year-olds, as well as live-action factual series targeting the six to 12 set. Arts & crafts, outdoor activity and history shows are particularly attractive. And unlike many channels that are fully stocked on preschool, Discovery Kids UK is looking for animated projects for kids ages two to five featuring strong, aspirational and positive characters in real-life scenarios with which small fry can easily identify.
Preferred approach: E-mail an initial pitch to Louise Platel (Louise_Platel@discovery-europe.com).
Pitch turnoff: Educational programming that is boring.
Market circuit: MIPCOM, MIPTV
Disney Channel UK
Zoe Jane Scurfield, senior manager of acquisitions and commissioning
Looking for: Innovative and contemporary toons (26 episodes-plus) for the eight to 12 set, as well as animated and live-action family/kid movies that complement Disney’s own slate. A show for preschool-targeted Playhouse Disney needs to deliver life-learning experiences through imagination and play. Savvy, well-written live-action sitcoms that pull parents into the viewing experience are paramount. Disney Channel UK is also considering co-producing and financing projects in early development to utilize its internal production and creative resources across its four multiplex channels (Disney Channel, Disney Channel +1, Playhouse Disney and Toon Disney); Scurfield is looking for material for 2005 and 2006.
Preferred approach: E-mail (email@example.com)
Pitch turnoff: Anything large enough to serve as a doorstop! A pitch should be concise, but with enough description and detail to make it a good read.
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, MIPCOM, LA Screenings, Cartoon Forum
Disney International Television (France, the U.K., Italy, Spain/Portugal, Germany, Asia/Taiwan, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East and Latin America)
Mary Bredin, director of acquisitions and programming
Looking for: A live-action comedy series with high-quality production values (think Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Pitches for family-friendly movies (animated or live action) are also welcome, and Bredin is keen on European content. She prefers longer-running series (26 episodes-plus) for the nets’ two to 12 target audience. Since the channels are commercial-free, length can vary, though 11-minute and 22-minute formats are ideal.
Preferred approach: E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) sample scripts for an initial ‘How’s this?’ The ideal pitch includes a series pilot, but if it’s too early in the development cycle for that, and if Bredin has indicated interest in the project, then scripts, story outlines, a bible and some designs are acceptable.
Pitch turnoff: Producers who say that a series can be anything Disney wants it to be. Producers need to know their projects and how they work for the buyer they are selling them to. ‘It’s like a car salesman saying to a customer: ‘Well, it could be a fridge if you actually need a fridge,” says Bredin. ‘Some flexibility is obviously great, but there is a line.’
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, LA Screenings, Cartoon Forum
Fox Kids Europe
Henrietta Hurford-Jones, director of European acquisitions
Looking for: Comedy/action-adventure with an edge (animation and/or live action) for FKE’s core six to 11 demo. Hurford-Jones generally looks for a minimum of 26 half-hour episodes, though shorter long-running formats are acceptable (i.e. 52 x 11 minutes).
Preferred approach: To set up a market or office meeting, contact Hurford-Jones’s assistant Naomi Abou-Keer by phone (44-207-534-9487) or e-mail (email@example.com).
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, MIPCOM, LA Screenings, Cartoon Forum
Sophie Gignon, head of the channel’s youth department
Looking for: Gender-neutral live action for tweens 11 to 14. Half-hour formats or shorter are best, with 13 episodes as a flexible minimum. Gignon is open to pitches for any type of fiction series, provided the concept is imaginative and creative, and she is keen on comedies. Pitch caveat: Animated series are currently a no-go for acquisitions.
Preferred approach: E-mail Gignon (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name, company and five or six lines explaining the project.
Pitch turnoff: When producers pitch series that skew above or below France 2′s target demo or contain themes of violence.
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, Annecy, MIPCOM, Cartoon Forum
Kids’ WB! (U.S.)
John Hardman, senior VP
Looking for: Comedy/adventure programming with hit potential for boys six to 11. Pitches should also appeal to Kids’ WB!’s growing tween audience. Hardman is especially receptive to series with a strong marketing hook. While the channel’s lineup is animation-heavy, live-action pitches are welcome if the network’s key demos are addressed in an exciting manner.
Preferred approach: Call Hardman’s office at 818-977-4008 to discuss the best approach. Pitchers should be aware of Kids’ WB!’s target audience before calling. Also, materials must be submitted via an agent or entertainment attorney or they will be returned without review by WBTVN legal.
Pitch turnoff: Long, unfocused pitches that are inappropriate for the Kids’ WB! target audience. Pitchers should be prepared to summarize their project in two to four minutes, with additional time to discuss possible directions, story ideas and characters.
Market circuit: NATPE, KidScreen Summit, Toy Fair, Licensing Show, ComicCon
KI.KA ARD/ZDF (Germany)
Sebastian Debertin, head of acquisitions and co-productions
Barbara Uecker, deputy head of acquisitions and co-productions
Looking for: Innovative, gender-neutral animation with challenging and exciting content plus strong/positive characters. A minimum of 26 half hours is preferred, as are projects with merchandising potential.
Preferred approach: A phone call (49-361-218-1869) briefly introducing the project, supported by a short fax (49-361-218-1850) with additional information. E-mails to Debertin’s assistant (Renate.Peisker@kika.de) are also acceptable. Debertin will request a pitch package if the initial correspondence piques his interest.
Pitch turnoff: Sales people who are not charming and do not know anything about the company or people they are pitching to.
Market circuit: Cartoon Movie, MIPTV, Cartoon Forum, MIPCOM
Jean-Loeck van Kollenburg, program buyer for youth TV
Looking for: Animated and live-action comedy and drama series for the preschool, six to 12 and 10 to 14 demos.
Preferred approach: E-mail (email@example.com), fax (31-671-3009) or snail mail (KRO Youth, PO Box 23000, Netherlands1202, EA Hilversum) a pitch package including series synopsis and target demo explanation. Do not send screeners – van Kollenberg will request one if he’s interested in the pitch.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, Berlinale, BBC Showcase, Short Film Exchange Oberhausen, Cartoon Forum
Debbie Macdonald, head of acquisitions and co-productions
Looking for: Nicktoons TV (kids four to seven) is primarily a platform for Nick’s own animation, but Macdonald is keen to co-produce toons that compliment the current lineup. Series must be funny, put kids first, and fit with their lives (like As Told By Ginger and Hey Arnold!). Series of 26 x half hours (or two 11-minute eps) are preferred. Nickelodeon (kids eight to 12) focuses on the live-action comedy genre – no drama series! Episodes should be self-contained and kid-centric. A half-hour format is a must, and a 26-episode minimum is preferred. For Nick Jr. (kids up to age three), Macdonald is on the hunt for U.K.-originated series (animated or live action) and leans towards projects that allow for audience participation, as opposed to passive viewing. Any length is acceptable for this channel.
Preferred approach: Send a bible via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail (Rathbone Place 15-18, London, England W1T 1HU) with character designs, script, further story outlines, a rough budget and what the producer needs. A meeting will be arranged should this be of interest.
Pitch turnoffs: Being pitched concepts that are obviously not suitable for Nickelodeon and the producer insisting that it can be adapted to the channel’s needs. A producer should stay true to the original idea. Also, many titles are pitched with licensing obviously being top of mind, but content is king!
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, MIPCOM, LA Screenings
Kenny Miller and Sarah Tomassi Lindman, VPs of production and programming
Looking for: For preschool channel Noggin, creatively cutting-edge educational programming in at least a 26 x half-hour format tops the wishlist. All styles are welcome. Programming that delivers on The N’s ‘Real. Life. Now.’ philosophy fits the tween channel’s bill. Miller and Tomassi Lindman are looking for comedies, dramas, reality shows – everything that is relevant to the tween experience. But they are not interested in educational programming based on in-school curriculae.
Preferred approach: Send a brief description of your property via e-mail (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail (1633 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, New York 10019), which may be followed up with more substantial materials if requested.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM
Super RTL (Germany)
Frank Dietz, head of aquisitions and co-productions
Looking for: Potential and established hits featuring strong and unique characters. Series must have obvious merch and on-line potential. A minimum of 26 half-hour episodes is a prerequisite. The channel’s core targets are kids three to five and six to 13, with a slight boy skew. Super RTL is stocked up on action toons at the moment, but Dietz is looking for high-quality animated family movies for prime-time programming. He will also consider co-pro activities.
Pitch turnoffs: The same pitch presented again under a different project name, over-enthusiastic intros that do not meet expectations, and obvious look-alikes/copycats.
Preferred approach: Send a package with trailer, bible and story lines by snail mail (RTL Disney Fernsehen, attention F. Dietz, Richard-Byrd-Strasse 6, 50829 Köln, Germany).
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, Annecy, Cartoon Forum
Carole Bonneau, VP of programming
Looking for: After the successful launch of its teen block ‘The Detour,’ Teletoon is now looking for animated series targeting the nine to 12 set. Pitches for original, ground-breaking animation that is wacky and over-the-top are welcome. The channel is also on the hunt for another realistic toon like Braceface that portrays real-life dilemmas that kids can relate to.
Preferred approach: Phone (514-939-5016), e-mail (email@example.com) or fax (514-939-8029) Madeleine Levesque, director of original productions.
Pitch turnoffs: A caveat to prodcos peddling enpowerment, technology or environmental themes: Teletoon’s original productions team values a good story over a trend-driven pitch. And if the team receives one more pitch that ‘could be anything’ they want it to be, they’ll ‘pack [their] bags and move to Nowhere Land.’
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, NATPE, Annecy, Banff
Beathe A. Daae, project leader and executive producer for TV 2 Junior
Looking for: TV 2 Norway is a commercial channel that broadcasts five hours of kids programming each week – Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 20 minutes daily from Monday to Friday within the channel’s Good Morning Norway show. Daae is hunting for series and specials (one to 200 episodes running from five to 25 minutes, animated and live-action puppetry) targeting kids two to 12. On her checklist for winning pitches are established hits with high awareness levels, promising merchandise potential, good stories with humor, strong characters and no violence.
Preferred approach: E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail (Nostegalen 72, 5020 Bergen, Norway). The ideal pitch should only include a pilot of the first episode and a short description of the project.
Market circuit: MIPTV, French Screenings, Cartoon Forum, MIPCOM
Patricia Ellingson, creative head of children’s, youth and daytime
Looking for: TVO is currently stocked up on preschool fare, so Ellingson’s scouting for a new 26- to 52-ep series designed with an eight-year-old in mind – ‘something entertaining with an educational underpinning.’ Animation and live-action shows are both welcome, but episodes should be between 22 and 30 minutes long. Also needed are live-action dramas or ‘intelligent, engaging series that deal with teen issues’ (ideally 13 eps) for TVO’s youth block.
Preferred approach: Send a pitch package by mail (TVOntario, Box 200, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4T 2T1, Attn: Pat Ellingson). The ideal pitch includes a bible with character descriptions, story outlines, age target and educational outcomes. Scripts or a pilot tape are a bonus. If interested, Ellingson will follow up.
Pitch turnoff: Producers who send programs that are inappropriate for an educational, commercial-free broadcaster.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, NATPE, Banff
YLE TV1 (Finland)
Pirjomarika Berg, acquisitions executive
Looking for: New, human, humorous or touching stories for the 11 to 16 demo. Pitches for all genres are welcome, though series should be kept under a 52 x half-hour ceiling.
Preferred approach: E-mail (email@example.com) a pitch that includes: production year, target demo, a short synopsis, style and format. Berg is not interested in foreign ratings since ‘Scandinavian tastes can be totally different.’ If interested in a concept, Berg will set up a market appointment.
Pitch turnoffs: ‘Some producers are so [focused] on girls passing by [at markets],’ says Berg. Producers who talk too much and do not listen lose points, as do those wanting to screen shows in the middle of noisy show floors. Berg prefers that producers follow up with cassettes and folders by mail.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, Annecy, Berlin Filmfestival, BBC Showcase, Le Rendez-Vous, Cartoon Forum, Nordic Film, Cinekid
YLE TV2 (Finland)
Vicky Schroderus, acquisitions executive
Looking for: Animated series featuring high-quality artwork, original style, strong characters and an entertaining, educational and exciting story for kids ages three to 10. Schroderus also acquires specials and shorts (five-minute minimum episode length) for seasonal programming.
Preferred approach: Schroderus prefers personal pitch meetings, but if that’s not possible, send a pitch package – with a brief description of the pro-ject, set of drawings (characters, environments, etc.) and a few episode synopses – by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail (Thlopinranta 31, PO Box 196, 3301 Tempere, Finland).
Pitch turnoff: ‘If I had a dollar for every time a producer pitched me on project that is wrong for TV2 or its target group, I would own a beautiful racing horse,’ says Schroderus, whose turnoffs include violence and guns. She believes that adventures and exciting stories can be told without these elements.
Market circuit: BBC Showcase, MIPTV, Annecy, Cartoon Forum, MIPCOM, German Screenings
Joanna Webb, director of programming
Bonita Siegel, director of original productions
Looking for: Strippable, kid-centric shows based on humor rather than plot. Action shows work well, but must be unique as the channel has a large inventory of such programming. YTV is tailored to the six to nine demo, with a broader six to 11 target, and hits tweens in prime time. On weekends and after 9 p.m., YTV offers shows for youth and family. Specials are welcome, but no docs, educational, informational or feature-length productions.
Preferred approach: Acquisitions – send screeners and short descriptions to Jackie Pardy, manager of program acquisitions (email@example.com). Commissions – e-mail a pitch package and scripts to YTV’s coordinator Delia Leandres (firstname.lastname@example.org) and follow up with Bonita Siegel (fax: 416-534-1959, e-mail: email@example.com). Commissions must qualify as 100% Canadian content and require a Canadian producer.
Pitch turnoffs: Too many shows pitched in one meeting. When copycat shows are suggested for commissioning; if it exists, Webb will buy it rather than make it. Simply putting a kid spin on adult programming formats is yet another turnoff. Webb judges commissions by the written material (with some background from the pitch), the team, price point and the Original Productions Group’s ability to shape the program for YTV.
Market circuit: NATPE, MIPTV, MIPCOM, Banff
Nicole Keeb, commissioning editor
Irene Wellershoff, head of preschool television
Looking for: High-profile, gender-neutral programming (animated and live action) that deals with everyday issues from a kid’s point-of-view. Keeb is always on the look-out for concepts with a different style that explore new and original topics for ZDF’s six to 12 target demo. Program length is fairly flexible, with 13 episodes (half hours or two 12-minute eps) as a minimum. Series based on popular children’s books are best for ZDF’s preschool (two to seven) audience, but Wellershoff takes on original material provided that the stories and designs are fresh and funny, and that kids can identify with the characters. Animation is preferred (2-D, stop motion, 3-D, hybrids), and program lengths may vary (but usually fall in the five- to 12-minute range). Also on ZDF’s wishlist are 25-minute preschool programs that tell exciting stories without frightening kids.
Preferred approach: All available material should be sent to the ZDF office (ZDF-Strasse 1, 55100 Mainz, Germany).
Pitch turnoff: Being forced to buy a huge number of episodes at once.
Market circuit: MIPTV, MIPCOM, Annecy, Cartoon Forum, Berlinale, BBC Showcase