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Theme Festival - Kids Programming

Programming Profile

Kids TV execs prepare for a ‘tumultuous’ year ahead


This year looks set to be a bumpy one for those in the kids TV sector, but for every cloud there is a silver lining, with execs pointing to streamers re-focusing on family content and a rebirth of linear TV.
The year ahead is going to be “nothing short of tumultuous” for the children’s content industry, according to Gary Pope, co-founder and CEO of London-based research company Kids Industries.


The most obvious reason the sector might be in for a bumpy ride in 2024 is the global economic crisis and the resulting budget cuts and increased production costs. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, Pope argues, pointing to the recent subscriber growth at Netflix, which he thinks will encourage the streamer to refocus on its family offering.


“To a degree we’re in the midst of a great correction – we’ve all been used to the ever-giving ‘streamersphere’ as a source of plenty and now we’re reeling from its implosion,” Pope says.


“There is some good news, though. The great password sharer purge that Netflix instigated has borne fruit and, having put on 13 million new subs in key territories, it’ll shortly be resuming normal service. I reckon it’ll return to family programming as a key pillar of the subscriber retention strategy.”


Angry Birds
Angry Birds

It might seem contradictory to the point above, but Pope also believes linear TV will have a resurgence this year, reinstating its position as the home of quality children’s content. “Because the first generation of digital native parents want and need trust, this [resurgence of linear TV] will happen. It already is happening and this will be where the quality is,” he says.


Despite this positive outlook, financial woes will continue to bite in 2024, forcing commissioners to look at cheaper genres, such as unscripted, while library content may also be in demand.


“The struggle is to make those lower-cost genres work in a way that engages and inspires the children,” Pope says. “Unscripted content for kids is tough to get right – it sounds like a good idea but it’s a bit risky. Wringing value from the vaults will be one strategy and as long as it’s a great story well told, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t help producers or move our industry forward.”


Minimising risk will continue to be a theme in kids’ content this year, Pope adds, leading to a decrease in original commissions and an increase in shows based on known IP that already has an existing fanbase.
“The Golden Age is over and so the need for a ready-made audience to ensure the success of your property will continue to be fundamental to the choices producers make and what buyers invest in. We’ll see considerably more publishing properties crossing over to the silver screen,” the exec says.


“There are fewer slots and there is less money. Couple this with the desire every commissioner has for insurance and that’s going to make things even tougher. So it’ll be more of the same – fewer original ideas and more recycled IP, trumpeted in with a fanfare of nostalgia only to gain very little traction and disappear for another 10 years.”


Lucas The Spider
Lucas The Spider

Ed Galton, CEO of Cake Entertainment, seconds Pope’s comments on the desire for existing IP, noting that shows with a successful proven track record such as Angry Birds, Total Drama and YouTube hit Lucas the Spider continue to sell well for the distribution company.


“Established IPs are safer in today’s climate and shows that have built-in marketing established in their DNA,” Galton says, adding that Cake has various shows in development that are based on book properties.
Cake also benefits from a back catalogue of programmes, which provides an opportunity for the company while production budgets are frozen or cut, but like Pope, Galton says that is not a sustainable, long-term solution.


“The economic downturn is by far the biggest issue the sector faces with commissioning and budget freezes. Opportunities for us lie in a strong back catalogue that we continue to sell. A strong catalogue is helpful but back catalogues don’t build a channel business. It’s a short-term fix for a long-term problem,” Galton says.


Shows that Cake is launching at Kidscreen Summit this week include The Guava Juice Show, an animated series based on the Guava Juice YouTube channel; school-based live-action comedy So Awkward Academy, which is a spin-off to CBBC series So Awkward; and upcoming sci-fi adventure series Armosaurs, which is scheduled for premiere in 2025.


Over in France, animation studio Dandelooo’s producer and head of international, Emmanuèle Pétry, predicts a trend in 2024 for very cheap content on free VoD (FVoD) platforms for kids.


The Guava Juice Show
The Guava Juice Show

“I sense that we will see more and more very cheap programmes on FVoD for kids. The fragmentation between premium smart kids’ shows and super cheap old sing-songy YouTube programmes will be even more evident. Currently, I am a little pessimistic for the future of kids’ TV today,” she says.


FVoD and FAST channels present a challenge for production companies, according to Pétry, who argues that the revenue share model is “unfair to producers.”


“Channels keep insisting that we share the risk, but in reality the makers bear the whole risk and the screens promise some revenue when we are very well known. Only a huge hit could allow for a beautiful revenue stream but having said that you never know when a great success is around the corner,” the exec says.


Dandelooo is currently in development on animated preschool series A Day With the Dogs, based on Dorothée de Monfreid’s books. At Kidscreen this week, the studio is presenting Birds & Bees, a stop-motion show commissioned by Lumni and France Télévisions about sexuality.


A Day With the Dogs
A Day With the Dogs

Birds & Bees leans into a desire Pétry sees among buyers for “meaningful” shows. “In French, we say ‘le fond’ which means the bottom – that’s what is left when the shiny surface fades away,” she says. “Whether the underlying learning aspect is social/emotional or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), there is a consciousness of the fact that kids spend their precious time in front of screens and should not waste this energy on lame stuff.”


Pope also identifies a trend for meaningful content, which he says provides an opportunity for producers to create programming that reflects what children really need.


“Meaningful and relevant content has always been important, but it has never been this important,” he says. “We’re going to see buyers in kids’ media, as we are seeing buyers in all the other kids’ industries, far more focused on what the audience really, truly wants. And that will be reflected not only in the choices of genres they make but also in the subject matters of that content. There will be more comedy, richer characterisations and close consideration of what is happening across platforms.”


Back in France, this trend is echoed by Mediawan Kids & Family’s president Julien Borde, who says commissioners are increasingly seeking impactful content, with a particular emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
Despite cost concerns throughout the industry, Borde says there is still “a substantial demand” for premium, high-quality series “in an increasingly competitive and fragmented market,” while also acknowledging that “franchises serve as a secure investment for both audiences and broadcasters.”



“Notably, the industry has witnessed a trend of rebooting and extending successful franchises in 2023, and we anticipate this trend to persist in 2024. This has inspired us to introduce reboots of strong franchises such as Astroboy Reboot and The Magic Roundabout to the market,” Borde says.


“Broadcasters are also drawn to shows originating from digital social networks or gaming platforms, given their ability to generate significant audiences and communities at the same level as traditional franchises,” the exec adds, noting that Mediawan Kids & Family’s subsidiary Somewhere Animation is working on an animated series based on video game Temtem, in addition to Chef Club Adventures, which is adapted from a cooking YouTube channel.


Meanwhile, touching on the controversial subject of AI, Borde says the controversial new technology will help to bring content to market quicker, which is “critical” in a time when content “can go viral in an instant.”


“While animation still takes years to finance and produce, AI will allow us to reduce that timeframe and ultimately animation to expand even more, even though it will never replace human implications,” he says.
Pope, on the other hand, predicts that AI will lead to a decline in the quality of kids’ content, which will be accepted by the market if it helps reduce budgets.
“AI will prove and disprove its mettle and will settle down a little. It couldn’t have come at a better or worse time, depending on how you look at it. For some, it will mean cost savings and it’s entirely probable that quality will suffer and that will be OK,” he says.