Every demographic has its stratum but few are as dramatically delineated as kids’ television programming because the distinctions between age groups are so profound.
“Strong, relatable, believable characters are key drivers, particularly for a pre-school audience where they become a child’s friend,” explains Rick Glankler, President/General Manager, FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment. “For older kids, friendship is still fundamental but action and humor are also major factors in capturing children’s imaginations. For boys aged 6 to 9, there has been a shift away from action adventure to engaging with comedy. Currently, our content fits primarily into the pre-school and 6-to-12 age categories which are the target demographics for most children’s channels but many broadcasters are returning to the challenges of creating age-appropriate drama for 11 – 16’s and we are part of that discussion, too.”
Great Stories Are at the Heart of All Our Shows
“Original ideas work the best,” shares Rick, “Do your homework to make sure there are no similar shows already out there. You need to make sure you have a great story to tell and engaging characters targeted to your particular demographic. Look at your prospective partner’s existing portfolio and see how your idea will fit within that. Come prepared with a show bible and other supporting documents, footage and imagery – and be passionate about your creation.”
Territory v. Platform Distinctions
“Pitching has become more about platform rather than territory placement,” explains Rick. “It’s about defining the best broadcast strategy for your show in advance and working out whether a single platform or multiple broadcaster approach is the best fit, taking into consideration audience age, demographic and reach, programming fit, series promotion, and finance. Sometimes that will lead to a linear first run approach and other times, it will be SVOD-led.”
“Similarly, if you are looking to pitch to one of the big children’s networks such as Disney, Turner or Nickelodeon, they often take content for more than one country,” he continues. “Broadcasters, SVOD platforms, and home entertainment companies are all after the same thing: they want people to consume their product. So, you need to engage them with the content and the way to do that is by telling great stories. It’s our job to find like-minded partners who share our vision when embarking on a journey that tells the story of our shows and entertains as many children as possible. Event-led themed titles works well for home entertainment, holidays and direct-to-retail titles all tend to sell well.”
“All co-productions are a collaborative process where ideas are shared,” explains Rick. “We work with best in class partners around the world. Each relationship is different, bringing unique skillsets to every project. We are always open to listening to our partners’ thoughts, and with a strong background in distribution and consumer products, we are either able to turn these suggestions into reality, or work out the best path for the project.”
FremantleMedia has a five-year co-production deal with the BBC and as such, many of their shows premiere in the UK. But as a global company, they approach each new production with a view to placing it internationally. As an example, with Danger Mouse, their successful action comedy series, both US and UK writers worked on the show to ensure it had broad appeal. After its UK launch, the series went international via Netflix, airing in over 100 countries.
Also available worldwide is Kate & Mim-Mim wherein the heroine has “an amazing friendship with her toy bunny that fires her imagination to take her on fantastical adventures.”
Rick reveals: “We’ve just signed a two-show deal with Shellhut Entertainment in Thailand. The first series, Tasty Tales of the Food Truckers, is an irreverent comedy series about cooking, eating, travel, creativity, friendship, fun and food. Whilst the show is due to premiere in Asia first, we also have US talent working on the production to ensure that it will have global appeal.”
“Our new show Bitz & Bob is a groundbreaking new comedy adventure with a twist, exploring the broad principles and science of engineering through creative play, crafting and invention”. Rick details: “With a need for more engineers and global efforts to attract girls to STEM-related industries, the series – which has an inspirational female role model – aims to inspire children to start exploring early engineering, helping them to understand how things are made, how things work and the world around them.” To complement this animated series, Freemantle is producing a complementary short form live action companion show (44 x 4) that will demonstrate how to create the things children have seen in the series. This new program is due to launch on CBeebies in the UK.
Heather Hale is a screenwriter, director, producer, and consultant. Her next StoryTellers on WalkAbout retreat is in September in Lucca (Tuscany) Italy. Her How to Work the Film & TV Markets is available on Amazon (Focal Press) and Story$elling: How to Pitch Film & TV Projects is due out next February 2018 (Michael Weise Productions).