BBC Studios and Italian broadcaster De Agostini Editore have signed a global distribution agreement for Italian-language kids series New School. Produced for Italian-language kidsnet DeAKids, the 78 x 15-minute comedy show is aimed at six- to 12-year-olds.
The commercial arm for the BBC now holds the distribution rights, excluding Italian-speaking countries, with an option for any potential formats.
Written in collaboration by Frank van Keeken (The Next Step, Kids in the Hall), New School is developed and produced by De Agostini under its head of original production, Alba Chiara Rondelli, alongside Italy’s Maestro Productions. It was originally produced so that DeAKids could compete on the international market with its own content and meet new Italian government content quotas for kids.
Since its launch in 2018, New School has become the most popular show on DeAKids and the network’s other kidsnet Super!, with more than three million children watching the comedy, according to BBC Studios. De Agostini also expanded the brand with four books from its publishing company DeA Planeta Libri, released earlier this year. Season three is due to premiere this fall in Italy on DeAKids and on Super! in Q4 of 2020.
Set in a middle school, the series revolves around a group of friends who compete to earn a spot on the infamous Wall of Celebrities, doing incredible things to win the votes of their fellow students.
Knowing that van Keeken (whose show The Next Step was picked up by BBC Worldwide in 2014) was attached to the project, and seeing the show’s focus on fitting into a new place, convinced BBC Studios of its global appeal—despite the fact it was in Italian, says Nathan Waddington, the head of children’s content at BBC Studios.
“I know that there’s an appetite [from broadcasters] for shows that have the look, pace and tone of a North American series that shows people something unfamiliar and different from their lives,” says Waddington. “Here we have a show that delivers on those elements and is a European quota show as well, so it ticks a lot of boxes.”
While BBC Studios is going for an international appeal and targeting sales all over the world, the UK might be a bit more difficult, says Waddington.
“New School may be a more challenging prospect for UK broadcasters because we don’t have a tradition of subtitling or dubbing children’s content here,” says Waddington. “But we plan to show it to our UK broadcast clients as well as the rest of the world to see if there is potential both in its original version or as a format.”
BBC Studios has been busy making moves in the kids space recently, by teaming up with Australian broadcaster ABC Kids to co-commission a second season of Brisbane-based prodco Ludo’s animated series Bluey. The company also sold its 30-episode live-action educational series Andy’s Aquatic Adventure to UK pubcaster BBC Children earlier this month.