OneMIP - The TV industry’s largest content showcase

17 October 2022

MIPJUNIOR: Highlights from the two-day event

Insights, trends and networking events to showcase the world of kids’ content

By MIPCOM CANNES News team

Cecilia Persson navigates a competitive kids’ landscape

BBC Studios Kids & Family managing director Cecilia Persson used her MIPJunior Keynote to tell delegates that the newly expanded division is open for busines: “This is a new chapter in the history of BBC Kids, which unites our production capabilities with our commercial expertise. We’re now one team, one slate and one budget.”

Among the new projects on the BBC slate that she highlighted was Phoenix Rise, which premiered at MIPJunior and is the first original TV idea from Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer.

Persson said the new division is open to working with any talent but is currently “leaning in” to certain priorities: “We are looking to expand animation. We have a great indie slate but want to do more in-house. We also want to do more on the scripted side and are trying to find the next great format for children.”

In such a competitive landscape, she said: “A key issue for all of us is discovery: how are viewers finding original ideas and stories?”

 

Binge-watching: ‘What makes kids so different from adults?’

The Binge Watching Session, presented by Glance’s head of content insight Avril Blondelot, offered insights into some of the industry’s key trends, while asking: “What makes kids so different from adults?”

In just 30 minutes, Blondelot presented 23 series from 15 countries, but started the session with a dive into the past: “The Smurfs has kept its ‘young’ appeal thanks to reboots,” she said. “It’s part of a trend to revive old classics.” 

The rest of the session celebrated the diversity and imagination of today’s kids’ television. Formats highlighted included CBBC’s Britain’s Best Young Artists, which reworks the classic adult format — in one episode, kids are instructed to sketch a coastline from a bouncing speedboat. 

Blondelot noted that role models for kids were in a key evolutionary phase, celebrating everyone from the socially awkward to the visually impaired, referring to Maddie & Triggs from Turnip & Duck, a thoughtful look at a young girl’s incredible hearing.

The MipJunior Opening Night Party at the Majestic Hotel was held in partnership with NBCUniversal (NBCU) Global Distribution Kids & Family. The event was themed around one of NBCU’s latest properties: Abominable And The Invisible City.

Exploring the secrets to co-production

There are a lot of secrets to making a co-production work — most of them beginning with P, said panelists at the Let’s Talk About Co-production session moderated by The Creative Garden’s Sarah Baynes.

But while passion, pitch, presentation, partnership, perseverance and purpose are all vital, most important is to “remember your broadcaster is not a divorce counsellor”, indie producer Billy Macqueen of Darrall Macqueen advised. “Make sure the chemistry with your co-production partners is sound.”

Another P word – persistence – is also vital, he added: “Big broadcasters get between 600 and 800 emails a day, so you need to be persistent.”

For Dominic Gardiner, CEO of Jetpack Distribution, it’s all about passion — and never losing sight of your original vision: “What’s perfect for one network may not be for the next. So don’t take rejection personally. Keep going, stick with your original content and don’t develop on the hoof.”

All speakers were upbeat about the status of co-productions in a market beset by rising production costs and downward pressure on budgets. “Co-productions are way higher up the food chain than before,” said Cyma Zarghami, founder of female-owned and operated Mimo Studios in New York.

 

Rick Clodfelter looks for ‘that feeling when you walk into a Disney theme park’

In a 30 Minutes With… session, Disney Branded Television’s executive director, content acquisitions and partnerships, Rick Clodfelter, admitted to being opportunistic in his search for content that complements in-house programming running on the company’s channels: 

“We track opportunities over relatively long periods that we think are promising or that might solve problems that our channels have in terms of not having enough programming in certain areas,” he said. 

“When I’m being pitched, I always ask myself how a show might fit our channel brands, whether it shares our core values, and whether it has that magical element that typifies Disney. And I don’t mean wizards and princesses and wands, I mean emotional impact and great storytelling that has something magical about it and that creates connections with the audience. One of my colleagues summed it up as being like that feeling when you walk into a Disney theme park.”

 

Social media is ‘much more about sharing interests’

Children are moving away from the idea of social media as a place where validation comes from how many friends or likes they have, according to Peter Robinson, chief strategy officer at research firm KidsKnowBest, who was speaking in MIPJunior’s New Kids On The Block session. “Historically, you collected friends in almost the same way you collected a set of Pokemon cards,” he said. “It has, with the help of games and new social platforms, become much more about sharing interests, and niche interests, within a network of likeminded individuals.”

He also said children are gravitating towards online influencers interested in social values and environmental activism, citing the example of Jimmy ‘MrBeast’ Donaldson, who has used his 106 million-strong YouTube following to drive a campaign that has planted 24 million trees. 

Robinson warned brands about a potential backlash to their efforts to reach children with campaigns and content on popular platforms: “One child recently discussed with us how ‘adults have made a bit of a mess of the real world and now they’re coming into Roblox and making a bit of a mess of Roblox’.”

 

‘Keeping ahead of trends is hugely challenging’

Sunil Talati, chairman of the Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) told the MIPJunior seminar, Creative India: Forging A Global Destiny, that the Indian government has undertaken to support the export of the country’s film, TV and VFX industries. 

“Now that India is a country where 50% of the population is under 35 and 65% is under 25, local demand for original programming is huge,” he said. “But we are also looking at a sector that is increasingly universal in its output and that displays great export potential.”

Viacom18 Media’s executive vice-president, Anu Sikka, revealed that Nickelodeon India attracts 50 million viewers. “It’s an impressive figure,” she said. “But keeping ahead of trends is hugely challenging and it isn’t going to get any easier.”

 

Commissioning and co-production are key for Gulli

In the 30 Minutes With M6/Gulli session, children’s acquisitions director and director of international children’s channels Maud Branly highlighted how channels broadcasting in France have to obey the 40% local-content quota: “This of course means we are very involved with the commissioning of series, as well as having multiple production and co-production deals running throughout the year.”

She said that when Gulli Africa was launched in 2015, it was the first truly pan-African channel: “Back then, finding shows with black characters was nearly impossible, but things have improved dramatically, partly because we are now starting to see shows that are produced in Africa.”

 

Phoenix Rise gets world TV premiere in Cannes

THE MIPJunior World Premiere TV Screening showcased BBC-commissioned drama Sinking Ship Entertainment’s Phoenix Rise. The drama follows a diverse group of teens in a UK school who are taking their first tentative steps back into mainstream education after being excluded. In a panel afterwards, Carla de Jong, head of production at Sinking Ship Entertainment, moderated a discussion on how the drama about a specific group of characters “encapsulates themes with the power to resonate with children all over the world”.

MIPJunior Screen & Snack

Australian broadcaster ABC’s latest pre-school commission Beep And Mort, a mixed-media series adapted by Windmill Pictures from its own theatrical production, was introduced to MIPJunior delegates at a lunchtime Screen & Snack session. Jessica Ellis, head of ABC Commercial, which is distributing the show globally, said: “We have had some initial conversations with buyers and everyone is just so excited.”

The MIPJunior Project Pitch winners

MIPJunior hosted a Tweens/Teens Project Pitch for the first time this year, in addition to the Kids Project Pitch. The pitching competition identifies new TV projects with the greatest potential for commissioning and roll-out across platforms.

The winning project in the Kids/Under 11s category was Big Bad Boo’s Ava Undercover. Juror Brenda Bisner, CCO of Kidoodle.TV, said: “There’s not a detail down to the hair colour that wasn’t thought about. We appreciated the fact it addressed such a lot of topics.”

The winner of the Tweens/Teens pitch was Really?, a live-action series about a suicidal girl who finds reason to live in the midst of the Ukrainian War. Juror Amy Takahara, Netflix director, kids & family acquisitions & co-productions, called it “a very special show that had a clear point of view and a lot of emotion and heart.”

 

WildBrain takes 360 approach to content

At the WildBrain IP 360 case study, senior executives shared how the company drives viewing figures through “audience-led content creation”.

Hosted by Dubit’s senior vice-president Adam Woodgate, the panel explored WildBrain’s 360 approach to monetising kids’ brands globally in the digital world. The speakers revealed how Caillou, Strawberry Shortcake, Boy & Dragon and emojitown have evolved through development, production and distribution led by a unique understanding of audience, platforms and partners. 

“We’re about high quality, high-volume, efficient production, treating YouTube as a streamer with an engaged and scaled audience,” said WildBrain vice-president of content & operations Matt Rennie.

As owner of global hit Teletubbies, WildBrain has also been exploring how to revisit an enduring icon with not one but two projects. Its president Josh Scherba said: “Just as Netflix started showing an interest in reviving the show, we were already working on Teletubbies, Let’s Go!, a new CG-animated spin-off for the official Teletubbies YouTube channel.”

 

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By the MIPCOM CANNES News team