Word on ‘la Rue’: MIPTV Executive Questions

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Find out what’s on the minds of those bustling animation executives racing around the Palais at MIPTV with our annual run down of their musings on the industry, new media and their (not so fond) market memories.






Eric Rollman – Rollman Entertainment Inc.

President

On toon trends: “I am now off on my own adventure. Over 25 years in the business (president, Marvel Animation; president/COO, Global Gaming League; head of worldwide production, Fox Family and Saban Ent.), I have learned, earned, burned, churned and I am ready to make my run at it…As such, I am obviously hopeful and optimistic about the market this year and the state of business. I find it always boils down to the same thing, though: Character and story. Those are the (not so) secret ingredients.

Of course, it’s critical to surround that with the right look, style and most importantly a team that can execute on the promise. For me, the experience at the markets now is vastly different as an independent, but from my perspective, there is serious business going on … and I intend to be right in the center of it as much as possible! I am armed and dangerous with great content and a child-like enthusiasm to match.”






Steven Grieder – MTVNI

EVP, Nickelodeon International & Program Sales

Shows available: Planet Sheen, Bubble Guppies, Ugly Americans

On toon trends: “CG is now an important part of the production palette but it remains only one of the approaches we take—we’re not ready to step away from 2D and continue exploring every media. In shows like our latest preschool premiere, Bubble Guppies, the environment and action are built around a mix of 2D and CG … I think we’ll continue to see this mix for quite a while.

Beyond our freshly created animation shows, I think we’re going to see a trend for reinvented and refreshed classics—either staying big or going big again. Nickelodeon has been phenomenally successful with SpongeBob SquarePants … We’re looking at taking this iconic classic, to new, interesting and surprising places.

Following this trend, we’re hugely excited about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … We’re focused on making it fresh and exciting for a new generation of kids and animation lovers, while staying true to the heart of the original franchise. It’s all about respect—respect your audience, respect your creative; in the balance we’re going to make something great once more out of something that was already a huge hit.”

Worst market experience: “The downside of hanging out with beautiful people in exotic locales selling the glamour and excitement of entertainment is that our whining is never tolerated for long by anybody, but last year’s ‘Ash Cloud’ MIP-TV market was definitely it. I was lucky and managed to blithely slide onto one of the last flights out of France (if not the last one) but then spent 48 hours nervously tracking the remainder of my team’s progress across Europe via every means of conveyance. If the cloud hadn’t lifted we were seriously eyeing booking passage on an ocean liner for some of the Americans… at that point my guilt was turning to envy!”






Ken Anderson – Red Kit Animation

Exec. Director / Chief Creative Officer

On toon trends: “Some of the major trends are: Apps—there is no question that this is the frontline for monetizing the ‘smart phone’ generation; TV lives on—but it will further fragment as IPTV ‘channels’ emerge; Brands continue to increase in importance; Financing and Production models are changing and demanding greater innovation and rigor; The ‘Emerging Economies’ are gaining in strength and confidence.

It is all incredibly exciting and full of opportunity!”

About the app market: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone in the business! There is bound to be a huge surge in supply with lots of great new ideas and innovations from across the world.

Apps will help add value to properties, create new products and revenue streams—but for animation as we know it, the consumption will change only in terms of the technology through which the content is delivered. We’ll still want to watch more episodes of the shows we like and play the games we like, and what’s even better is that these elements are in the same ‘app!’”






Clara Wooller – Ludorum Plc

VP, International Sales

Shows available: Chuggington

About the app market: “The iPhone has been a game-changer for parents; it really comes into its own as a highly portable entertainment device for kids, as opposed to an over-priced cell phone. Apps offer an addictive instant fix and TV animation producers are in a privileged position when it comes to trust and parents/children making a purchase or download decision. Once the app is on the handset, the animation is child-controlled but parent-sanctioned. Apps keep the product to the fore in dead-time previously inaccessible to the content provider, with the added bonus of interactivity rather than passive viewing. App developers benefit from a virtuous cycle of each product promoting the next—a new series is preceded by teasers in other formats and visibility is constant, though that brings its own challenges of pacing content release.

Apps offer an open market that any provider can enter with low entry costs, animation producers having a head-start when it comes to having developed content which can be repackaged or enhanced for this market. At Ludorum, we recognize the growing importance of apps as the number of iPhones and iPads grow and other smart-phones and games consoles enter the market; we’ve enjoyed success with our ‘Roundhouse Romp’ app, which has achieved 170,000 downloads to date, and we are well underway with development of new Chuggington apps.”






Patrick Elmendorff – Studio100 Media

Managing Director

Shows available: Woodlies, Maya the Bee, Forrie’s Dragons, TiTiPangPang Rescue

On toon trends: “As a number of larger broadcasters have reduced their costs by making live-action dramas and sitcoms targeted at a younger audience, we have started to notice some changes in competition between animated and live-action programs in children’s television.

Animation has continuously been re-defined over the last 10 years. So, today we are not only seeing high-quality CGI animated content in cinema and television, but also several kinds of ‘hybrid’ animation—a mix of more than one animation technique (cel-shading look) and a mixture of live-action and animation to a high standard. In our opinion, the latter is one of the biggest trends currently emerging at the markets and we have experienced that broadcaster needs for this kind of content has also increased during the last 12 months.

Another trend and maybe the biggest challenge yet is the tendency towards an increasingly fragmented market in different territories around the globe. Our aim here is to reach the viewers on all digital platforms corresponding to the shifting viewing and media consumption habits of kids, tweens and teens. It is very important for us to gain audience’s loyalty by means of interesting content generated from our brand extensions. Apps, for example, have revolutionized mobile entertainment and their influence on the TV market is rapidly increasing.

Co-viewing; parents watching children’s programs together with their kids and children now wanting live-action shows at an earlier age is another trend that we have to be aware of when starting new productions. Meeting these needs/criteria will be one of our challenges if we want to satisfy and fulfill young viewers’ needs in the future.”






Louis Fournier – Portfolio Entertainment

VP, Sales & Acquisitions

Shows available: Jobi’s Room, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!

On toon trends: “Established brands are surging as the market is looking for tried and true content in more challenging times. The revival of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! is a good example. Transmedia is the new buzz word to describe the ability of a brand to extend its mindprint over TV, the internet, mobile phones, electronic tablets and other screen-based media.”

About the app market: “The emerging app market is an interesting development for animation ,but it is still difficult to ascertain its economic impact on the animation industry. Many animators are now employed in the gaming industry who has matured into a huge industry. In comparison, the app market still feels like a cottage industry.”






Tapaas Chakravarti – DQE Group

Chairman & CEO

Shows available: 5 & It, The New Adventures of Peter Pan, The New Adventures of Lassie, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book

On toon trends: “The traditional modes of content distribution such as TV, publishing, radio, films, etc. are being rapidly replaced due to the wide availability of internet and increased accessibility of broadband services and other digital technologies. Distribution of animated content is getting redefined as broadband becomes more pervasive. There is a definite model shift from a physical product-based ownership to a virtual license-based ownership. There will be an increasing shift towards the online world and the trend is slowly moving towards constantly accessible streamed content. The digital content ecosystem will further change the creation of content, based on end-use applications and maximum monetization.”

About the app market: “The web and mobile utilization has increased exponentially and has helped to penetrate across huge geographic territories to reach a wider customer base globally and with ease. This is both a good thing and bad because while it increases the platforms available for monetization, it also increases the risk of piracy and illegal sharing of content. However the app market has opened up a new distribution platform and is an innovative way to monetize IPs.”






Ed Galton – Cake

CCO & Managing Director

Shows available: Tom & the Slice of Bread with Strawberry Jam & Honey, The Sparticle Mystery

On toon trends: “Still in the hangover phase of the recession, so budgets have been slashed around the world. Less cash is available to producers, which mean quality programs with commercial potential seem to be few and far between at the moment.”

Worst market experience: “Getting food poisoning in Cannes. Nothing comes close!”






Paul Robinson – KidsCo

CEO

Shows available: Jass Time!, Boo & Me

On toon trends: “I think we can all agree that the most significant trend the industry is facing at the moment is the digital literacy of children. Recent studies have shown that children are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and are mastering the use of the Internet, PVRs and other technology at a young age. The Internet’s wide reach and ability to provide customers with so many platforms on which to view video content at any given moment has set the bar for service providers.

In particular, the increasing demand for interactive content is a challenge all service providers need to address. TV is no longer just an audio box—it is a communication hub. Existing content will be adapted and interactive content will be created to satisfy this demand.

All-time favorite cartoon: “It has to be Inspector Gadget. I first saw this show back in the ’80s and thought it was fantastic. It follows the adventures of a bionic detective equipped with an incredible array of gadgets, as he battles against the evil Doctor Claw! It now appears on KidsCo and I am thrilled to have acquired such fantastic content for KidsCo viewers.”






Kristen Van Cott – Skechers Entertainment

SVP, Creative Development

Shows available: Hydee, Twinkle Toes

On toon trends: “It’s an exciting time, with the convergence of kids and the consumption of media. We are seeing new trends in the animation process itself as well as in the delivery of the content. Kids are consuming all styles of animation, from Flash to 3-D, and viewing this content through all forms of digital media.”

Worst market experience: “The volcanic ash fiasco during the 2010 market will ‘stick’ with me for a long time to come!”






Joan Lambur – Breakthrough Entertainment

Executive Producer

Shows available: Crash Canyon

On toon trends: “We are definitely noticing an increased openness to partnerships since the global economy suffered the downturn a couple of years ago. It’s allowed us to forge some terrific new relationships with not only individual creators/writers but also with the larger corporations—it is a very exciting time to be in this industry, in my opinion.”

Worst market experience: “Oh, I don’t even know which one to choose! I think one of the worst was my first market years ago when I was unable to operate the VHS player (yes, I’m that old and still alive) with a group of network executives waiting expectantly. My bosses at the time were not impressed, which only made the situation more tense. Luckily, it was in New Orleans and I was able to find a few distractions later that evening to take my mind off the days’ failure to launch!”






Pamela Slavin – Wizard Hat Productions

Executive Producer/Partner

Shows available: Grim Hill, The Thinkheads

About the app market: “Mobile content used to be an abstract concept, but the arrival of the iPad has given animation producers a great opportunity to have viewers interact with their characters. If the apps are really engaging, the revenue will come.”

Worst market experience: “I was sent to MIPTV at the last minute and had to stay miles away from the venue. Cabs wouldn’t come that far out, so the trek in was via a shuttle that stopped at every hotel in the south of France. I was late for breakfast meetings every day that week and learned the first rule of markets is location, location, location!”

All-time favorite cartoon: “The Flintstones … I had a crush on Fred.”






Magnus Jansson – Assorted Nuts Animation Studios

COO & Creative Director

Shows available: The Goob, Far From Home

Top toon trends: “The ever-changing state of the Web, connected devices and how we consume entertainment. And how this effects financing opportunities for projects.”

About the app market: “It is definitely a great opportunity, but way too crowded and in its infancy to rely on for income or brand exposure. Breaking through the noise today seems rather difficult. I heard that there are something over 200 apps out there. That’s a lot!”

All-time favorite cartoon: “Futurama. And StarZinger … Different eras in my life.”






Rick Clodfelter – Cartoon Network & Boomerang

Director, Content Acquisitions and Co-Productions

Top toon trends: “Alternative platforms and the various opportunities for kids to find and own content. We’re dealing with savvy consumers who know what, when and how to get their favorite shows. It’s really redefining how broadcasters acquire, offer and market content.”

About the app market: “It’s an exciting opportunity for broadcasters to extend their brand in a whole new way for the audience. It’s the perfect storm of storytelling, interactivity and accessibility to content that will encourage animation to grow with the market. It’s only the beginning…”

All-time favorite cartoon: “Too many to choose from, but I’m going to go ‘old school’ and give credit to the Rankin-Bass classics. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a marathon showing with my niece and nephew.”






Thom Chapman – ToonBox Entertainment

Director of Business Development & Sales

Shows available: Bana Royale, The Beet Party

On toon trends: “Apps have changed the way we think about extending our brands. 3-D remains an exciting new frontier in taking our products to another level in entertainment. Financing remains challenging, so co-productions are becoming the most viable option to create new series.”

About the app market: “It has become my new obsession. Apps are a wonderful new tool for brand awareness and are a fun way to further extend your animated world. Your audience now has a whole new way to interact with your content. They also allow you to have a more direct relationship with the user, which helps tailor future games and programs.”






Neus Viciana – Neptuno Films

Sales Executive

Shows available: Kung Fu Chicken

Top toon trends: “Regarding production, they are the new technologies such as stereoscopic 3-D; and regarding commercial, the channels are looking for more entertainment stories than educational stories.”

Worst market experience: “We lost the suitcase with the screens of the new series two year ago for MIPTV. They arrived the day before we had to leave—luckily, we had a big catalogue to show to our clients!”






Brian Lacey – 4Kids International

Exec. Vice President

Shows available: “Among these are: Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time, a 60-minute movie produced in visually stunning 3-D, which brings together for the first time the three iconic heroes from the hugely popular Yu-Gi-Oh! trilogy; Rocket Monkeys (26 x 22), the much anticipated fresh and smart comedy series produced in association with Breakthrough Entertainment and Teletoon of Canada; Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Road to Destiny (45 x 22), another season from the fast-paced final chapter of the Yu-Gi-Oh! trilogy; and Tai Chi Chasers (39 x 22), a fantasy adventure series that involves a suspenseful search for ancient tai chi symbols to bring peace to the world.”






David Michel – Marathon Media (Zodiak Media Group)

General Manager

Shows available: Redakai

Top toon trends: “New entrants from the toy world launching tv/entertainment production units.”

About the app market: “It’s definitely a promising market. At Zodiak Kids, we consider it as part of our consumer product exploitation.”

Worst market experience: “I think everyone had the same dreadful 2008 experience; meeting with desperate broadcasters who had suddenly seen all their ad revenues vanishing. Fortunately, the market is getting better, although we haven’t reached pre-2007 level.”






Kenji Ebato – Toei Animation

Chief Manager of International Department

Shows available: Toriko, Suite Pretty Cure

On toon trends: “We are looking for key merchandising partners in toys, cards and videogames to explore, and more recently digital distribution is getting more important so we can build awareness of our ‘Anime,’ including e-commerce, etc.”

About the app market: “Now, we are still looking for vendors, but the key to an app is not character itself, but the idea, I think.”






Gregory Payne – Foothill Entertainment

Chairman/Director

Shows available: Spike Team, Gunk Aliens, Raz & Benny

On toon trends: “The economic downturn has created a thirst for entertainment and escape. Life is tough enough, so programs that allow you to laugh for a half hour or so are increasingly popular—comedy, comedy, comedy.”

About the app market: “We always need animation, and the app market has allowed smaller studios to be creative on a small budget. Not every program has to have a $40 million budget. If it is clever and fun, the app market can be a vehicle to launch new animated projects.”

Worst market experience: “Our hotel fire at the Grand Hotel at MIPCOM 2006. Being displaced, burnt out and 6,000 miles from home at a market was the worst.”






Carlos Biern – BRB Internacional

Exec. VP, Co-Productions and Worldwid Distribution

Shows available: Canimals, Kambu, Zoobabú

On toon trends: “The impact of advertisers starting to work with independent producers over shows for online and gaming, together with toy companies producing their own animated shows and blocks for the international markets, are creating new ways to finance shows and get exposure. This will doubtlessly affect specifically the future and a new way for all independent producers and private and major TV networks.”

About the app market: “Apps will work for shows and social-related brands which are well known, and make a different use of technology for fun and entertainment. The rest of apps will be crap to the audience and won’t many any progress toward mass use.”

Worst market experience: “Three years ago, back when we were just able to finance a show which had interest for 70 percent of the TV programming people worldwide. I am happy that doesn’t happen any longer with the new ways and partners who are financing a show! We are already producing animated shows without TV programming on board!”






Raquel Benitez – Comet Entertainment

Chief Operations Officer

Shows available: “We are very excited about our new ventures and partnerships. We have shows for different target groups and variety is our strength right now. We are taking existing brands and developing the media content, including TV series.

On toon trends: “We have to think global and also we have to be always informed on the latest technologies and what different viewers are watching. Trends vary from one day to the other so we have to be on top of what’s going on at all times. Every day there’s more people that can do very inexpensive productions and sometimes what matters is how many YouTube viewers you have, rather than the quality of a show.”






Ralph Jihoon Son – Grimm Studio

Chief Producer

Shows available: Cobot

Top toon trends: “It would have to be the changes and growth in the 3-D market. Since we are a 3-D animation studio, things are looking positive for us and our content.”

Top toon trends: “My favorite animated films of all-time have to be the Toy Story series, Monsters, Inc. and Porco Rosso.”






Gustavo Madrigal – Morpho Animation Studio

Chief Executive Officer

Shows available: Poison Squad, Grandpa’s Robot

Top toon trends: “Limited funding opportunities for independent producers that offer fresh and clever ideas.

Lack of an online platform with a successful business model to help producers take profitable advantage of the Internet.”

About the app market: “Experiencing the characters and histories through an application is very important, as the kids divide their time between TV, gaming and other activities. We cannot focus on only one platform. Some platforms are farther from our scope, others, like apps, are very close to us and affect the audience very much. So, it makes total sense to have our artists working very closely with apps and gaming developers. That way we can ensure the audience experiences our characters exactly as we meant.”

Worst market experience: “”We come from the CG advertising market, we are new to the TV content market. So we don’t have bad experiences… so far.”






Romy Broda – Toon Factory

Sales Manager

Shows available: Tony & Alberto, Chico Chica Boumba, My Friend Grompf

On toon trends: “I see two major trends: transmedia and active viewing.”

About the app market: “Experiencing the characters and histories through an application is very important, as the kids divide their time between TV, gaming and other activities. We cannot focus on only one platform. Some platforms are farther from our scope, others, like apps, are very close to us and affect the audience very much. So, it makes total sense to have our artists working very closely with apps and gaming developers. That way we can ensure the audience experiences our characters exactly as we meant.”

Involvement in the app market: “We distribute Chico Chica Boumba, a transmedia series whose producer develop iPhone apps linked to the TV series.”