When Toronto, Canada-based producer, distributor and channel operator Blue Ant Media was searching for an executive to grow its kids business across LatAm and US-Hispanic territories, it didn’t need to look very far.
After acquiring media org Racat Group last May and taking ownership of five production companies and television networks operating out of North and South America and Asia-Pacific—including DirecTV Latin America joint venture and international children’s broadcaster ZooMoo Networks—Blue Ant saw an immediate opportunity for ZooMoo America GM Julio Sobral. Based in L.A., the former longtime Fox exec (who was most recently SVP of business operations at Fox Network Groups, Europe and US) was promoted in October 2017 to oversee distribution and operations of Blue Ant’s newly acquired kids channels Love Nature 4K, ZooMoo and Arcade Cloud across Latin American and US-Hispanic markets. (Sobral has also retained his GM position at ZooMoo.)
In his new role reporting to Ward Platt, Blue Ant’s CEO of Kids & Global Networks and himself an ex-Fox COO, Sobral is currently steering the suite of channels across linear and streaming platforms with the assistance of a newly created sales team comprised of Loreto Gaete (Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico), Sebastian Galia (Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), Fernando Gualda (affiliated sales and distribution across LatAm and US-Hispanic), and Starret Berry (Caribbean and US-Hispanic).
“When Ward arrived last summer after the Racat acquisition, it made sense for me to transition to the new division and support the global deployment of ZooMoo, as well as bring other co-productions to LatAm,” says Sobral.
As for the channels, ZooMoo is an interactive, multiplatform network offering more than 500 hours of original preschool content mixing wildlife footage with puppetry, animation and narration. Its popular series include ZooMoo’s Wild Friends and two shows from Aussie prodco Northern Pictures, Creature Mania! and Most Extreme – Alien Planet Earth. Growth for the ZooMoo VOD app, according to Sobral, is also in the works.
“The app has been deployed in Australia and Brazil, and we are currently gathering information and analytics around our shows so we can make a decision on proceeding to the next step,” he says.
Smithsonian Networks JV Love Nature, meanwhile, provides family-friendly factual content and a global SVOD service, while Arcade Cloud breaks the nature mold as its an animated and live-action online gaming channel for teens with 1.3 million subscribers. (It recently launched on social video service Twitch.)
One of Sobral’s key goals for the region is to develop co-productions that fit for each channel. “We’ve been doing this in Mexico and Brazil by localizing a lot of content for ZooMoo and bringing the channel closer to the audience,” he says. “With ZooMoo, the good thing is that whatever kids like in Brazil and Mexico, they also like in Chile and Colombia, too.”
As part of Blue Ant’s strategy for LatAm and US-Hispanic territories, Sobral says the company’s current focus regions are Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and the US, and that linear opportunities will be key.
“One of the biggest challenges will be getting new brands into new territories,” he says. “We may find a home on Netflix or Hulu one day, but we are really focused on the linear side.”