Despite current concerns sweeping the U.K. children’s TV production community over pending Ofcom regulations (see ‘Bracing for Battle’, p. 89), Cartoon Network has decided to make its entrée into the space. Last month, parentco Turner announced the formation of the Cartoon Network Europe Development Unit, with the goal of developing wholly owned IP for the global network.
Although an old hand at co-pros, the unit marks the first time CN Europe will be developing new vehicles for Turner nets on its own. ‘We believe we know our audience really well and we know what they want to see,’ Daniel Lennard, senior director of original series and development, says.
Headquartered in London, CNEDU will move into SoHo-area digs in January, with 10 to 15 employees charged to find projects suitable for the international market.
Not surprisingly, the unit isn’t looking at pursuing genres or targets that stray far from CN’s core programming. So you can expect to see the new venture hatching character-driven comedies and action-adventure series for six to 11s. What is different, however, is the speed with which the unit will be able to turn an idea into a viable series, Lennard says.
‘The object of this development unit is to take ideas up to the bible and anamatic phase and put it right into the greenlight process,’ he says. ‘If we find an idea we like, we can very quickly give it to a team and work it up into something that’s going to work for us.’
Although Lennard would not specify the size of Turner’s investment in CNEDU, he says the budget will permit developing and producing three shows within the next three years. The unit is always looking for new projects and has some contenders from U.K. comic-book creators and small production companies on its current development slate.
And in light of the ever-splintering multi-platform environment, outright ownership of the IP was a key factor in the unit’s creation. Although a merchandising component is not a must for projects to be greenlit, the company plans to take advantage of wholly owning the property should L & M opps present themselves.
Lennard is optimistic the European animation talent pool will be able to deliver the goods and, perhaps, even the kind of global property that would more than justify Turner’s investment. ‘There is all this talent in Europe but it’s never been allowed to make these types of shows before,’ he says. ‘There is no reason we can’t make shows like SpongeBob SquarePants or Dexter’s Laboratory.’
Alongside the new undertaking, Lennard stresses the company is still very much interested in co-productions and straightforward acquisitions to fill its broadcast slate. CNEDU’s first series (details of which remained under wraps at press time) should hit CN airwaves in 2008/9.