Canal J turns up the laughtrack to cement ID
Year in review: According to Mediametrie figures from the first six months of 2007, digital terrestrial net Canal J held down a 4.8% overall audience share. But as the channel dedicates its programming to six- to 10-year-olds, director of programs Pierre Belaisch, says it’s likely that viewership will swing to the younger end of the demo. The net is skewing very slightly boy, so Belaisch is on the lookout for some girls properties to help even out the gender scale in the programming year ahead.
Topping the heap: Belaisch’s biggest hits tend to come from the after-school block (starting at 4:30 p.m.), with fare such as Moonscoop’s Titeuf and Code Lyoko, Martin Mystery from Marathon and live-actioner Genie in the House (Moi J’Aime La Television/Nick/Canal J) pulling in the most eyeballs. Belaisch credits the character-driven nature of these series for their success.
The show to watch: Taking a hint from how well his action-comedies have been performing lately, Belaisch expects newcomer Franky Show from Toon Factory to generate some heat in the fall schedule. This 2-D animated series launched on the net’s prime after-school block in September, but web-savvy kids got a sneak-peek at the first ep one week earlier, a tactic Belaisch says ramps up website visits and builds buzz for the show debut. In addition to the laughs, another main point of appeal on Franky Show is that it stars the older brother of well-known comic book character Titeuf.
Strategic moves: Coming in January to the after-school block is Microsoft/4 Kids co-pro Viva Piñata. This block is an important proving ground where the channel has to deliver on its values of comedy, fun, mischief and gender-neutrality – or risk losing viewers. Belaisch believes Viva Piñata’s non-violent message, character-oriented scripts and big laugh potential will appeal to girls and, hopefully, balance out the boy/girl audience split. And bringing in more shows with striking animation design will be increasingly important for Belaisch moving forward. He stresses this is a key strategy to keep Canal J afloat in a sea of kidnets, especially in the aftermath of the TPS/Canal+ merger.
Upcoming challenges: With the aforementioned merger comes a number of challenges for the Canal J team, particularly the increased on-screen competition that could fragment France’s kids audience even further. Canal+’s Teletoon channel targets the same age group as Canal J, and its new owners gave the broadcaster a brand makeover that highlights ‘pals, fun and challenges.’ It also moved into Canal J’s satellite turf with some girl-skewing properties, such as Rainbow’s Winx Club and DIC’s Horseland, which may intrude on Belasich’s plans to get more female eyeballs. Belaisch says he is also facing increased off-screen competition from what he calls the ‘children’s consumption evolution,’ as websites take kids’ attention away from the bigger screen.
But Belaisch isn’t one to just take it lying down. Canal J has already repackaged its logo and website to reinforce its focus on laughs. The new tagline, ‘La télé complètement allumée,’ is a double entendre meaning the net is both literally switched on and totally wacky.
Unique Euro animation tops France 3′s fall list
Year in review: It’s been over a year since France 3 launched its Toowam block for the six- to 12-year-old set, and head of kids programing Julien Borde’s team marked its anniversary with a website relaunch this past July. The site now offers a new service called Catch Up, where kids can watch and re-watch their fave series online and on-demand. The site also features some episodes that will broadcast exclusively online, and there’s tons of accompanying original games, quizzes, chats and blogs for kids to sink their teeth into.
On the traditional screen, Toowam’s ratings have grown by 1.5% since 2006, from a 16.2% share of viewers ages four and up to 17.7%. Borde says scheduling strategies such as full sked marathons and back-to-back episodes raise the broadcaster’s profile and might be the cause for the ratings boost.
Topping the heap: Borde says key assets such as Marsupilami, Titeuf and Scooby-Doo are the broadcaster’s biggest draws, but he also thinks last year’s acquisitions – Marathon ‘s Team Galaxy, Robotboy from Alphanim/Cartoon Network and Viz’s Naruto – will join the classics in the top tier this year. With new eps of these series on the way for fall, he anticipates the ratings will plump to 19% by this time next year.
The shows to watch: Borde is confident two new pick-ups for fall will tickle his viewers’ funny bones. Frankenstein’s Cat (Kayenta/Mackinnon & Saunders/CCI) was a hot-button show at 2005′s KidScreen Summit. Now a France 3 co-pro, its 11-minute eps tap into Borde’s comedy remit. Alphanim’s long-awaited CGI toon Hairy Scary, meanwhile, also bowed in September. Another France 3 co-pro, the series tackles tolerance and compassion with laughs, looking at a hairy boy and a scary girl who are as different as can be, but are the best of friends regardless.
Borde was drawn to the strong animation styles of both series, but they’re on the grid because they were born from French and Euro production houses. He says 80% of the toons scheduled in Toowam’s weekday slot are continental, and were selected for their understanding of local educational content and the social values that are important to French parents.
Strategic moves: To rev up excitement several weeks before their launch dates, the fall premieres were preceded by scores of on-air teasers during the latter part of the summer, and Borde will build on the momentum by scheduling marathon days in the coming months. Another strategy is to book-end the new series with high-rating programming.
Upcoming challenges: With so many TV options for French kids, Borde is looking at experimental animation styles that break the mold and keep viewers from reaching for the remote. The net’s key assets are now centered around comedy toons, adventure series or magazine-style live-actioners, and he’s keen to take a look at any length of format, from one minute to half hours. ‘The shows we pick up offer the viewers the keys to understanding the world they live in, in an amusing, original and entertaining way,’ he says.
The channel’s current co-production development slate includes projects such as The Famous Five, inspired by the classic Enid Blyton books and in the works with Paris, France’s Marathon Media and London, England-based Chorion. France 3 is also working on new programs based on three properties that are very well-known to its French audience – Garfield, Samon & Neon and My Friend Grompf.