I’m not sure why anyone would stay in the preschool TV business unless they were a zealot. Because if you’re in it for the money, the numbers don’t add up anymore. Even if you have a big show on a big channel, there’s just not enough money these days in broadcast license fees, DVDs, publishing or toys to justify the investment of making a big preschool show. And the complex treaty co-productions that sprout up all over the world like little preschool TV Frankensteins rarely produce a show with a strong enough creative center to become a global hit or to succeed at the high stakes tables of the US broadcast and toy markets.
So why do I think this is good news? Because I am a zealot. I’ll make my preschool shows regardless of whether they succeed or fail commercially. I’ll make big ones and I’ll make little ones. I’ll make expensive ones and I’ll make cheap ones. So, for me, the fact that this is now a shaky industry just means that those who are in it only to sell plastic toys to preschoolers will, in the coming days, months and years, either go under or flee the business entirely, leaving the field open for zealots like me.
In short, I think we will soon have a world in which the only people making preschool shows will be the really big global companies who can produce and broadcast their own shows and a handful of indies and educators who are motivated by something deeper than money to make their preschool shows. In other words, the field will be reduced to the mega-corporations and the zealots and I believe the zealots will continue to make the better preschool shows.
What about all of the mid-size companies who are big enough to get their shows made but are still dependent on the broadcasters to get their shows on the air? Sadly, I believe most of these companies will go away. Their shows will simply not be able to find homes on the big networks where every year there will be fewer and fewer acquisition slots available. And if their shows do not have good slots on good US networks, all of their financial models will amount to nada. The debt and the bloated overheads of these mid-sized companies will become unsustainable and they will pack up their preschool development slates and head into the hills of games, apps, reality TV or whatever media business seems to have better earnings potential.
I’ve always had a soft spot for preschool TV show creators and small independent production companies. I like them and they like me. We are cut from the same scrappy, tenacious and often irrational cloth. We are the ones who have some deep creative itch that we simply must scratch. And because we are driven by our passion for making shows, I believe we are the ones who have the best chance of surviving this current preschool TV tsunami. Because when the big wave comes, we’ll be small and agile enough to duck underneath it, swim over it or, hopefully, surf it.