Day 4 of Kidscreen: The High Stakes of Making Kids Programming

With fewer and fewer programming slots available in key co-production territories and the amount of producers vying for these slots, it is no wonder that the stakes are high. At Kidscreen this year, attendees did their best to maximize this precious opportunity.

It is hard to end Kidscreen this year without reflecting on the extremely competitive state of the international broadcast market. I took a casual poll amongst my producing friends in France, UK, and Canada to see if their territory was as challenging to secure a broadcaster as it is the US.  The bad news is that in each country it seems like producers are having a harder and harder time getting slots.  France’s TF1 is full up for greenlighting projects this year, and it sounds like France Television is also a bit full leaving everyone running after Canal Plus.  The UK is challenging as well.  Free TV channel ITV is taking very little new programming outside of their current output deals and FIVE just got a new owner so everything is pretty much on hold with their Milkshake block.  This leaves everyone jumping on the CBBC and Cbeebies for their commission dollars.  Canadian producers are finding it more competitive to get shows placed on their networks as well, probably due to a bit of overgrowth of the Canadian animation business over these past 10 years.  And in Australia, Nine, Ten and Seven seem to have a mandate to fill for children’s programming, but work with a few key producers to fulfill this need, leaving little room for the indies who are not “in” with those channels and running to the ABC who has limited capacity for commissions.

With fewer and fewer programming slots available in these key co-production territories and the amount of producers vying for these slots, it is no wonder that the stakes are high.  At Kidscreen this year, attendees did their best to maximize this precious opportunity.  Even though the event started on Tuesday and was technically one day of Master class sessions and two and a half days of panel discussions and meetings, producers, buyers, writers, creators and other executives began filtering into NY as early as Sunday evening and stayed as late as Friday cocktail hour.  The hope was that they would be available to meet with the as many of the network executives who could possibly say “yes” to their shows.  And even with this extra time padded into the schedule, 30-minutes of time with someone at a Cartoon, Nick, Disney, or CBBC was hard to come by people even for people who have been in the business for years.  I can only imagine how hard it must have been people who are brand new to the industry. 

At the bar on Friday night, I saw lots of “deer-in-headlights” expressions on peoples’ faces.  The casual meet-and-greet Kidscreen Summit of years past is gone and we are ushering in a new and highly competitive era of children’s program production.

With the state of the broadcast business so competitive, it is only natural to consider alternatives for content creation.  Is broadcast still going to be that “holy grail” for the big brand success? While the answer still seems to be yes in the majority of brands and properties in development at Kidscreen, it is also clear that lots of people are looking for alternatives to the crowded space.  And consequently, we are seeing innovative ideas for brand integration that play off the things kids love– gaming, characters, storytelling and good old fashioned toys.  It should be a very interesting year ahead of us as producers and creators find the best way to circumvent the competition and turn their ideas into a tangible product.  And further it will be interesting to see what percentage of those ideas launch on TV.  Clearly there will be lots more to be said on this subject matter in blogs to come.

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