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Got it Need it: Noga chases live-action dramas and co-pros

It's been a long time coming, but Israeli net The Children Channel is finally stocked up with enough girls content to see it through the next couple of seasons. And with Atomic Betty (Breakthrough) and Mew Mew Power (Pierrot Studios) joining Rainbow's Winx Club on the schedule this fall - not to mention MGA Entertainment's Bratz launching in 2006 - head of programming Dganit Atias is switching into a new gear for MIPCOM.
August 1, 2005

It’s been a long time coming, but Israeli net The Children Channel is finally stocked up with enough girls content to see it through the next couple of seasons. And with Atomic Betty (Breakthrough) and Mew Mew Power (Pierrot Studios) joining Rainbow’s Winx Club on the schedule this fall – not to mention MGA Entertainment’s Bratz launching in 2006 – head of programming Dganit Atias is switching into a new gear for MIPCOM.

While she’s already picked up about 80% of her ’06 lineup, Atias typically likes to freshen her schedule with 15 to 20 new titles each year. She’s currently looking for five new shows, and would like see more live-action tween dramas and sitcoms, along with gender-neutral comedy/action animation à la Jackie Chan Adventures or Xiaolin Showdown, which started airing on the channel this year. Movies and one-off specials are always needed to fill out airtime during school holidays, and Atias is keeping an eye out for family-friendly live-action titles and girl-skewing fare like Mattel’s Barbie direct-to-video movies.

As the only kids channel on the market that’s available both free-to-air and on satellite, The Children Channel reaches into between 80% and 90% of all Israeli households. The net pulls in a 17% share of kids six to 12 on average during prime time, whomping its closest competitors Jetix (2%) and Cartoon Network (1.9%).

Kicking off the 14-hour broadcast day at 6 a.m., mornings are dedicated to animation, with first-run series airing before school. Beginning at 1:30 p.m., live hosted segments run every half hour for about seven minutes in between top-performing toons such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball GT and preschool fave Arthur, which Atias says is surprisingly popular with older kids ages five to 11. The hosted segments feature interactive games, quizzes and news, and they culminate daily in a live half-hour show called Five and a Half at 5:30 p.m. Evenings skew a bit older with live-action fare such as the Amanda Bynes vehicle What I Like About You (Warner Bros.) and The Saddle Club (Protocol Entertainment, Crawfords Australia and Lancit Media).

Atias also buys for Logi, a pay-TV edutainment channel for kids six to 12 that’s owned by Children Channel parent company Noga Communications. The net launched a year ago and broadcasts about 300 new hours per year, but Atias has had trouble finding enough entertaining educon to fill out the lineup. While she sees tons of pitches for science and nature shows, few of them also boast good storytelling, and that’s crucial for this particular broadcast mandate. She cites Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus as an example of the balance she’s looking for.

Anchoring the lineup in September is a 100-episode animated short series called Just a Minute (Pil Animation) that Noga produced in-house. Each two-minute segment features a robot storyteller who magically transforms into different objects and characters and uses humor to explore subjects ranging all the way from Leonardo DaVinci to the food chain. The series has international legs as well, having sold to Discovery Kids UK, TPS Jeunesse in France and Canada’s TVOntario.

To amp up Logi’s schedule, and hopefully build a new revenue stream in the process, Noga Communications is seeking co-production partners with projects in the early stages of development. Grace Grinberg, Noga’s head of international distribution and co-productions, says Israel’s strict local production quotas (around 50% of the work must be done in Israel to air on a local carrier) have made the territory a bit unappealing to foreign studios. But Noga is actively lobbying to loosen these restrictions, and is hoping that its involvement will help convince potential co-producers to take a closer look.

Grinberg says along with funding (30% of the channels’ combined programming budget is earmarked for production, split between local shows and international co-pros) and local expertise, the company brings an interesting cultural perspective. For example, she’s been talking to a German broadcaster about a drama that would look at the lives of both Israeli and German kids.

Editor’s note: The electronic version of this article has been edited from the original print version in order to correct or clarify some information that it contained.

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