Exclusive: HBO Max EMEA on hunt for live-action comedy & unscripted pre-school shows

Looney Tunes Cartoons

HBO Max is looking to commission and acquire unscripted pre-school formats, live-action children’s comedies and shows that appeal to young female viewers as the streamer continues its expansion across Europe.

The WarnerMedia-owned SVOD, which has had success in EMEA with shows including Looney Tunes Cartoons and Teen Titans Go!, rolled out in 15 European countries in March, while six more launches are planned in the continent for later this year.

The recent confirmation that the service is to merge with new streaming sibling Discovery+ has understandably raised questions about its future, but WarnerMedia’s SVP of kids and family, EMEA, Vanessa Brookman, has told TBI her team “is not standing still” and remains as busy as ever commissioning and acquiring programming for young audiences.

“We are really successful in the scripted space, but we wanted to compliment that with unscripted formats that kids can watch with their families,” said Brookman, who oversees operational, editorial and creative for kids and family content and channels across EMEA.

Her remit covers not just HBO Max, but Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Boing and Cartoonito, while she also co-leads WarnerMedia’s London-based animation label, Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe.

Brookman is open to pitches and while unscripted projects remain high on her content wish list, there is also a big demand for strong pre-school content and shows appealing to girls.

We have lots of things that we need to do. We’re rolling out Cartoonito across EMEA in 2022, so we haven’t ordinarily commissioned in the pre-school space, but we realise that we’re kind of missing half of the kid’s audience by not doing that. So, we’re heavily, emphatically, looking for really strong pre-school content that can be part of our Cartoonito linear networks, but can also appeal to pre-school audiences and their families on HBO Max as well.”

She adds: “Then we’re also looking for family content; we’re looking for game shows, anything in the unscripted space and live-action comedy. We’re so strong in animation, but we really need to complement that with live-action content. That’s really important for our EMEA region.”

Vanessa Brookman

Kids content shopping list

On the acquisition side, Brookman says that HBO Max is looking to buy in girl-focused drama and pre-school content while they ramp up their original production in those spaces.

“Right now, we have really strong acquisitions like Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee, and we’ve also just announced an acquisition deal for Interstellar Ella, a really beautiful pre-school show from Aardman. So, we’re still going to be looking for pre-school acquisitions.”

More specifically, Brookman says that live-action series that appeal to girls are of interest: “We know that girls probably age out of animation a little bit early, and we want to offer them a live-action alternative. So, we’re looking at those aspirational girl dramas that we think will provide a bridge between our animation and then them going off to watch Friends when they’re a little bit older.”

Read our full interview with Vanessa Brookman in the latest edition of TBI magazine here, beginning on p71.

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