In my job, I am teaching the business of animation all of the time to clients, but I really teach Business of Animation at University of Southern California in the animation grad program. This class is, like my Otis College class, a combination of business development and career exploration. Since these USC students are graduate students achieving their MFAs in Animation, I need to present a more comprehensive curriculum about the animation industry.
The other night I invited Mike Young, co-CEO of Moonscoop, to speak to my class about co-production and the facts of life about where money comes from. Mike’s is one of the few studios that survived post “Fin-Syn,” which was a ruling in Congress in 1994 that now allows networks and broadcasters to own what they air, a 180 degree turn from the “separation of church and state” laws that existed since the emergence of radio in 1927.
Mike, being a proud Welshman, kept his studio, Mike Young Production, thriving during this transition in 1994, because he knew how to put together a co-production from his days as the head of his Welsh studio. The UK and Europe are accustom to partnering, something the independent studios in the US were not prior to 1994. Mike had another advantage. Not only did he know co-production, but his studio was in the US and US networks, as well as networks around the world desired, US television content. Ultimately, his knowledge about co-production resulted in a 50/50 partnership with the French studio, Moonscoop just a few years back.
As his lecture progressed, he talked about Kabillion, a VOD channel that was originally started by Moonscoop on Comcast and now includes the Time Warner households. Kabillion gets 4 million unique viewers a month, four times more then “SpongeBob” attracts on Nickelodeon in any one airing. This puts Kabillion in a popularity position close to the three kids’ networks. Yes, Kabillion makes money. It is generated from advertising. But the question was still open about where the money comes from to produce the shows.
That’s where co-production comes in. Mike outlined the principles of a co-production. The need for a good property is the first important factor. Then an interested broadcaster located in the US or anywhere in the world. If it’s a broadcaster outside of the US it would be best to be located in a country that has tax incentives or other government support. Next step in setting up a co-production is to find production partners within the broadcaster’s region or partner with production services located in a country that has a treaty with the broadcaster’s country to take advantage of the government incentives. That’s a lot of cards to have standing upright in the co-production house of cards.
This is the simple version of a co-production. I will look at other co-production models in upcoming blogs and keep helping you to figure out “where is the money.”