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Script competition

Funding at the forefront

The issue of financing children’s programming was high on the agenda along the Croisette this week. Jesse Whittock reports.

MipTV2012

Although kids’ TV executives are already looking ahead to October’s MipJunior – the mini-market dedicated to children’s content – this week’s MipTV provided plenty to think about, with many new deals and much debate about programme finance during the three days.

The main stories this week included CBeebies commissioning The Foundation to create 26-episode live-action series Let’s Play; TF1 and Turkish children’s channel Minika TV joining the new 3D adaptation of Robin Hood; and German kidsnet KiKa acquiring Gaumont Alphanim’s eco-adventure title The Green Squad.

Ireland’s Monster Entertainment, which recently took on distribution rights to namesake Monster Animation & Design’s preschool series Punk, also sold I’m a Creepy Crawly to Discovery Networks International.

Elsewhere, Canadian companies also fared well, with 9 Story Entertainment closing a deal with Iberian sales house Luk International giving the latter three animated series for local distribution; and fellow Canadian producer Breakthrough Entertainment getting the green light to create live-action tween series Grounded for Nickelodeon channels worldwide.

Indeed, it was a busy market for Canadian kids’ TV, with Tricon Films reaffirming its move into the space during another exclusive C21 interview. Tricon’s president Andrea Gorfolova said the company was in “infant-stage” talks to buy a UK company.

VP of distribution and business development Jon Rutherford added: “For us to firmly plant ourselves as a legitimate player in children’s content, we need the right series to launch. It could be a show we develop ourselves or one made through the right partnership with a third-party producer.”

Another new player in the kids’ production business is Finland’s Angry Birds app maker Rovio, which is launching a 52×2-3’ series based on the game across all platforms before the autumn.

But away from the deals, the really interesting news from the Croisette was to do with funding initiatives. In today’s tough market, such moves are among the most welcome for producers and broadcasters, and MipTV provided two new examples.

On Sunday, C21 revealed German film financer MFG Film Funding was attempting to follow the example of the UK by setting up a fund to aid local toon production. “We’re trying to set up a system of automatic funding for the German animation business. This would make things a lot easier; if you came to us with a project you would get the money right away,” said Andreas Trautz, of German studio initiative Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart, in an exclusive interview.

A fund would be a timely boost for the German business, which is in grave danger of losing all of its talent to overseas companies that can benefit from local production tax credits, such as those in France and Ireland. Last month, the UK government announced it was also implementing its own tax break system, which, it is understood, will cover 20% to 25% of a production’s total budget.

Further funding news came out of Malaysia, with the country’s National Films Development Corporation announcing its own production initiative at an early evening party at Club C21 on Monday.

The Film in Malaysia Production Incentive will allow both local and international producers across all genres to access a 30% grant in return for producing their programme in the country. As one Malaysian producer told C21: “This is a truly significant moment,” for the toon business in particular.

Other Asian territories as well as South Africa are also understood to be looking at their own systems to try to improve the global coproduction marketplace.

Another opportunity is emerging thanks to the new pay-TV regulations in Brazil, which will see more local content produced, as early risers heard during a talk by Brazilian media lawyer Jose Mauricio Fittipaldi on Monday morning.

From a broadcaster perspective, supporting programmes financially has become an extremely competitive process. The issue was raised in a panel session featuring Nickelodeon’s Jules Borkent, CBeebies’ Kay Benbow and Turner Broadcasting System EMEA’s Michael Carrington. All three committed themselves to coproducing the best content, though some producers privately questioned that.

During the talk, an important insight came from CBeebies controller Benbow. She noted a green light from her channel amounted to a seal of approval for other potential investors and broadcasters, and could make or break a production.

“I’m well aware if CBeebies is attached it might make it easier to get financing elsewhere, but it’s about finding the gap and not being the same as what we already have. It’s about trying to be different and it’s about looking a couple of years ahead.”

The finance debate will roll on, but with the right models a burgeoning production ecosystem can emerge. MipTV certainly provided plenty of food for thought for executives as they head home this weekend. See you at MipJunior.

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