A new multimedia French-language brand, targeting both French Canadian kids ages two to six and their parents, just got off the ground at the start of the month. YOOPA, as it’s been dubbed, is part of TVA Group, the Montreal-based subsidiary of Quebecor Media that produces television, audiovisual products and magazine publications largely for the Canadian province of Quebec.
Rather than sticking solely to TV, YOOPA includes a kids specialty diginet, a parenting magazine of the same name and a website that hosts content for both kids and parents. (The site resulted from the merger and rebranding of existing online publications PetitMonde.ca and EspaceParents.ca.)
Denis Dubois, TVA’s specialty channel director, and Patricia Lavoie, director of original productions for the new channel, say YOOPA will fill what they see as a gap in specialty French-language preschool programming in Quebec, which has a population of close to eight million. (At press time, final negotiations for carriage were being ironed out.)
‘We’re launching not only a channel, but a multiplatform brand,’ says Dubois. ‘It’s not a French Treehouse – it’s a magazine platform, a TV platform, a web platform and eventually a mobile platform.’ He adds that he hopes to expand carriage outside of Quebec to reach Francophone kids and families in other parts of Canada.
At launch, the channel aired programming from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with as many first-time French broadcasts in Canada as Dubois could amass. Acquired series include Angelina Ballerina (HIT Entertainment), Waybuloo (RDF/Decode Enterprises), Blue’s Clues (MTVNI), LazyTown (LazyTown) and Pororo (Iconix/Moonscoop).
Additionally, several industry veterans have hopped over to the new venture to helm the brand. Lavoie, for her part, has written, directed and produced kids series including Sesame Street Canada. New director Marysol Charbonneau hails from established kidnet Vrak.TV, while Marie Rainville, who is taking the reins of the YOOPA magazine, was the former editor of EspaceParents.ca.
Dubois and Lavoie say the channel will expand to a 24-hour schedule in the future and will work with independent producers on commissioning and creating original programming. In the meantime, the first in-house original live-action puppet production will begin airing on June 1. A second production is slated to debut in the fall, making for a total of 65 half hours of original programming in the first year of operation.
Dubois says he hopes to eventually install YOOPA-branded kiosks in public places such as airports and shopping malls so that parents and kids could take a break together and watch the TV channel, or engage with the brand through computer monitors, books and toys.