Jetix Europe has been branching out from its all-action all-the-time programming remit lately and plans to keep the trend going strong with a whack of new development money and a renewed focus on airing wholly owned IPs.
Jetix will be co-producing or commissioning a whopping 250 half hours of new programming this year, up from 144 half hours in 2005, drawing from an increased production fund of US$45 million. And Senior VP of programming Michael Lekes can now take advantage of majority shareholder Disney’s giant distribution infrastructure and consumer products arm. ‘It gives us tremendous amounts of leverage to have the same company that’s selling Lost and The Chronicles of Narnia, selling [Jetix shows such as] A.T.O.M. and Pucca,’ he says.
That said, the company is not bound by any formal deal with Disney, which means the broadcaster’s free to pursue deals with external partners that have independent distribution infrastructures, such as the current arrangements it has with Marathon for Totally Spies! and PorchLight Entertainment for Tutenstein.
This fact, when coupled with Jetix’s growing reach in the European market, has Lekes quite keen on the idea of putting more money behind fully owned series, or programs in which Jetix is majority partner. So the focus will be on fewer shows, but they’ll be backed by bigger promotional and CP campaigns.
‘Acquisitions remain key, but unless there’s significant rights sharing, or revenue sharing, it’s in our interest to invest in IP where ancillary revenues play a big role,’ Lekes says.
In terms of new development, Lekes is very interested in creator-driven shows. He’s been beating the bushes lately to find unique concepts, checking out indie websites created by animation or design students, and even the new wave of vinyl toy creators.
‘We’re interested in looking in all those unusual places – the guys in the basement who are coming up with character designs, or people who come from the on-line world and never considered developing an animated series,’ he says.
It’s a strategy that has paid off in the past. One of the net’s flagship series, Pucca, originated as an on-line greeting card posted by two brothers in Korea. More recently, Madrid-based prodco Zinkia Entertainment brought animated comedy/action series Shuriken School to the net after Zinkia found it on a website conceived by two Spanish brothers who were creating cartoons in their living room. The series will bow on the net this year.
‘We’re looking ultimately for something that is unique and will add to the diversity of our portfolio,’ Lekes says, adding that Pucca’s graphics-based comedy shorts don’t really fit in the same box as something like the net’s new 26-part epic fantasy co-pro Oban Star-Racers. However, they are both true to the company’s mandate to immerse kids in worlds of fantasy and adventure.
Also set to debut this spring is live-action/CGI hybrid Monster Warriors (Canada’s Coneybeare Stories), a 26 x half hour fantasy series about four everyday teens fighting off an army of 1950′s style B-movie monsters. Jetix holds all pay-TV rights for Europe and the Middle East, along with TV distribution, home video, consumer product and on-line and interactive rights – including mobile.
With several new show announcements yet to come this spring, Lekes says he’s still looking for unique properties to round out the portfolio, including a mystery thriller similar to ’90s hit Goosebumps, though not necessarily the same format. He’s open to both animated and live-action concepts, and is interested in straying from the three-act, 30-minute storylines common to most kids programming.