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Jetpack goes global with new slate for MipTV

Dominic Gardiner, CEO at UK distributor Jetpack, outlines how he’s reshaping the company to suit the increasingly global market and talks through his slate of titles showcased on C21’s Digital Screenings this week.


UK-based kids’ content distributor Jetpack Distribution is celebrating its eighth birthday this year. Eight years might not seem such a long time, but the company established itself quickly and has evolved through the streaming boom and adapted its strategy as the industry transitions towards the digital world.


CEO Dominic Gardiner singles out one particular trend to have arisen from this. “With all the global platforms now available, we’ve really seen that globalisation of content and global deals are very, very high priority for a lot of those platforms, he says. “In fact, some of them only do global deals. We’ve lost quite a lot of the localisation and specific local strategies; it still exists in national public and free TV, but there is this separate stream of global deals that have changed the way a lot of producers think and the way a lot of distributors have worked.”


Dominic Gardiner,
Jetpack Distribution

In line with this globalisation, Jetpack is featuring 12 projects in its playlist for C21’s Digital Screenings for global distribution, each of which it is also presenting to the international market at MipTV next month. These 12 projects are the newest in Jetpack’s catalogue and are all, bar a couple, animated, which Gardiner says reflects a children’s industry “still very much dominated by animation.”


First up is Alice’s Diary, a hybrid 2D animated and stop-frame series from Portugal about a six-year-old girl who uses art to express her thoughts and feelings. Inviting viewers into her beautifully illustrated diary, Alice’s wonder, inquisitiveness and unique view of the world are shared through her off-beat and funny conversations with her mum. As Alice talks, she draws, and as she draws, her pictures come to animated life. The series is aimed at four- to six-year-olds.


From NRK in Norway comes Mini Kids, a preschool series combining live-action performances by one-year-olds with animation and playful use of props and objects. Set in day care-like surroundings, Mini Kids intends to introduce this environment to children who are leaving the care of their parents for the first time. The children in the series play, make music and appear in typical everyday situations.


Alice's Diary
Alice’s Diary

Described as “You’ve Been Framed meets David Attenborough” is Silly Animals, a series for five- to 12-year-olds that showcases funny animal videos. In a similar vein is Critters TV, a hybrid live-action and animated series for four- to eight-year-olds and families. Like an animal-themed Gogglebox for kids, the series features a cast of cartoon animal families watching and commenting on real-life nature documentaries.

Sticking with nature is Ladybird & Bee, a 2D animated preschool series that tells stories of the natural world, as seen from the perspective of two very tiny best friends. Through Ladybird and Bee’s adventures, viewers get up close with fascinating creatures, learning things about their habitats along the way. A celebration of biodiversity, Ladybird & Bee conveys the key message that everyone has their own important part to play in life, no matter how small they are.


A series Jetpack has already had sales success with is Moley, a 3D animation for four- to eight-year-olds about a lovable young mole who lives in a deep burrow under Windsor Castle in the busy city of MoleTown. Jetpack has sold Moley to WarnerMedia across EMEA, with ZDF picking up the second window in Germany. The series has also been sold to TVNZ in New Zealand and Globo in Latin America.


Mini Kids
Mini Kids

In the movie specials space is Spookiz, a 3D animation for six- to 12-year-olds, which centres on a vain vampire, a happy-go-lucky goblin, a smelly zombie, a snuggly Frankenstein and a mischievous ghost who creep out when night falls and go on slapstick adventures at night school. Originating on YouTube, Spookiz has been sold by Jetpack to broadcasters including the BBC, where it aired during Halloween last year.


According to Gardiner, the success of Spookiz encouraged Jetpack to pick up a franchise of three holiday specials about a square pumpkin called Spookley. One of these, Spookley & the Christmas Kittens, is also on the company’s playlist and follows Spookley as he helps a special green cat and three stray kittens find a home and teaches viewers that it’s never wrong to do the right thing. The Spookley films have launched on platforms and channels including Disney and Netflix.


Also on Netflix, where it became the service’s biggest preschool show, is Indian original Mighty Little Bheem, which Gardiner says Jetpack has sold around the world, following its success on Netflix. The 3D animated series follows an intelligent toddler with boundless creativity, curiosity and a heart full of love, who often crawls into mischief and adventure in his small Indian town.


Perhaps the most iconic title on Jetpack’s playlist is Clangers, the reboot of the BBC stop-motion series from the 1960s. Aimed at three- to seven-year-olds, Clangers centres on a family of unique, imaginary creatures who live on a small blue planet in space. The series is launching this year in Germany, on ZDF and children’s channel KiKa.


Silly Animals
Silly Animals

For the over-sixes and the family audiences comes 3D animated series Welcome to Cardboard City, set in a world made entirely from cardboard. The citizens of Cardboard City face titanic calamity on a daily basis, but fortunately the Cardboard City Fire Department is on the case.


The final series in Jetpack’s playlist is Mechamato, a 3D animation for six- to 12-year-olds that follows the adventures of a kind and creative young boy who inadvertently becomes the master of a ‘Power Sphera’ with the ability to transform any ordinary object into a high-tech device. Together they can combine into the titular armoured hero and embark on a mission to defeat and capture bad robots before they cause more chaos in the city.


Beyond Jetpack’s Digital Screenings playlist, the company is looking at other projects to add to its portfolio as the business expands and, according to Gardiner, wants to board new programmes at an early stage.


Critters TV
Critters TV

“We are looking to grow our catalogue even further and want to get involved even earlier on projects. The team has been growing and we’re really strengthening our resource in our acquisitions and development teams so that we’re able to handle more series and make sure we’re giving every show that comes through the door a proper review process. We’re spending a lot more time on that and hope that we’ll be able to give a lot more feedback to producers,” he says.


“At the end of it, we want to be able to do more of those global deals. If this is the way the market is going, we’ve got to be best positioned to make sure we have the best content at the right stage of development to have it picked up by the global players. They have very specific needs and requirements at this time; you can’t just go in there with a catalogue and expect them to pick something up. We have to be thinking more about how we cater to their specific needs and making sure the rights are available.


“Because a lot of these global companies now are very US-centric, decision-making is becoming much more US-centric too. So we need to be looking at that as well. We’re a UK-based company, but we’re also a mobile company; our team is present all over the world, so we need to ensure we’re best positioned to work with the people in the US and make sure we have more boots on the ground.”


Ladybird and Bee
Ladybird and Bee

Additionally, Jetpack aims to take advantage of new business opportunities, particularly with regards to the direct-to-consumer space and licensing and merchandising.


“We’re looking into new business opportunities; we are always reviewing and making sure we’re prepared for the future, for example with the rise in direct-to-consumer platforms. We need to make sure our relationship with YouTube is at its very best and that, if a producer sees YouTube as an opportunity, we’re aligning with those needs and with the needs of the broadcast base as well,” Gardiner says.


“As content comes in, we’re looking more at where the opportunities for licensing and merchandising might come from, ensuring we’re deepening and expanding our relationships with toy companies and other licensing businesses. That could be a potential growth area for us in the future.”

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