After several months of making smaller tweaks to operations, France Télévisions finally unveiled its large-scale kids programming re-invention just before the end of 2009. Under the new organization, all kids programming blocks across its network of channels (France 3, 4 and 5) have been firmly placed under the new Ludo brand umbrella. Additionally, France 2 will no longer air kids content.
The pubcaster decided to set up the brand with a new visual format and revised programming schedule to encourage its 14 million viewers per week – accounting for more than half the kids in the country – to move freely between each of the three channels and its new interactive web portal, www.monludo.fr.
The move comes after a year of careful planning and reorganizing, and associate director in charge of youth programming Julien Borde says staying competitive with the more than 20 cabsat and DTT channels in France carrying kids content was key. With the new brand comes a significant bump in the number of hours dedicated to children’s programming on the three channels, upping the airtime to 60 hours per week and 85 hours during school holidays. The pubcaster also promises to start airing more than 150 hours of exclusive series by June 2010 to help define the brand’s positioning on each channel.
As part of the rebrand, France Télévisions has moved away from segmenting blocks according to age group and Ludo functions essentially as an all-encompassing broadcast identity. Its programming is intended for kids and family members of all ages and it encourages viewers to navigate from channel to channel to website. Borde says ratings for Titeuf, Marsupilami in Palombia, and relatively new shows such as Wakfu and Podcats, demonstrated kids were regularly watching shows outside of their demographic and not particularly paying attention to a given block’s targeted messaging. ‘So we have decided to build on that strength and make our brand consistent with that viewer reality,’ explains Borde.
Borde contends the fluidity of the Ludo ident doesn’t mean all demo-specific programming is out. France 5, for one, will air early-morning preschool block Ludo Zouzous. However, he’s done away with both France 3′s six to 12 Toowam block and France 2′s KD2A block for tweens and teens, whose shows will now air on France 4.
Preliminary non-preschool Ludo skeds will be filled with programming previously commissioned for France 2, such as Iron Man, Bunny Maloney and My Life Me, according to their channel fit. Repeats of top-rated shows like Titeuf and Tangerine & Cow are also on deck. But he’s making his biggest bet for animation on France 4′s afternoon block.
‘The new afternoon block is a better way to give exposure to our content,’ says Borde. This past spring, the pubcaster announced the animation slot on France 4 that’s designed to offer a much-needed afternoon home for cartoons and provide an opportunity to air 20-plus animated series that hadn’t yet made it to air.
Digital channel France 4 will now also have kids slots on weekends and Wednesday mornings. ‘The idea is that when we close our blocks at 11 a.m. on France 3, we start our blocks on France 4,’ says Borde. ‘France 4 is one of the newest channels of France Télévisions and we need to help kids find their way to that new channel.’
And in an effort to keep the toon pipeline full following the Ludo rebrand, France Télévisions announced a two-year extension of its five-year-old agreement with French animation lobby group SPFA (Syndicat des Producteurs de Films d’Animation). The pubcaster’s consented to invest roughly US$88 million in animation between 2011 and 2012, while committing to airing a minimum of 2,100 hours of animation annually across its channels. Borde says commissioning decisions will continue to be made according to the structure set up in mid-2009 that’s looking for toons in four distinct categories: edutainment, ecologically focused series for six to 12s, adaptations of literary classics and new comedies.
Borde is also adding live action acquisitions to France 4 and France 5, including Eddie McDowd at lunch time on France 5 and Even Stevens, Genie in the House and H2O every afternoon on France 4.
All the Ludo blocks will include intense promotion of its corresponding website, which Borde says has been designed to serve as much more than just a shop window for the channels’ content. Besides customizable features, the site houses universes built around different content categories, including Ludo Stars for literary adaptations, Ludo Nature for environment-oriented programming and Ludo Langues, which offers English-language learning content, including WordWorld and English versions of several popular series.
The customizable, interactive components at Monludo.fr give kids the ability to share their photos, user-generated content, favorite websites and games with their friends, as well as providing parents a chance to get involved with and monitor their kids’ web time through prescriptive content and a mechanism that regulates time spent on the site.
Borde says programming the site with exclusive interactive experiences based on key franchises should also give the new brand a strong competitive edge. For example, a rich interactive component created by Montreal, Canada-based studio Tribal Nova will launch in Q1 for established on-air and online hit, Wakfu, as well as Alphanim-Gaumont’s Alfred.