The primary goal at M6 this season will be to maintain and build on the huge share gains it made last year by focusing its Wednesday morning block on the four to 10 set.
Up until ’04, the channel used to counter-program in this prime daypart, offering music shows to avoid a head-on battle for kid viewers with the likes of TF1 and France 3. But the advent of 24-hour specialty kidnets (France has 20, compared to Germany’s five) meant M6 could no longer rely on its now-defunct afternoon kids block to pull in enough young viewers, and it had to follow the eyeballs. ‘We needed to be where kids were watching in bulk, even if that involved face-to-face competition,’ says M6 head of children’s programming Natalie Altmann.
So the channel decided to grow the morning block from one to two and a half hours, and Altmann filled this expanded airspace with series that already had a strong brand presence (Kid Paddle and Tintin), two brand-new co-pros (Atomic Betty with Breakthrough and Martin Mystery with Marathon) and a strong acquisition (Nick’s My Life as a Teenage Robot). The move clearly worked, as M6′s share of four- to 10-year-olds doubled to 17.9% on Wednesdays.
‘Since we have fewer kid slots than other French channels, we need to build our trademark with programming,’ Altmann says. ‘So we look for shows that are funny and action-packed, that display positive characters, and that have a high level of identification for our audience.’ To make sure that mandate was being met, the channel chose to go the co-pro route on more than half of its new fare, and Altmann says these shows consistently rate higher than M6′s acquisitions. ‘We follow our co-productions from start to finish, dedicating a lot of time to improving the writing, the pacing, etc.’
M6 also made up a lot of ground on weekends. The net doubled up its Saturday morning share (to 18%) with second airings of Atomic Betty, action-packed fare such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and classics (The Smurfs); Sundays mornings matched that rate of growth (to 22.5%) with family-skewing series including Toei Animation’s drama toon Nadja.
Altmann added The New Adventures of the Invisible Man to the schedule in October, and this co-pro with BRB and Moonscoop will be joined by Monster Allergy (with Futurikon and Rainbow), The Ugly Duckling and Me (with A. Films and Futurikon) and The Fantastic Four (with Antefilms and Marvel) in 2006.
M6 aims to greenlight five co-pros a year, and Altmann is still looking to get involved in three more for 2006. Gender-neutral series with story- or action-driven comedy are at the top of her wishlist (no live action please), and pre-existing brand awareness is key.