The top-five things on our radar this month

From the ups and downs of the preschool market to the anticipated launch of Amazon's Kindle tablet, we're keeping the fast-paced kids entertainment business top of mind.
October 1, 2011

1. Preschool upheaval
The summer was definitely not kind to preschool specialists in the biz. Chapman Entertainment (Fifi and the Flowertots, Roary the Racing Car) restructured in late July, significantly reducing its staff and halting the development of new programming. At press time, brand manager Chorion (Olivia, The Octonauts, pictured) had entered into administration and will be sold in chunks on the heels of chairman Waheed Alli’s departure—he resigned after being unable to renegotiate the company’s US$113-million debt load. HIT Entertainment, home to one of the globe’s top preschool properties Thomas the Tank Engine, remains on the block almost a year after talk of a sale started swirling. And finally, on a slightly brighter note, Turner Broadcasting EMEA just snapped up preschool brand LazyTown, lock, stock and Magnus Scheving. Lazytown’s Iceland-based owner Latibaer had well-documented financial difficulties brought on by that country’s 2009 financial meltdown, but under Turner’s wing, a brand rebirth is on the horizon.

2. Mooney leaves the Mouse
Andy Mooney unexpectedly resigned as chairman of Disney Consumer Products last month, sending shockwaves through the global licensing biz. The move has hastened the merger of Disney’s home entertainment division with DCP under former movie-distribution president Robert Chapek. The realignment should give the CP giant even more bargaining power at retail buyers’ tables the world over, much to its competition’s dismay.

3. A Slingbox throw-down
Time Warner Cable is subsidizing purchases of the Slingbox set-top box that enables users to call up their cable-TV offerings through any internet-enabled device. It’s an indication of the growing strength of the internet as a true content-delivery system. It’s also another shot lobbed in the battle between TW and its TV network suppliers, which have charged TW with “unlicensed distribution” via an iPad app that offers cable content online.

4. Amazon vs. Apple
The countdown is on to next month’s debut of Amazon’s much-hyped seven-inch Kindle tablet. With the iPad currently leading the tablet market, the rumored Android-powered, full-color device has a big game of catch-up to play—but with a price tag of just US$250 and deep integration with other Amazon services, ePublishing is bound to get a lot more interesting.

5. Google schools teachers
Google invited 50 teachers from all over the world to its first-ever YouTube Teacher’s Studio. The workshop is designed to show educators how to reach kids using the tech that already resonates with them. Teachers learned how to create video playlists to support lessons, as well as “flip teaching,” where students watch a video of a lesson at home and then do their “homework” in class.

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