by Ken Faier, guest blogger
It struck me recently that those of us who have grown up in the kids entertainment business are actually pretty sophisticated. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Even though I still behave like an 8-year-old more often than I like to admit (quit looking like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re all there with me or we wouldn’t be here), I also have to be proud of the fact that I kind of know what I am doing.
I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (well I scanned it-there weren’t enough pictures for my inner 8-year-old!) and I couldn’t help but realize that his whole 10,000-hour theory is probably true. Gladwell repeatedly makes the claim that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. We all hit the 10,000 hour mark long ago (FYI, it only takes about four or five years to hit this mark… yikes, I am approaching 30,000 hours! I wonder if our skills deteriorate after 10k?! I’ll save that for a future blog).
Anyway, when I look at what we have collectively accomplished in this business over all those long hours, it reinforces my impression that we are an extremely resilient species. Over the last 10 to 15 years, the kids business has been hit with a number of events that could have easily led to its downfall, yet we have evolved. From US networks paying the entire budget of shows and producers being able to own them 100% and with real international revenues for license fees, to all of the factors that have made us get off of our butts and get smarter and more innovative. Bans on advertising to kids, audience fragmentation over many channels paying a lot less for shows and retail shelves filled with the same brands that were there 15 years ago and little room for anything new, etc. And still here we are, surviving and thriving. Transmedia? We’ve been doing it for years. The kids’ biz has always been about creating for multiple experiences. So why do so many other genres of producers not realize that we truly are the best in the entertainment business? Probably we’re all too focused on our own niches to really pay attention.
So here is a thought. We should all just come together as one giant army of creativity and business acumen and take over the world of entertainment. And then the world itself! What would life on this planet be like if we put the kids business professionals (all with the emotional and social development of an 8-year-old!) in charge? Maybe instead of war, we’d have speed pitching. Maybe instead of guns, we’d have fun toy like launchers that shoot darts with suction cups on them. Maybe instead of post apocalyptic visions of the future we could think of one giant theme park that everyone is welcome to come and have fun in. And so on…
While I was mulling over the future for us spiritual 8-year-olds, it dawned on me that the most important skill we have all built up over our 10,000 hours (or 20,000 or 40,0000) is to become agents of change. We have spent countless thousands of hours honing our craft in a business you can call half empty or half full. But really, it isn’t a glass, it’s an ocean. So let’s take our skills and build a fleet of boats that connects the world. Of course, they should all have pools, slides, laser tag, skating rinks and roller coasters. Damn that would be fun!