While an increase in demand for kids content is always a good thing for producers and writers in our industry, it does also make the landscape more difficult to navigate. With SVOD players á la Netflix and Amazon, AVODs like YouTube and international linear channels all in the mix—not to mention the smaller but no less mighty players filling in the gaps and trying to break the mold—how is someone new to the kids content space supposed to understand what’s going on?
To help, the Jim Henson Company is relaunching its Henson Independent Properties (HIP) third-party licensing banner after three years on hiatus. The division will be looking to acquire and service global consumer products programs and media distribution for external brands and entertainment properties. IPs were represented by the division starting in 2009, but Henson shifted focus in 2016 to concentrate on launching six of its own properties, making the decision to hold off on bringing in any more HIP clients.
With an eye toward nostalgia brands and productions that need help navigating the market for kids and family content, SVP of global distribution Claudia Scott-Hansen (pictured) is preparing to relaunch the division next month at Kidscreen Summit, where she will be meeting with producers to sign on new entertainment properties.
“We see HIP services as perfect for smaller producers or content creators who need that entry point to the global market,” says Scott-Hansen. “It’s for those who need a company to represent their properties with love and admiration, and really no less respect because they haven’t yet broken through.”
During its previous operational run, HIP represented Elias: Rescue Team Adventures (produced by Animando and CAOZ Animation) and Lily’s Driftwood Baby (produced by Sixteen South). But now the division has its eye fixed on new productions. First of all, Scott-Hansen emphasizes that HIP is looking for shows that are already produced or are about to be delivered, as it won’t be able to offer financing to greenlight anything.
“We recognize that there are opportunity gaps in the market that we cannot cover with our own shows,” says Scott-Hansen. “So my plan is to be totally open to visions, and all kinds of productions for kids.”
More specifically, HIP is looking for nostalgia brands that haven’t been represented in the past few years or broken through yet, in order to tap into all of the reboot mania. The division is also looking for shows that have launched in one part of the world but are having trouble gaining traction outside of their first territory—and also content that has been successful on AVOD or SVOD platforms and is now looking to jump to the linear world.
For the nostalgia portfolio, Scott-Hansen does note that HIP is already in advanced talks with several brands and plans to announce one partnership following Kidscreen Summit. But the division is still open to more blasts from the past, especially ones that offer a fresh take on a classic.
“We’ve seen nostalgia brands come back and be relaunched and re-imagined, and we’ve seen shows from the ’80s come back and be re-presented to the kids of today through their parents who remember their own experiences with these shows,” says Scott-Hansen.
Charged with leading the reopened division and building a brand-new third-party slate, Scott-Hansen is still quite new to Henson. She just started in her role at the prodco in October, with a remit to sell Henson’s content across all platforms worldwide, focusing most immediately on season five of Dinosaur Train. But she has more than two decades of experience in media rights distribution and global franchise development under her belt, most recently serving as VP of business development for 9 Story Media Group. Scott-Hansen has also worked at Mattel’s HIT Entertainment and BBC Worldwide.
“I’ve worked in the media industry for about 25 years,” says Scott-Hansen. “So I really know what makes a representation partnership work. For HIP, which will manage everything from relationships to process to strategy, I think I can bring a lot to the table and the divisions’s potential partners.”
Henson has much more going on right now besides the HIP relaunch, notes Scott-Hansen, and she’s expecting to be pretty busy this year trying to find homes for new proprietary shows like Teddy Ruxpin, Slumberkins and The Kissing Hand. Not to mention fantasy-driven series RIFT, which is currently in development with The Creature Shop.