Ireland’s JAM Media is taking the notion of interactive TV to a whole new level this month as it prepares to open its first PicMe-branded preschool just outside of Dublin. Opening a daycare-type facility might seem like a novel move for a prodco, but given the early-learning concepts embedded within JAM’s hit 104 x five-minute PicMe series that puts photos submitted by its viewers right into the on-screen action, it’s a logical brand extension.
The first PicMe Preschool location has the capacity for 30 kids between the ages of two and five (at press time, it was completely booked), and is aiming to combine a social/emotional curriculum with Montessori teaching methods. And CEO John Rice is keeping the venture in the family. Rice’s wife and trained child psychologist Sarah is heading up the center. Rice says she played a large role in the development of PicMe and expects she’ll have no problem teaching the preschoolers the ins and outs of learning social graces such as manners and co-operation, while helping them explore their creativity through art classes and other exercises.
JAM is also putting its software development knowledge to work. It has created a number of early-learning computer games and activities for the preschool’s attendees to use. And just like the series, each child will be able to place his/her own photo into the computer programs. Posters featuring pictures of the current crop of PicMe Preschool kids interacting with the show’s five main animal characters will also be used to decorate the classroom.
Rice is planning to extend the concept to another four franchises within Ireland by the end of the year. He says between PicMe’s double exposure on Irish pubcaster RTE and cab/sat channel Nick Jr. and the national press coverage the preschool has received, he hasn’t spent a penny on formal marketing and is currently turning applicants away. JAM is self-funding the venture, with fees running from US$114 to US$172 per week per child, depending on whether they attend the preschool three or five hours each day.