Though not yet well-known worldwide, the stock of the educational Riki kids universe—comprised of KikoRiki, PinCode and BabyRiki—from Russian multimedia company Riki Group is rising fast, thanks to huge growth in the CIS region on TV and YouTube. And now, Riki has rolled into China in full force, with help from the IP’s new Hong Kong-based international distributor, FUN Union.
After Moscow-based Riki became a minority shareholder in newly formed FUN Union in February, FUN expanded the presence of STEM-themed PinCode with a sale to China’s CCTV, which bowed the 52 x 13-minute series on March 1. CCTV also snapped up flagship series KikoRiki, and will air PinCode season two in December.
Taking their CCTV partnership even further, FUN and Riki secured a co-pro deal this summer for a brand-new 52 x 11-minute animated series for six- to 12-year-olds entitled Krash and Hehe, which will premiere in China in 2019. In the true spirit of collaboration, the show stars rabbit Krash from KikoRiki and panda Hehe from CCTV’s programming. “It’s incredibly challenging to secure a deal in China because it takes time to develop trust and a dialog,” says FUN CEO Christine Brendle. “By the time we were ready to announce [the series], we had written all the scripts and were very involved in the process. You also need to ensure that the show will engage globally, while at the same time respect local sensitivities.”
Brendle’s company currently owns and develops the KikoRiki, PinCode and BabyRiki IPs outside of CIS, while Riki owns and grows the brands within the region. Five-minute BabyRiki, for one, has more than 150 million views across Chinese digital platforms Tencent Video, iQiyi, Youku, Mango TV and Beva since launching on July 8. Although it’s yet to launch on TV in China, a second season of the CGI/live-action show is currently in production at Riki-owned animation studio Petersburg, and will be completed by the end of the year.
Brendle attributes the digital success of Riki’s shows to the quality of the content. “BabyRiki has a unique look and feel that’s very different from the traditional Asian style of animation, while PinCode has substance and meat to its episodes,” Brendle says. “Kids are very well-educated in China, so we need to give them content they can chew on.”
Looking at other avenues of growth in China, FUN and Riki have also been optimizing Tencent’s instant messaging service WeChat. PinCode was posted to the platform by CCTV to gauge audience interest, and FUN also created two of its own WeChat accounts—one for parental content focused on four pillars of education, and another that offers Riki.cn, a free on-demand app that currently features existing and original BabyRiki content. Next up for FUN will be a broader licensing push for the Riki brand in China.