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Screen

Stirring it up

Channel 5's Milkshake! zeroes in on new animated series and grows its VOD library.
February 28, 2014

The channel Despite competing with a large number of preschool children’s channels in the UK, including chief rival CBeebies, Channel 5′s Milkshake! has made a strong name for itself since launching 15 years ago as the free-to-air broadcaster’s daily morning block for the two to seven set. Its focus on high-end, story-driven animated series, and judicious use of presenter-led series and docs, has helped Milkshake! to reach an average of 60% of all UK kids ages four to nine. In 2013 alone, 19 million viewers tuned into the terrestrial block.

The majority of its programs are also offered through VOD (UK-based IPTV service YouView’s Milkshake! portal generated 11.5 million streams in 2013), and programming can be accessed via the Demand 5 iOS and Android apps and online at milkshake.channel5.com. The block is currently on the lookout for new original animated co-productions that are fast-paced, bold and colorful, as well as content fit for on-demand viewing, as opposed to straightforward acquisitions, formatted shows or anything overtly educational.

The programming  Airing 24 hours of programming each week from 6 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. on weekdays, and 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekends, Milkshake!’s lineup features a strong existing library of hit shows, including Peppa Pig, Thomas & Friends and Bananas in Pyjamas, and UK-exclusive series such as The Mr. Men Show, Rupert Bear and The Little Princess. “We commission and co-produce a lot of British programming, but we also work with producers internationally both in terms of co-productions and acquisitions,” says head of children’s content Jessica Symons.

Of the block’s 30 shows currently in rotation each week, 18 are original (commissions, co-productions, in-house productions), two are reversioned shows, and 10 are acquisitions. One of its top in-house shows is currently Milkshake! Bop Box, which features music produced by presenter Kemi Majeks. Other top-rated core programs include Komixx Entertainment’s stop-motion series Toby’s Travelling Circus, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom from eOne and DreamWorks Classics’ Noddy.

In with the new  For new original animated programs expected over the next 18 months, Symons says viewers can look for Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick’s series Pip! to hit the channel, along with Random House Children’s Screen Entertainment’s Wanda and the Alien (spring 2014), London-based Lupus Films’ Toot the Tiny Tugboat (adapted from Sebastien Braun’s book Toot and Pop!) and Red Kite Animation’s Bradley and Bee.

“For 2015, Dramatico Animation’s 52 x 11-minute The Wombles will also be a key series for us,” says Symons. “It usually takes a couple of years to make high-end animated programs, so we’re beginning to see the fruits of this support come through now with a raft of predominantly UK-produced animated series. However, this many new shows launching is on the high end for us.”

Branding drive  On the marketing front, Milkshake! offers in-house produced promos and clips targeting both parents and kids, online early-learning competitions, live on-air awards and photo contests that support host/viewer interactivity, and lots of themed weeks. “These might be seasonal, highlight character brands or reflect what is going on in the country,” says Symons. The channel also engages in off-line live events such as its recent year-long Milkshake! Live Come Out To Play nationwide theater show, which featured five key brands and all five of the block’s regular presenters. “We also have a lot of marketing support behind our digital activities, particularly YouView,” adds Symons.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of Kidscreen

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.

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