Rather than letting go of kids once their viewing tastes mature beyond action-packed toons, Jetix Europe has launched a brand-new teen channel in Italy. The idea is to gauge regional demand for this kind of offering, and then roll the concept out internationally if market response is favorable.
GXT launched in May on Mondo Sky (Sky Italia’s basic cable platform) and initially beamed into 3.3 million subscribing households, which represents about 15% of the total viewing market in Italy. Managing director Francesco Nespega says GXT’s potential in Italy is quite good because aside from MTV, which centers all of its programming around music, there aren’t any dedicated teen channels in the market. In fact, the majority of shows that make up the fledgling net’s 24-hour lineup of reality, extreme sports, wrestling, anime and live-action are exclusively available in the territory on GXT.
Positioned as the next phase in viewing for Jetix’s core audience of boys six to 11, GXT is aiming for male teens between 10 and 19 (along with any older guys who can’t let go of their inner child) and narrowing in on a core target of 12- to 17-year-olds. The two channels are designed to feed into the natural graduation of the boys audience without cannibalizing each other. So while both offer a mix of animation and live action, at 20% toons and 80% live action, GXT splits these genres inversely compared to Jetix.
At the end of the year, Jetix Europe will evaluate the channel’s ratings performance and ad revenues to determine whether it could be marketable on a global scale. If GXT does work, the company will kick off its expansion efforts in territories where a Jetix channel is currently up and running and where there may be a similar lack of teen-targeted broadcast outlets.
Though there aren’t any plans in the pipeline to cross-promote between the two channels, Nespega isn’t ruling it out in the future. ‘At launch, we wanted to establish GXT in its own right,’ he says. ‘We’re serving two different audiences – they are contiguous, but very different.’ But sitting side by side on the dial has clearly benefited Jetix, which has racked up a 50% market share increase since the launch of GXT. The new channel hasn’t done too badly either, doubling the share targets set out by Jetix Europe. (Editor’s note: A recent court ruling has banned the publication of ratings in Italy, so Nespega was unable to divulge more specific data about his audience.)
In terms of how the broadcast day shakes out on GXT, mornings consist of syndicated live-action fare including Xena: Warrior Princess and The Dukes of Hazzard, and then the net shifts into sports-themed programming such as WWE AfterBurn, SlamBall (Warner Bros.) and Robot Wars (Mentorn) when Italian kids get home from school at 1:30 p.m. Late afternoons are all about going after the net’s younger viewers with anime that has a comic bent (i.e. Viz Media’s Inuyasha and Studio Pierrot and SME Visual Works’ GTO). Prime time starts at 7:30 p.m. with variety shows like wacky Japanese game format Takeshi’s Castle (TBS) and Guinness World Records (HIT Entertainment); blooper-style programs including Totally Outrageous Behaviour (20th Century Fox); and reality offerings along the lines of Beyond Distribution’s Chilli Factor (which takes a look at fashion, music and extreme sports trends from around the world). And rounding out the programming day are late-night action series such as X (TV X Production Committee) and Saiyuki (Studio Pierrot, Dentsu), as well as anime movies.
Nespega was aiming for an experimental feel with the schedule, which is why he’s gone for cultish, edgy, urban programming with lots of action and madcap humor. GXT’s on-air branding – centered around the tagline ‘Bring it on!’ – plays up the same tone in its design, colors and logos, and tries to encapsulate the lexicon and style sensibilities of urban teens.
At MIPCOM, Nespega will be trolling for at least 10 more series and would like to come home with around 150 new episodes covering variety shows, reality and sports entertainment. In animation, Nespega is after a couple of comedy-based anime series to round out the afternoon block, as well as an action-packed toon and a couple of movies for his late-night slots. He prefers longer-running series of at least 52 episodes.
GXT plans to stick to acquisitions for the time being. ‘Rather than doing co-productions for international programs, we need to invest our budgets in creating local flavor around the international shows that we are buying,’ he says. ‘Our interstitials are really more than just interstitials; they’re like small programs in their own right, featuring local talent.’ For example, Takeshi’s Castle has two local comics as on-air hosts, and the live-action wrap-around for WWE features Italian actor Enzo Salvi playing a mad scientist professor who heads down the same path as Frankenstein in his zeal to create the perfect wrestler.