For producers coming to MIPCOM and the kids-centric companion MIPJunior conference, the strongest message ringing loudest from all microphones was this: Stick to great story-telling, since that’s what triumphs on all screens. A prominent topic of discussion however, was that more and more story-telling is happening on second screens and that digital delivery strategies are becoming increasingly important.
Two review sessions that took place on the last day of the market provided near mirror-image round-up commentaries from top industry panelists: digital and new media are no longer the distant third cousin to television behemoths. And yet, the panelists verified, practically chirping in unison (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), television remains the dominant market force for content. It’s clear that like previous years, broadcast platforms remain the key attraction for MIPCOM attendees.
The essence of MIPCOM 2012 and MIPJunior, according to the review session panelists, was that no matter the genre, TV viewers truly want to go through an emotional journey, and digital audiences really want to connect and be connected.
For folks in the business of creating and providing shows, another bottom line is this: if you can keep your viewers connected, you can monetize. If you can tell a good story with compelling characters, even on a shoe-string digital budget, you can keep your audience tuned in, and get great returns.
If your show is for kids, it’s especially challenging. THE MIPCOM WRAP UP session moderator James Martins refreshed our collective memories of some pithy statements made earlier in the week about second-screens experiences. Paraphrasing transmedia guru Jim Stewartson of Fourth Wall Studios, James summed it up: second screens don’t create attention deficit in the audience, they offer attention enhancement!
Digital is often credited nowadays as providing a tremendous marketing boom for TV shows. And now several of these burgeoning digital and second-screen platforms (VOD, SVOD, mobile, IPTV, iPads, iPhones, etc.) are being used not only to cross-promote TV, but also to launch new brands in their own space, which then lead back to “traditional platforms” (yes - television). Television - digital is a two-way street which is rapidly gaining traffic in the digital to television screen direction.
Nice digital to television migration example: the Angry Birds franchise from Rovio Entertainment of Finland. This mega-darling of the digital game world is one of the early brands to go from digital to other platforms. Powered by Angry Birds, which generated over 700 million views of animation on YouTube and over one billion game app downloads, Rovio has grown in three quick years from 12 employees to over 450 worldwide, and plans to take no chances on losing its power position and phenomenal brand success.
Rovio’s Andrew Stalbow, EVP Strategic Partnerships and General Manager, North America, points out that staying true to the Angry Bird’s brand ethos is paramount. Rovio’s theme and activity parks dovetail with the philosophy of fun activity for families and kids who can hang out together, participate and have fun together. When asked how that’s going to hold true with the transition to a television platform (or several networks?) Stalbow holds his Angry Birds cards close to the vest, deftly marveling at the traditional media’s reaction to the soon-to-be-completed animated Angry Birds shorts series (2.5 – 3 minutes each). Stalbow remarked, “I was blown away by the deluge of other platforms approaching us. Everybody here at MIPCOM seems in the acquisitions mode.”
Decisions about where the Angry Birds will wind up on TV sets around the world won’t be known until the end of this year, but the good news is right now, fans can find some tasty crumbs following Rovio’s MIPCOM announcement of the next Angry Birds premiere set for November 8th: Rovio’s in-house production Angry Birds – Star Wars, an animated video short http://mashable.com/2012/10/11angry-birds-star-wars-trailer/ 
At the MIPCOM WRAP-UP session, the digital-skewing panel didn’t distinguish between animation and other types of content. Their general consensus was that we’re all at a tipping point in the evolution of the relationship between traditional and digital media.
Though there were no MIPJunior wrap-up panels to reflect on the two-day mini-market, trust me when I say that digital received its due fair share of attention from kids’ content producers and broadcasters alike.
Cartoon Network’s Stuart Snyder addressed MIPJunior participants after a sizzle reel summed up the first 20 years of his network, replete with milestone markers of technology turning points. Snyder pointed out that kids and our world are changing rapidly due to technology “moving faster than a speeding bullet,” making ours a very fragmented media landscape. Factoring in decreased ad revenues, CN’s shows need to be unique, irreverent, alternative, and on as many different platforms as possible. The key is to generate multiple revenue streams, including consumer products, licensing and merchandising, VOD and direct-to-consumer apps. Kids watch TV and play games simultaneously on iPads and other second screens. Snyder continued, “If kids want your media on a banana peel, put it there.”
Paul Brown, GM of Disney Interactive & Disney Music Group EMEA, offered up a profile of the development and implementation of Disney’s first mobile app star, Swampy. Where’s My Water started as a freemium experience (first few shorts for free), and went to #1 in 48 countries in the first two days of release. Swampy’s now getting his own show on the Disney channels. Swampy’s Underground Adventures will be on-channel and on-line simultaneously with a Hasbro board game, free flash games and webisodes.
A couple tweets and a comment overheard in a hallway during MIPJunior may be the most fitting wrap ups for the current state of play and future of animated and kids content:
sarahhemar: “Broadcaster needs to make a show famous, then digital deepens the experiences & attachment.”
luckthelady: “meanwhile, yesterday …. Cartoon Network may take on Angry Birds with own digital I.P.”
“My head is so full of new information it’s falling out of my ears.”
From my view, this October’s convention in Cannes was indeed a full-on “multi-platform-like experience” with the kids business at MIPJunior seeming to be very much in tune with the world of the big kids of MIPCOM. People of all ages want to connect emotionally, no matter what the screen or activity.
Catherine Morrissey writes regularly for AWN about the international animation industry.