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TBI KIDS THE US ITV Studios-distributedPocoyo


Cookie Jar, Chapman Entertainment and Decode an outlet for their preschool con- tent: “We have Franny’s Feet and dirtgirl- world on PBS Sprout,” says Scherba, “While it isn’t on the same scale as the big three, it plays an important role in giving indies some access to the US market.” Comcast’s involvement is strategically significant because it is a reminder that content creators are not the only industry players troubled by the power of the big three kids studios. Another illustration of this point is kids channel The Hub, a JV between Discovery and toy company Hasbro, which will launch in October. The motivation for The Hub is two-fold.


Firstly, Discovery has been unable to take on the big three in the kids market despite its own track record in channels. Secondly, Hasbro wants a platform for shows based on its toy properties - notably GI Joe, Transformers and My Little Pony.


At first sight, this doesn’t look like much of an opportunity for indies. But like PBS Sprout it could offer a route into the US market. “There is a lot of excitement about what third-party content it may require,” says Tom Van Waveren, cre- ative director at CAKE Entertainment. “The channel launches into 60 million US homes, which means it could be a very significant development for producers.” Van Waveren agrees that widespread distribution is important when building a 360 degree brand in the US. But he says getting a show on a US network can have other benefits: “We placed an innovative animation series called Total Drama Island on Cartoon Network US last year,” he says. “And it made a real difference to


16TBI Kids June/July 2010


our international sales. Before the CN sale, we were encountering a lot of hesi- tation. But afterwards the networks that had been stalling started acquiring.” There’s a sense of Catch-22 about this since a kids show usually requires exten- sive international sales to get a US net- work interested. So what helped CAKE seal the deal? “The fact that the show was from a Canadian producer (Fresh) meant that it had the pacing and humour expected by US networks - whereas a lot of European shows don’t,” says Van Waveren. “We also benefited from a


change in management and they needed a show to fill a slot quickly.”


A more typical scenario is ITV Studios’ sale of Zinkia’s preschool show Pocoyo to Nick Jr., which came after Pocoyo had already hit virtually every major territory in the world. Commenting on the Pocoyo deal, ITV’s Ridge provides a checklist of what US broadcasters want: “They are inundated with offers; so to have your series recognised above the rest, they want a high-quality show with a guaran- teed number of episodes already pro- duced to minimise high risk at their end.” Networks also like to see new media activity to create a buzz and broaden the


France invades the US


Having pre-produced shows in high volume is a key advantage in targeting the US - since it reduces risk to the networks.This explains why, in recent years, many international shows which have found homes in the US have come from subsidised territories like Canada and France or the production powerhouse of Japan. The French studios have seized their chance with impressive expertise.A good case in point is Marathon - now part of the Zodiak Entertainment group. Marathon’s breakthrough came with the sale of animation series Totally Spies (pictured) to Cartoon Network US. So important is the franchise now regarded that CN has just reli- censed all five series from Zodiak.Furthermore, it has acquired a spin-off series,Amazing Spiez! and a feature Totally Spies! The Movie.Along the way, Marathon has also managed to sell


Gormiti,Martin Mysteryand Monster Buster Club into the US market. Another French studio to have made the most of its market advantage is Moonscoop, which has sold 500 half hours to the US since its breakthrough in 2002/03:“We have estab- lished a strong track record both in terms of our own properties and work for hire,” says Moonscoop president of worldwide distribu- tion Lionel Marty. “We have delivered shows including Funky Cops, Code Lyoko, Fantastic 4, Casper, Dive Olly Dive and Hero 108.Next up is Cosmic Quantum Ray on The Hub.” Marty says the US market is undoubtedly shaped by the IP-owning ambitions of the big three studios. “But they can’t turn their back completely on third-party production. They need strong rating shows - wherever they come from - to compete with their rivals.” Viewed from this perspective,Marty welcomes the arrival of The Hub, since it might make the big three look again at their approach to third- party content:“If The Hub starts getting good ratings from acquisitions, it might encourage the studios to acquire more,”he says. Like Marathon,Moonscoop has placed a lot of emphasis on US expansion to the extent that its CEO Nicolas Atlan relocated to its LA office last year. From here, it is seeking to expand its activities still further.It is working on a piece of animated branded content called Zevo-3 for US brand Skechers and is a key part- ner in kids entertainment platform Kabillion with Comcast and Studio 100.


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