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The Future of Kids TV: A MIPTV Report

While MIPTV’s waning emphasis on kids’ content was noticeable, there were some valuable lessons to be learned.

ASIA co-production matchmaking sessions.

If you’re in the kids business and skipped this past April’s MIPTV market, you’re probably planning instead to attend MIPJunior in October.  Be reassured that you probably made the right choice.

Those of us who stubbornly make the springtime trek each year to Cannes for MIPTV had to face some glaring facts: this year not only was there a dearth of kids’ content events and screenings, but it may have been the worst attendance ever for buyers and producers who specialize in this arena.  I don’t have registration numbers as evidence, but I do have some observations other than gut instinct to explain how April’s MIP market is on the wane when it comes to the kids’ entertainment industry.

I flipped through the Pocket Guide 2014 MIPTV publication, a handy overview foldout. Immediately it was apparent “what was going on.” The color coding of events highlighted things loud and clear - there’s just not a big focus on the kids business at MIPTV.  Thankfully for Reed Midem, they put on a strong MIPJunior event each year in October, two weekend days right before the start of MIPCOM dedicated to our small slice of the entertainment industry.  Rightly or wrongly, I think this preserves the impression, at least, that children’s content isn’t evaporating entirely from the conference/market calendar.

So what exactly WAS offered for kids business attendees?  There were four events focused on kids content.  Putting this in context, comparatively, there was programming under the banners MIPCUBE (digital content) and the MIP DIGITAL FRONTS (original online video) with 25 and 10 events each.  There were 11 Media Mastermind Keynotes involving 20 speakers, and only one of those was from the kids “space” – Tara Sorensen, Head of Kids Programming for Amazon Studios.

While a tad light on conference events, MIPTV did include a few new Reed Midem initiatives for “us” kids TV folks.  Stuffed inside this year’s market swag bag was a valuable mini-guide, “What do Kids Buyers want at MIPTV.” Wow! 50 kids channel buyers were interviewed about what content they are looking for, what territories they buy from, how to pitch them, etc. The guide in an excellent idea which hopefully Reed Midem publishes for MIPJunior as well.

The Kids Buyers Guide was an extremely useful new publication.

Example pages illustrate the guide's value.

Of the two programmed events for childrens TV attendees, the most impressive was by invitation-only:  THE FUTURE OF KIDS TV SUMMIT & NETWORKING COCKTAIL.  There wasn’t much for me to do at the KIDS TV CO-PRODUCTION WITH ASIA MATCHMAKING (a one-on-one, multiple small tables event), but for sure, I really was keen to sit in on the FUTURE OF KIDS TV presentations in the Carlton Hotel ballroom.

I found out that those who had been officially invited were a select group of 80 kids-biz MIPTV attendees.  I managed to get my little paws on the roster of hand-picked and adroitly labeled “top creative strategists and influential visionaries.” No sarcasm intended, it’s a pretty impressive “Who’s Who” from the global kids entertainment industry.  Certainly, Canada’s Shaw Rocket Fund and SK Broadband did well to sponsor the FUTURE OF KIDS TV SUMMIT.  

Spanning two hours, executives witnessed four spectacularly organized “Talks” - all presented at lightning speed!  Rarely have two straight hours of listening gone by so quickly.  This presentation was by far THE PRIMO EVENT TO ATTEND - the best MIPTV offered for our industry sector.

I consider myself, very, very fortunate to be able to share my notes of this spectacular MIP session. 

Here’s what some key kids industry gurus have to say about what is happening and trending in the kids biz right now:

FUTURE OF KIDS TV sessions.

Talk # 1:  THE NEW FIRST SCREENS:  HOW TOUCH IS CHANGING TV FOR KIDS. 

Founders of two of the UK’s digital media companies, Peter Robinson from Dubit and Nick Walters of Hopster tag-teamed.

Kids are quick to experiment, and adapt.  They [kids] are therefore particularly natural as being THE leading indicators of digital media consumption.  However, television still is the largest time-sucking activity for kids, albeit on the decline.  TV still is the best for bringing mass impact AND immediate monetization.

Most broadcasters, want to claim the SVOD space, but they don’t have the resources.

Touch tablet screens are easy, intuitive and great since they’re so interactive.  BUT – it’s really tough to make money from apps!  Yes, monetization’s been a problem.

Check out the Seebo company -  1.  Interactive, Integrated Toys, with the tablet, really natural and intuitive. 2.  Learning.  Toys, tablet app which remembers what you did the last time.   Also, wearable electronics - linked to your tablet (coming soon, in “the future”).  3.  New Platforms:  Amazon, Hopster, Kidobi, Kidoodle.tv (as a safe place).  New SVOD players innovating on product and TV. 

Yoni Block addresses the FUTURE OF KIDS TV session.

Talk #2:  TUNING IN WITHOUT TUNING OUT:  HOW INTERACTIVE VIDEO BOOSTS ENGAGEMENT AMONG KIDS. 

Yoni Bloch, besides being a major Israeli rock star (who looks like poster boy for “Geek”), is also Co-Founder and CEO of new media company Interlude (check their site).  His investors include Google, YouTube and Pepsi.

Yoni Bloch says, “We wanted to do an interactive music video that’s seamless, and one that you have to make choices in real-time.  On Facebook, his music video had more than 89,000 downloads.  Each version of this one song is a mini-game.  On average, his video was watched 3 times, they (kids) like intercepting and affecting what’s happening!

“If you curate it right, you’re getting into a playground” of choices.  Teens have so little attention span, everybody wants to repeat.  Yoni’s agnostic about the interface - Xbox, iPad, Google, android, iPhones.

“Today, you need to make your content interactive and seamless.  And make it funny.   In his video, the kids could choose and change lyrics.  Make it a LOVE SONG, make the person you’re dreaming of have a certain eye color BROWN, and even pick out the name of who you’re singing to CHRIS.  Teens love these choices.”

Talk #3:  THE KIDS’ APPS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT. 

Stuart Dredge, freelance journalist writing for The Guardian, Music Alley and his own website:  http://appsplayground.com.

TRENDS

1.  Minecraft and YouTubers:  Stamplylonghead (2.3 mm subscribers, 826 mm views), Captain Sparklez (7.3 mm subs, 1.3 bn views), Sky Does Minecraft (9.6 mm subs, 1.8 bn views), PewDiePie, huge! (25.7 mm subs, 4 bn views)

2.  New Networks for kids TV

Angry Birds www.toons.tv (check out home page).  Angry Birds Toons got 1 billion views in its first month. 

Hopster (UK company) – building games around the TV shows they license.

3.  New Characters for kids

“Talking Friends” – pet apps.  Repeats your voice “squeaky version”  1.5 billion views. 

“Talking Tom Cats” – Talking Tom stars in Disney’s newest show, 3 min. short each week.

“Clumsy Ninja” – progressive game where Ninja gets less clumsy as he goes along.  Kids spend hours and hours …

Toca Boca, Swedish company, created “Toca Band” a musical app which introduces 4 year olds to science via characters.  Other companies creating character-driven content:  Endless Alphabet,   Gigglebug.

4.  Learning Thru Play.  Nosy Crow created reading and gaming combo, for boys, e.g. “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

Co-production matchmaking.

5.  Kids as Storytellers.  Touch, design, drag, record your own voice.  Me-books is one company creating these, also:  Oceanhouse Media, Dr. Seuss apps in which you choose either Narrator, Dad, or “new.”

Toy Story company created template Story Theatre, where you can create your own Toy Story (Disney characters-inspired) story adventure.

Sago Mini Doodlecast app.  Records voices onto videos which in turn can be shared with friends, parents.

6.  Kids as Coders.  Companies creating tools for kids:  (research) Hopscotch, HD and Hakitzu Elite.

7.  BONDING not just Babysitting.  Bonding via characters is a new educational technique where parents and kids are learning together.

Night Zookeeper Teleporting Touch.

Curious Playground – where parent/child interaction stimulates learning.

Sesame Street Family Play – a game for any situation (Where are you?  At home?  Away from home? Traveling?  “Join Elmo and friends for hours of real world fun.”)

8.  Second Screen. 

A.   CBBC “Ludus” syncs mini games on tablets with TV (BBC’s iPlayer, just starting) 

B.  Wizards vs. Aliens  (page view POLL question:  Do you believe in magic?  Kids’ cumulative answers:  56% no way!  46% yes, magic is real)

C.  Disney Second Screen Live:  Nightmare before Christmas.

9.  Real World Play.  HIDE & SEEK WITH AN APP WITH MONSTERS.

Sneak HD – how to.

Dr. Pet Play – “mittens” create your own pet.

Squigglefish – scans into acquarium environment.

Sesame Street – Big Bird’s Words is an augmented reality …. Customize every visit:  you pick the word.  Find word at home and on-the-go.

10.  Making Real Stuff

Companies doing this:  Blokify – 3D printers

Draw My Doll – each doll costs $55.00 in USA

Monstermatik – $26.00 each

Stuart’s SUMMARY “don’t forget:  8-9 year olds, are decision-makers now. Small companies, best approach is to make a partnership with the majors.

FUTURE OF KIDS TV sessions.

Talk #4:  KIDS ENTERTAINMENT IN 2018 – A VISION OF THE FUTURE.

Daniel Efergan, Creative Director, Digital Stuff, Aardman Animation, UK. 

Daniel’s job?  Answer:  Daniel tries to find new digital homes.

What will be the most disruptive thing in the next 3-5 years?  NO ONE KNOWS.  But for sure,

STORYTELLING won’t change.  Ridiculous to say TV is dead.  But, things are getting pretty blurry.

What about the future of:

1.  3D printing?  Will start seeing more realistic uses.  Maker Bot – very personalized usage.  But, distribution problem, most people won’t have a 3D printer.  More likely to find a 3D printer at Walmart or Tesco.  Perhaps available as a POS in Toys "R" Us.

2.   Broadcasting Games?  Twitch TV, already they have over 300 mm views a day.  Twitch makes about an hour of new content every day.  Theirs is a built-in audience  – a Minecraft channel.

3.  Immersion?  Kids level of immersion increasing voraciously …. Facebook bought Oculus Rift.

4.  The stick?  [huh?]  Daniel means, literally a stick you throw to the dog, a real stick from the physical “real” world.  For him, “the stick” is a metaphor for physical stuff.   The future of TV is to [successfully] connect kids back to the physical world.

Outside the Palais.

Daniel’s SUMMARY “hopefully what the future brings, will facilitate a kids imagination rather than supplant it.”

Networking drinks followed, and a few kids media comrades admitted they could barely take a breath between speakers.  Each presentation was so dense yet well-presented, a veritable marathon of note-taking not uncommon for journalists, but a tad atypical for some kids TV execs!

Yes, there truly was a palpable thirst in the room to absorb as much as possible about the “digital disruption in creation and distribution” – barely any side-whispering.

So kudos to Reed MIDEM for paying attention to what producers, buyers and distributors in the kids sector really must do.  Survival and “the future” demands we all keep apace!  It’s hard to read the tea leaves, but I surely am one who hopes that at MIPTV 2015, the market organizers will continue to provide innovative [and all-inclusive!] events for the rapidly evolving children’s entertainment sector.

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Catherine Morrissey writes regularly for AWN about the international animation industry.

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