TBI Weekly: Six takeaways from a week with the kids

The CMC keynote panel

From $15m funding slates to discussions about driving diversity, the past week has provided plenty to consider for those in the kid’s TV business. With the 17th edition of the Children’s Media Conference wrapping today, TBI reflects on the key takeaways.

Reflecting your audience

The conference kicked off on Monday with a keynote panel discussion on how the global Black Lives Matters movement has impacted children’s media.

True diversity is just as lacking in children’s shows as in other programming, with non-white characters often relegated to the role of sidekick or entirely absent. Miranda Wayland, the BBC’s head of creative diversity, highlighted the importance of audiences seeing themselves reflected in the content they consume. This is especially true for children, for whom a lack of representation can have a more profound impact.

Given recent events, the corporation is taking strides to improve racial representation on-and-off screen. Wayland discussed how the BBC, through its Bitesize block, had created a platform for content that “really speaks to the black and Asian history that often isn’t reflected in the curriculum.” Broadcasters, in essence, can help to fill the gaps in children’s education that might not always be covered in school.

Other stories coming out of the conference included ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5 living up to last year’s promise to invest in its kids programming block Milkshake! by acquiring new shows such as Fireman Sam and recommissioning existing ones like Milkshake! Bop Box.

Fireman Sam

Finding funding

Channel 5’s Milkshake! was also among several UK broadcasters that, it was announced this week, had commissioned children’s programming thanks to the British Film Institute (BFI)-funded Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF).

The fund contributes up to half of the production costs for projects so long as they have been given a broadcast commitment, reaching a big enough audience. Among the projects were programmes addressing issues impacting young people, including, race, gender and disability.

Channel 4, E4, CITV and S4C also picked up programming from the YACF slate, with the BFI confirming it had awarded a total of £11,520,428 ($USD 14,575,622) production funding to 18 projects for young audiences between April 2019 and April 2020.

With great IP comes great responsibility

Talking about significant investment, Genius Brands International revealed a joint venture with POW! Entertainment – Stan Lee Universe – which will see the company gain control of all rights to Marvel Comics frontman Stan Lee and all his post-Marvel IP creations.

Lee helped to create dozens of the most iconic superheroes of all time. So while titles such as Tomorrow Men and Stringbean might not have the same brand recognition as The Avengers or the X-Men, Genius Brands CEO Andy Heyward still sees this as the “Holy Grail” of IP acquisitions.

David Neuman, former president of Walt Disney Television and CCO of Genius Brands’ new Kartoon Channel! Was even more effusive, describing the spinoff opportunities for Kartoon Channel! alone as “mindboggling.”

From the new…

Another new name in kid’s production landed this week, with former DHX Media exec Ken Faier and Frima founder Steve Couture teaming up to launch Epic Storyworlds.

Based in Quebec, the prodco has hit the ground running, already securing a commission from Radio Canada for animated comedy-action series Dex And The Humanimals, which is headed to Tou.TV.

Mr Magoo

Acting as a sister company to Faier’s Epic Story Media, it will launch IP globally across television, digital, gaming and consumer products.

…to the old-eon

And from the new to the old; it’s been a busy week for ViacomCBS-owned stalwart Nickelodeon, which struck a deal with London-based prodco Fulwell 73 to produce an animated movie and TV show based on author Andrew McDonald’s book series Real Pigeons Fight Crime.

It soon followed this announcement up with agreements to show French prodco Xilam Animation’s two shows Athleticus and Mr Magoo in territories across the globe and also renewed its comedy animation It’s Pony for a second trot.

Spreading the love

And last, but by no means least, former NFL star Matthew Cherry’s short film Hair Love is being expanded into a 12-episode seriesYoung Love – produced by Sony Pictures Animation, as US streamer HBO Max widens its animation offering.

Hair Love

The short centred on the relationship between an African-American father and his daughter Zuri, and the characters will return for the series, as the family juggles issues ranging from their careers to marriage and social problems.

Sports star-turned-director Cherry, who will serve as showrunner, said he is “beyond excited” to revisit and expand his animated creation.

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