The funding body responsible for getting such Euro toon classics as The Animals of Farthing Wood and Noah’s Island off the ground is trying out a new business strategy to let private investors and production companies in on the action.
Until now, the European Broadcasting Union’s kids co-production program has worked exclusively with a consortium of 10 Euro broadcasters (ARD, BBC, France 2, France 3, RAI, TVE, RTBF, TSR, TSI and ZDF) operating collectively as the Guarantors Group and pooling together enough commission cash between them to develop two 26 x half-hour series, TOM and Pitt & Kantrop. In return for ponying up, these channels obtained the rights to air the shows either exclusively or on a shared-window basis in their territories.
But the EBU felt this business model excluded a large portion of its members (72 broadcasters in 52 countries) and was out of touch with the financing realities of the modern kids TV market. So under the new system, the door is wide open to private investors and studios with access to regional or national funds. And the changes also mean some of the EBU’s smaller member channels – specifically ones that may not have the funds to co-produce, but might consider pre-buying a show – can make use of future projects.
In terms of the content itself, the EBU plans to branch out from its previous mandate of super-serving the six to 12 demo (simply because it was the most common target amongst the 10 founding broadcasters) to look at projects for preschool and family audiences, as well as concepts based on established brands and stories. First consideration will go to projects that are fostered by an EBU broadcaster, but Philippe Jacot, head of the org’s co-production division, isn’t ruling out the possibility of greenlighting projects that originate beyond the union’s card-holding ranks.
The EBU will use its international contacts and act as a broker, bringing together investors around new projects. Whereas the EBU owned all rights for series created with the Guarantors Group, rights to projects under the new business model will remain in the hands of the production companies and investors that step up to the funding table.
The EBU’s Development Fund, which dispenses roughly US$1.2 million each year to help producers develop characters, environments and story arcs, offers one way for the union to invest in future productions in its own right. And Jacot says awards typically range from US$5,000 to US$70,000 per project.