Investing and developing a new stream of original program content for the CBeebies brand internationally is BBC Worldwide’s latest initiative. Helming the program in her newly created director of CBeebies investment role is Henrietta Hurford-Jones, who is now responsible for managing the global investment process for all preschool programming and branded properties for the Beeb’s commercial arm.
Hurford-Jones says that although she will still be working closely with the other divisions of BBCW, including Children’s and Licensing, her new role is to act as a dedicated CBeebies commissioner on the channel side.
‘BBCW needed someone to pick up more than just channel rights and look instead at taking on all television rights and becoming involved from a developmental stage,’ says Hurford-Jones. ‘The idea going forward is that we may pick up smaller, television-only properties as well.’
Hurford-Jones will be working with the UK and international production community to service audiences with locally relevant content for its six CBeebies feeds operating in Australia, Asia, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Latin America and the Hispanic market in North America.
Having just started in July, she says she is assessing where the holes are at various channels and doesn’t yet have a specific acquisition volume goal in mind. However, she’s open to looking at any preschool pitches and working with everyone from big studios with their own distribution arms to smaller independent producers.
‘I’m happy to take on properties being proposed from anywhere around the world and work collaboratively in terms of possibly sharing rights and creating something that can work for all of us,’ says Hurford-Jones. She says producers are free to email her with pitches, and though she’s open to a wide range of programming, she’s focusing on properties that will work internationally.
‘The local broadcasting teams will focus on the localized elements of their schedules,’ says Hurford-Jones. Ideally, she will strive to keep to the original brand values of providing education through play, but wants to acknowledge local differences.
She points to Penelope K by the Way, BBCW’s first original preschool series, as a locally produced, independent show with international appeal. Conceived in Australia by Blink Films in association with Freehand Media, Penelope bowed in April in Oz and has rolled out internationally over the summer.
And to kick off its renewed focus on preschool, BBCW has also relaunched CBeebies’ international websites. Reinforcing the goal to tailor services to specific regional audiences, www.CBeebies.com now offers geo-targeted content in key CBeebies territories including South Africa, Australia and Asia, as well as local-language content for Latin America and Poland.
The revamped website has a new look based on an underwater world that is unique to international preschool audiences and works as a universally recognized environment for the demographic. The main focus of the site is a yellow submarine, which will house video content and allows kids to scroll through a carousel to the desired title and click through.