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JimJam jigs local schedules for worldwide appeal

With carriage in more than six million households in Central and Eastern Europe, 24-hour preschool channel JimJam is moving full-steam ahead, as the net prepares to launch in another set of territories over the next two months.
February 1, 2008

With carriage in more than six million households in Central and Eastern Europe, 24-hour preschool channel JimJam is moving full-steam ahead, as the net prepares to launch in another set of territories over the next two months.

JimJam bowed in four million households via SKY Italia in 2006 and was quickly acquired by Chellomedia, the European content division of UK-based Liberty Global. What’s pushing the next round of rollouts is a new partnership forged between HIT Entertainment and Chellomedia last September.

Fittingly, the channel just hired Wayne Dunsford to take the spot of GM. (He spent the last 18 months doing consulting work for HIT on the deal.) He’s now charged with managing the relationship between HIT and Chellomedia as well as coordinating JimJam’s business goals and global rollout. And in the coming months, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

JimJam is slated to launch in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and most of Asia within the next year. However, don’t expect to see it landing in the UK or US anytime soon. Dunsford recognizes how super-saturated the UK market is when it comes to preschool entertainment, and adds HIT’s ownership stake in US diginet PBS Kids’ Sprout precludes entering that territory.

‘Our priorities are markets where we know there are opportunities on capacity and market demand, and where we believe we have a unique proposition against many of our competitors,’ says Dunsford. He lists Benelux, Switzerland, Austria, the Middle East, South Africa and Asia as priority territories.

With a battery of HIT’s series at the ready, it’s no surprise that the first two European launches broadcast a 100% HIT lineup. But Dunsford stresses that a dedicated HIT schedule won’t be the norm. He’s planning on filling up between 30% and 40% of future slates with acquisitions. On his wish list right now are shows that complement HIT’s stable of shows such as Bob the Builder and Thomas & Friends and employ unique styles and animation techniques that ideally haven’t been seen before in JimJam’s markets. So far pick-ups have included, Monster Distributes’ Slim Pig, Telescreen’s Anton, and two series from Neptuno films, Dougie in Disguise and Tork.

Original productions, however, are off the table for the foreseeable future. ‘It will be a long time before JimJam is in a position to consider commissioning programming,’ says Dunsford.

He’s interested in buying shows that work in all territories, but in the meantime, Dunsford’s working to schedule the channel to meet local requirements in each region. He’s also breaking up the sked into blocks that mirror a preschooler’s daily routine and will have wake-up and bedtime-themed programming, for example. All in all, he expects to be dubbing JimJam’s acquisitions into some 15 different languages over the course of the next two years.

JimJam is also developing a companion website complete with VOD service that will sit alongside the linear channel. Dunsford says a selected number of titles are available for viewing over broadband and will be refreshed regularly. So far, Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, Czech and Slovak websites have been set up and more localized versions will be spun off as JimJam moves into new markets.

Dunsford says distributors interested in the JimJam should contact the programming department at Chello Zone which manages its day-to-day operations.

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