All anyone could talk about at this year’s Kidscreen Summit were three things: What’s going to happen with streaming this year? What is the future of franchises? And who is going to make the next best show/how can we make them come work for us?
Panelists and attendees grappled with these topics throughout the event, and while no one really knows the answers, if anyone was going to be able to figure it out, it would be the movers and shakers who showed up to the InterContinental in Miami this past week. Now as the event draws to a close, this is what we’ve heard them saying.
What does streaming look like in 2020?
With Disney+ and Apple TV+ both launching late last year, and HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock on the way in 2020, streaming is not only a big conversation, it’s the conversation. Others are also throwing their hat into the ring as CBS All Access started picking up kids content for the first time, Viacom’s Pluto TV continued to expand across territories and BBC iPlayer is expanding its window to keep content longer.
For plenty of panelists, finding numbers in the streamers remains a challenge, though plenty are trying to find new ways of getting those coveted data insights. Anna Moorefield, the VP of global distribution sales at the Jim Henson Company talked about the virtues of Amazon Prime Direct in KSS’s Hacking the SVOD panel. Jim Henson began uploading its back catalogue on the user-generated platform specifically because it was able to provide deeper digital data than other platforms. “We get a revenue report every month, which includes a customer engagement ranking in specific territories, mostly their key storefronts. It tells you how your content is performing relative to other content that is uploaded onto Amazon Prime Video Direct,” says Moorefield. In turn, Henson is able to use that information when they approach new markets or begin efforts to revitalize older programming.
And while there may be a disconnect between the for-profit streamers and the public broadcasters, the Redefining Pubcasting in an OTT Universe panel made it clear that the pair have to find a way to work together moving forward. The streamers are where the kids are, and since pubcasting is created in the public interest, “the most important thing as the public broadcaster is to get the content in front of the kids and we know they watch every day at all times of the day on different platforms,” said CBC Kids’ senior director Marie McCann.
What is the future of franchises?
And with all of those platforms, a lot of producers (and the platforms themselves) are banking on big name franchises to stand-out among a deluge of content. (This includes, but is not limited to, Netflix’s Chronicles of Narnia original series, Nickelodeon Star Trek for an aged-down audiences and Apple TV+ kick-off with Snoopy in Space, Sesame Workshop and Ghostwriter reboot). But will well-worn titles draw in audiences? Or will shiny new toys look better?
Perhaps it’s moot: In the panel, What Keeps You Up at Night, president of eOne family & brands Olivier Dumont said the who isn’t as relevant, as the how many. Working with a single platform or broadcaster and creating a strong partnership is the best way to build a brand. This deeper partnership provides producers an opportunity to roll with the punches as the landscape changes. “If it’s a true partnership then you can succeed together and you can find the good solution for everyone,” says Dumont.
Yet, a single partner or platform approach may cause issues down the line as today’s streamers and broadcasters are asking for more rights than ever, and it’s causing issues when certain rights are under-utilized. CAKE’s Ed Galton recommended that producers try to work in renegotiating opportunities in early stages contracts so that producers can ensure no aspect of their shows’ rights are being neglected so that franchises can continue to be built upon.
On the broadcaster side, Cartoon Network’s VP of content acquisitions and co-productions Adina Pitt agreed that broadcasters are asking for more rights but that’s because—at her network at least—they’re actively looking to built deep franchises. Yet this approach has an associated cost, and it means broadcasters are picking up less, but investing more into what they do pick up, she says. As she, and other broadcasters see it, if they’re going to be in a partnership for a long time, the network needs some assurance.
And, for a bit of countering opinion, in the Franchise Debate: Are Kids Sick of the Same old IPs? (pictured), Sixteen South’s creative director Colin Williams reminded broadcasters and distributors that plenty of IPs have the opportunity to become franchises…but they need the support of broadcasters to do so. Frequency and promotion are needed, and sometimes, not provided for new ideas, at least in the eyes of producers. This “discoverability” conundrum was echoed across a few panels, and there’s real concern among producers that kids simply don’t know how to find the shows that are being made. “It’s not enough to make a good show,” Matthew Berkowitz, CCO at Atomic Cartoon reminded audiences in the Hacking the SVOD panel. “People need to know how to find it.” And with this shift toward streaming, no one has quite cracked that code yet.
Who are the next generation of creators and how do we foster their growth?
Ultimately, no new franchise can be built without building up the next generation of creators. That topic kept coming up again and again, particularly at the Groundwork for Growth: Setting New Creators Up to Succeed panel.
As there is often a disconnect between the writing and animation side in the industry, creator and executive producer at Nickelodeon, Niki Lopez, recommended pairing artists with writers earlier in their careers so they can better understand the industry holistically. EP and creator at Laughing Wild, Chris Nee, said it’s easy to be intimidated by the business side of the industry when you’re a creative and just starting out, so it’s important to educate and empower yourself so you can be your own advocate. Ask for advice, and ask plenty of questions, she said. But, on her other panel, Showrunners: Not Just for Grown-Ups Anymore, she reminded producers and creators in the room that it is the responsibility of the top talent to foster good, welcoming environments. Leaders should be going out for meals, throwing parties and celebrating the people they work with. We live in a world where the screen can be the center of a person’s universe, but we still need a community to be our best work selves.
That’s it for Kidscreen Summit 2020! We’ll see you all next year back in Miami next year.