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Got it Need it: DKN looks out-of-house to refresh its lineup

One year into its syndicated broadcasting venture, L.A.'s DIC Entertainment is ramping up to start refreshing its blocks on a more regular basis than seasonally. And having leaned rather heavily on its own library of toons to get the DIC Kids Network up and running, the studio's TV team has started to look beyond the internal coffers for new shows.
September 1, 2004

One year into its syndicated broadcasting venture, L.A.’s DIC Entertainment is ramping up to start refreshing its blocks on a more regular basis than seasonally. And having leaned rather heavily on its own library of toons to get the DIC Kids Network up and running, the studio’s TV team has started to look beyond the internal coffers for new shows.

Next year will mark the launch of two acquisitions from the Warner Bros. library, with classic toons The Smurfs and Captain Planet joining the lineup in the spring. DIC’s senior VP of domestic television David Ozer says the shows mesh well with the rest of DIC’s programming, which is also based on well-established brands.

Ozer is working towards adding at least one new show each quarter, and he’d like to bank enough programming so that he can rotate library titles in and out and make changes when ratings indicate that shows are failing to connect with viewers. DKN’s broadcast budget was increased by 20% this year, which has helped to accommodate more out-of-house acquisitions.

This is only the second time that DKN has shopped around for shows. Its first pick-up, live-action/CGI hybrid series Ace Lightning (a co-pro from AAC Kids and BBC Worldwide), joined the schedule in Q2. Its unique style compared to DIC’s 2-D animated library fare and its relative obscurity in the U.S. were the elements that appealed most to Ozer.

Ozer is now actively looking for programming to refresh DKN’s spring schedule, but he’ll only consider shows that fit within the parameters of the three demographically defined blocks that DKN offers to its channels. The three-hour blocks target: girls six to 11 (Sabrina, Liberty’s Kids), boys six to 11 (Sherlock Holmes, Sonic Underground) and a slightly younger two to 11 demo with a 50/50 gender split (Berenstain Bears, Inspector Gadget’s Field Trip). As far as formats go, 26 x half hours tends to work best, but Ozer is open to any style of programming. He’ll even look at live action, which he says hasn’t typically been considered because it ‘tends to either skew preschool, which we’re staying away from, or older than our core six to 11 demo.’

One other thing to keep in mind is that DKN positions itself as a one-stop source for U.S. affiliates looking to fulfill their FCC requirement of at least three hours of kids educational content a week. So every show the net picks up has to have some form of embedded curriculum like a pro-social or problem-solving message. ‘That being said, we’re definitely not looking for a professor standing at a blackboard,’ explains Ozer. ‘Our shows have to be entertaining first and foremost.’

In terms of reach, DKN currently provides blocks to 450 U.S. stations, including Fox, WB and UPN affiliates. Each station airs at least the three-hours-a-week minimum, and in any given market, DKN might have as many as three or four stations running exclusive programming.

Ozer says the girls block works best for the WB affiliates, while Fox stations prefer the boy-targeted feed and UPN nets tend to go with the younger stream to fill out their Saturday morning blocks.

By the end of May, DKN was averaging a 1.4 rating with kids six to 11, according to Nielsen, coming in just behind ABC Kids (1.8) and Fox Box (1.3). Ads are sold across all three blocks by Tribune Entertainment.

One perk to selling a show to DKN is that it will also be promoted on Yahooligans. Yahoo!’s eight-year-old kid-friendly homepage features streaming content from DIC’s library, and the site racks up as many as two million cartoon video plays per month. DIC and Yahooligans! are also developing advertising and cross-promotional campaigns that will involve on-line and DKN’s airspace.

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