When France’s Independent Audiovisual Communication Authority (CSA) determined that the country needed a free kids TV channel to compete with its numerous generalist channels like TF1, French media company Lagardère Active knew it had a winning proposition in Gulli (originally Gulliver).
As part of Lagardère’s multiplex of youth and family channels, which now includes boy-targeting Canal J, preschool channel TiJi and seasonal popup The Santa Claus Channel, Gulli launched in November 2005 as the first free-to-air DTT channel dedicated to children. With Lagardère and its joint-venture partner France Télévisions owning 66% and 34% stakes in Gulli, respectfully, the channel evolved quickly. In 2010, it launched catch-up TV service Gulli Replay, and two years later it partnered with tech company Kurio to introduce what’s touted as the first kid-friendly Android tablet in France. Online, gulli.fr has generated more than 12 million video views to date and the Gulli app has reached 1.2 million downloads. Now owned 100% by Lagardère Active (France Télévisions sold its stake last month), Gulli is looking to continue its run as one of France’s leading kidnets by expanding further into animated preschool content, live-action series for girls, family-friendly sitcoms and gender-neutral comedies.
Gulli’s current lineup consists of approximately 80% animation (35% is French animation) versus 20% live action. Original French programs make up about 15% of the schedule, while total original series account for 30%. Before Lagardère’s current head of programming for youth and family channels, Caroline Cochaux, came on board in January 2013, Gulli skewed more to boys action in its before-school morning block. By September, Cochaux made a switch and launched the Gulli Doo preschool block featuring hit series such as Care Bears, My Little Pony and Tree Fu Tom. Searching for more balance, Cochaux also decided to swap out some live-action family programming airing at lunchtime for girl-targeted animation. “After the amazing success of a girl power day that launched in 2012, we decided to introduce a special lunchtime girl-power block last October, featuring hit shows including Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse, Rosie, Atomic Betty, Monster High and Littlest Pet Shop,” says Cochaux.
Later in the day on Wednesdays and weekends, boy-skewing block Code Adventure offers major branded titles including Max Steel, Legends of Chima, Transformers Prime and Beyblade. For the after-school period, a “best of” block is programmed with animation, live-action and game shows for boys and girls of any age. Among the series headed to the block this year are Pac-Man, Inazuma Eleven, Monster Buster Club, Victorious, Merlin and family game show In the Box. “Into the evening, shows like Merlin and TahitiQuest can get parents and older kids to watch together. Our studies also show that grandparents watch Gulli so we recently ran a special musical night featuring classic films such as A Star is Born, The King and I and My Fair Lady,” says Cochaux. She adds that the channel’s top performers include many big brands such as Monster High, Power Rangers and Max Steel.
As a co-producer, Gulli is set to debut Sonic Boom, the first CGI-animated TV series based on Sega’s iconic Sonic the Hedgehog gaming franchise, this fall. It’s also readying animated series Hubert and Takako, a co-production with Canal J and Canal+. “We are looking for major brands for children inspired by mythology, novels, real characters, toys and new versions of cult animated series—provided they are popular with kids,” says Cochaux. She adds that the biggest challenge is finding content for the four to 10 set. “Kids in this age group are very different. The youngest will progress, but the oldest will regress.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Kidscreen