Despite scoring international TV deals with nets such as TPS Jeunesse in France, Cartoon Network Latin America and Germany’s ARD, Jetix and Ki.Ka for its 2-D core kid show Jacob Two-Two, Toronto, Canada’s Nelvana couldn’t capture a coveted U.S. broadcast slot. But instead of giving up on cracking the States’ television market entirely, the prodco stepped outside of the TV box and onto the computer monitor, striking its first-ever broadband deal with Dulles, Virginia-based AOL’s on-line kid channel KOL at MIPTV.
‘One of the challenges in the U.S. marketplace is there’s a concentration of broadcasters who have vertically integrated animation studios,’ Doug Murphy, Nelvana’s executive VP of business development, says. And that leaves little room for acquisitions, particularly for series created outside the U.S., he explains. Murphy was impressed by the success of KOL’s Princess Natasha, which it commissioned from New York’s Animation Collective. Its leap from broadband to broadcast berth on Cartoon Network US convinced him to strike up a discussion with AOL’s kids and teens senior VP, Malcolm Bird, about Jacob’s potential integration into the on-line world.
The spy-based comedy, recently greenlit for a fifth series, will have a three-year stint on KOL starting this month. All 55 Jacob episodes have been acquired by the subscription-based, on-demand broadband service, and AOL has also picked up U.S. licensing and merch rights for the property.
KOL is only available to children in the U.S., which means Murphy is on the lookout for comparable broadband distribution markets internationally. ‘I like KOL because it’s subscriber based and it’s sticky.’ Kids stay on the site an average of 30 minutes per session, he notes.
Breathing new non-linear life into Nelvana’s toon catalogue is a top priority for Murphy, and he thinks other producers need to embrace the broadband market. Although his first preference remains landing TV deals, he’ll be looking at ways to get series that couldn’t lock down American TV broadcasters onto different screens. ‘We believe KOL is a network as much as any other big network – it’s just a different kind – it’s on demand,’ he says.
Although this is Nelvana’s first broadband deal, Jacob Two-Two is also part of the company’s Vortex On Demand channel available on U.S. cable giant Comcast. According to Murphy, the cable provider’s 12-million digital subscribers are helping Vortex rack up tens of thousands of views per month.