Please wait...
Please wait...


Navigating new trends in the global content business.

Keeping an open mind

Darren Nartey, senior acquisitions manager for films and kids at UK broadcaster ITV, discusses the company’s ambitions in the children’s sector following the closure of CITV and why pre-buys are the future in a difficult economic climate and weak ad market.

Darren Nartey

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for kids’ TV in 2024?
The closure of [linear channel] CITV last autumn and the subsequent launch of [streaming offering] ITVX Kids has allowed us to explore a more diverse pool of content for our audience, but we’re still dealing with a challenging ad market, very stringent rules around kids ads and a high cost of commissioning versus low commercial returns, all while managing the continual shift of kids viewing online.

In terms of opportunities, the traditional funding model remains a challenge, but we’ve found some opportunities in pre-buys where we come on board projects with a large majority of its funding already in place.

What programming trends do you expect to see this year?
Diversity and inclusion will still be key aspects of kids’ content this year. It’s an important and relatable issue for us and our audience, so we’ll continue to deliver on that. Equally, issues around climate change and the environment are vital and will remain a key theme of kids’ programming for the foreseeable future.

How will AVoD and FAST continue to impact the kids’ business?

The AVoD market in the UK has been growing so far but it’s still very early days for FAST in the UK. The TV landscape here is quite different as we have a strong and widely used free-to-air TV platform. It’s still early days for ITVX Kids so success will take time, plus the launch hasn’t been significant enough to unlock the economics of originated kids’ content at scale for us.

Our FAST offering for kids’ content is currently limited to two channels, but it works well in delivering a broad range of programmes on a daily basis. It doesn’t have the same operational issues the linear channels had so we’re able to adapt and modify the curation quite quickly to the needs of our audience, for example changing the content mix to a single or multiple IPs.

We work with producers on issues such as durations, shorts are difficult in an AVoD and FAST environment. Presentation and marketing give the shows the best chance of success. That said, young people are incredibly dynamic and resourceful, so concerns we may have had around discoverability are slowly being dispelled.

How will demand for content evolve in 2024?

The appetite for content from audiences is still incredibly strong across the board, but I appreciate there are current difficulties and challenges for producers in getting new shows funded. This is not the first challenge the industry has faced in the last few years so I hope things will improve soon. From an ITV perspective, we’ve had to be open minded in terms of the level of rights we secure, coupled with the delivery timelines. We’re going to see more pre-buys this year, which I think is now the natural evolution of our industry.

How will the faltering economy change commissioning and buying in the kids’ industry this year?

The industry is commissioning and buying fewer projects at the moment and I think this will continue in 2024. We acquired and pre-bought close to 30 titles in 2023 to help with the launch of ITVX Kids. That exercise will slow down in future but we still need content to keep the service fresh so we’ll remain active, but we have been impacted by weakness in the advertising market too. I think the number of funded projects will continue to decline but I hope there will be new opportunities and collaborations for producers from new emerging markets.

What impact will AI have on the kids’ business?
AI is an interesting area but not really something we’ve explored at this stage. There are legitimate concerns around how it can impact creativity and roles in the kids’ business so it’s an issue that requires debate and discussion. Ideally it will fall into a place where it’s used as a support tool for creators rather than being seen as a replacement during the production process. We’re in a difficult economy with budget constraints, but there’s still a huge gap in what AI can produce compared to a creator.

Will the strikes in the US have any consequences for the kids’ industry?
There has been an impact due to the number of delayed projects across the industry, but a lot of these projects, especially animation, can take a number of years to deliver so we’re not experiencing it as much just yet. The issues during the pandemic have probably helped the industry contend with such delays in terms of shifting plans and modifying budgets, so I hope we’ll recover quickly once resolved.

How will your company be changing its strategy to adapt to the new landscape in 2024?
Our aim is to grow ITVX Kids into the best AVoD destination for young people in the UK and we hope to achieve this through our pipeline of strong, diverse and relatable content. We’re constantly reviewing and adapting our strategy to achieve this goal in an increasingly difficult and challenging ad market. Notwithstanding the fact that the viewing habits of our audience are constantly evolving with new competitors and platforms. The funding model for new projects will remain a challenge this year, but we’re open to fresh ideas to help mitigate this issue.