It is hard to get new shows away, and even harder to get new shows to stand out when they do make it to air. Despite that and the lack of new global hits in recent times, the industry remains broadly positive that we will see a new breakout programme this year.
Generally, it takes three seasons before hit status can even start to be attributed to a kids show, but the dynamics of the market mean 2016 should see some new hits get underway, according to Michael Carrington, CEO of Zodiak Kids Studios (right). “The more established producers around the world are now in growth mode and investing in new techniques to tell great stories,” he says.
“Content is expected to play an even bigger role in 2016, with branching storytelling a proven model, virtual reality increasing its reach and multiple distribution platforms with better resources. There’s bound to be a global content hit this year; it’s just likely to come from a surprising place.”
Disney XD’s Marc Buhaj adds that several shows are now close to ‘breakout hit’ status. “There are a number of original series that are on the cusp of breaking out, and also a number of series lined up for premiere in the next 12-to-18 months that I believe will resonate with the global audience,” he says.
KiKa’s Sebastian Debertin is less positive. Asked whether there will be a breakout global kids content hit in 2016, he says: “No, I do not see a single one. Not because there are less great programmes with great marketing concepts attached out there – I saw a lot of great new concepts at Kidscreen – but because of the fragmentation of the market.”
Studio 100 managing director Patrick Elmendorff (left) says that 2016 will be a “year of superheroes”. “Zack Snyder’s new Batman/Superman adventure, and the new releases by Marvel and DC featuring old and new characters, are highly anticipated by fans,” he says.
Could, in a multiplatform world, the next kids hit emanate from somewhere other than the traditional channels? Some executives think so. “There will certainly be content that rises to the top in 2016 and takes the globe by storm, and I anticipate that this will be something unexpected in terms of format and execution,” says Mattel’s Christopher Keenan. “Young audiences have developed quite an appetite for short-form, digital content, and I predict that the immediacy and reach of some of the digital platforms will bring the world its next global hit.”
“I’m hoping it comes from somewhere we don’t expect, so that everyone has to up their game,” says Blue-Zoo Animation boss and Animation UK founder Oli Hyatt.
If it isn’t from (or for) a new digital platform, SVOD and binge-viewing will still inform what the next kids hit is, says Darrall Macqueen’s Billy Macqueen (right). “Binge viewing isn’t just for the over-16s,” he says, predicting the next hit “will be an animated preschool or live-action format with a serial narrative arc and laughs”.
An alternative view is that the established kids nets have the infrastructure already in place and are the most likely source of new breakout successes. “I’m biased because I spent eight happy years at Disney, but they, along with Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, are best placed to achieve a breakout hit because they have vertically integrated businesses and have a guaranteed global route to market via their channels, apps and on-demand services,” says Creative Media Partners founder and Your Family Entertainment executive VP Paul Robinson.
Binge viewing isn’t just for the over-16s
Billy Macqueen, Darral Macqueen
Lionel Marty, managing director of The Distribution Factory, says quality will win out wherever it comes from, even in a cluttered market. “Recent years have proven that original quality kids programmes, wherever they originate from, can still become today’s hits both in ratings and merchandising globally thanks to smart international brand-development strategies,” he says. And while digital platforms and services do create market fragmentation, digital also means ideas and content can spread faster. “The world is getting smaller and content is spreading faster,” says Ofanny Choi (left), EVP, TV networks at channel operator Celestial Tiger Entertainment, which launched the Miao Mi preschool service in Asia last year. “There is definitely a chance a programme could break through the clutter.”
Hopster’s Nick Walters is looking to YouTube for the next wave of innovative kids fare. “2016 is going to see some really cool new content appear – and in particular I think you’ll see some of the YouTube creators take it to another level,” he says.
Not everyone, however, is convinced 2016 will be a year of new breakout shows, in the traditional sense at least. “The likelihood of returning to the days of Bob the Builder and Dora are over,” says TaDaKids’ Christopher Skala (right). “The broadcasters no longer have the same kind of lockdown on the target demographic as they used to. As a consequence, the traditional retail sector is in turmoil.”
The move to reboot kids brands such as Thunderbirds, The Clangers, Danger Mouse and Powerpuff Girls adds credence to the notion that new hits will be thin on the ground. “There are too many derivative programmes,” says Children’s Media Conference editorial director Greg Childs. “The most original in the marketplace are remakes of shows from 30 and 40 years ago. No-one is prepared to take risks, and it’s only with risk that you get breakout.”
Josh Selig has created a few hits in his time but says that a new breakout show will not come through this year, with a new order being established among the traditional and on-demand services. “I predict 2016 will be remembered as the year the linear channels realised they have a terminal illness,” he says. “Let’s call it ‘SVOD’. The channels will soon experience the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.”