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Spring Market Fever: Animation Execs View the Global Scene from MIPTV

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Spring Market Fever: Animation Execs View the Global Scene from MIPTV

The spring market season officially kicks off this month with the arrival of the international content market MIPTV in Cannes, France (April 8-11). The event features the usual matchmaking sessions, keynotes, panels and mixers, designed to accommodate global content producers, creators and buyers. The 2019 country of focus is France, and keynotes include Karen Miller (VP of worldwide programming, acquisition and co-pros at Universal Kids), Cheryl Taylor (head of content at BBC Children) and Cecilia Persson (VP of content, strategy, acquisitions and co-pros at Turner EMEA Kids).

We contacted some of the animation execs to find out what’s on their minds as they prepare for this year’s confabs:

Jon Rutherford

Jon Rutherford

Jon Rutherford
Managing Director & President, Rights
Boat Rocker Studios

MIPTV Agenda: “Boat Rocker Kids & Family will be looking to secure pre-buys for our newly announced preschool animated co-production with the BBC and UYoung, Love Monster. As well as Industrial Brothers’ preschool shows Kingdom Force (CBC) and Remy and Boo (Universal Kids), both currently in production. We’re always interested in the latest trends and newest projects that are generating buzz in the global marketplace.”

Global Outlook: “In an ever-changing media landscape, the kids’ & family business remains challenging. As an independent studio, we have continued to adapt and embrace the changes in the market. In December 2018, Boat Rocker Media consolidated its content, distribution and brands teams under the Boat Rocker Studios banner, with an eye to making further financial investments in content for the global marketplace. Now, with an increased international presence and the recent promotion of Bob Higgins to Head of Kids & Family Content, we look forward to maximizing our global reach and announcing exciting new commissions and collaborations in the near future.”

Alfio Bastiancich

Alfio Bastiancich

Alfio Bastiancich
General Manager of Animation & Youth Programs
Showlab

MIPTV Agenda: “Our animation productions are always the result of a long work of preparation, both in terms of editorial and visual research. Successful content  begins with a strong script, that’s why all our stories starts mainly from successful  books. We aim to produce classic content in a new form, as is the case with our YoYo series, where we showcase playful chromatic energy of a pop artist like Ugo Nespolo. Our content must be created for both Italian and worldwide markets. We are Italian producers and we are developing new editorial lines for a global audience and, given the results of our work  with our European partners, both producers and broadcasters, I think we are succeeding and this will allow Showlab’s catalog in the coming short period to grow.”

Micheline Azoury

Micheline Azoury

Micheline Azoury
Director of Sales & Acquisitions
Showlab

Market Plans: “I joined the team to help strengthen  the international distribution, sales and acquisition plans and division at Showlab. MIPTV is a very important window for us to introduce our strategy firstly for the European market and secondly to present to all buyers/broadcasters our current and new lineup. We will reveal one new IP project and the related broadcasters on board which is a preschool project, and we are happy announcing and pulling deals for our successful YoYo project for its second season, which will be available for delivery to all broadcasters by end of this year.”

Genevieve Dexter

Genevieve Dexter

Genevieve Dexter
CEO
Serious Lunch and Eye Present Ltd.

Market Plans: “We are very actively on the lookout for new animated series to distribute via Serious Lunch, as we have an imbalance between the amount of live-action and animated titles, but not so much to co-develop/finance as we have three projects coming from the Eye Present studio at the moment. We’re very focused on closing finance for Flix by Tomi Ungerer, which we are co-producing with Aria Ungerer, his daughter. We presented the project for the first time at Cartoon Forum 2018. We also have Best & Bester, our co-production with Gigglebug Entertainment in Finland. We will have a brand new completed animatic of the second episode, which features the first ever mosquito vs. woodpecker face off in animation history.”

Overall Outlook: “There are a huge amount of options available for development, production, financing and distribution and MIPTV is really massive playground to accelerate international interaction at the risk of creating more options. It is important to remain focused on achieving a set number of outcomes at this time. From the U.K. perspective we are not experiencing much of the Amazon and Netflix commissioning bonanza that many North American companies have enjoyed, their taste still seems to favor projects from that region. We hope that their U.K. offices will enjoy more power to commission locally in the future. On the flip side it means that we finance our animation series in a more traditional way and that leaves us the distribution rights and more equity in our shows. There is always a balance.”

Jay Noh

Jay Noh

Jay Noh
Director of Content Business
Aurora World Corp.

Market Plans: YooHoo to the Rescue launches in March as the first preschool Netflix Original series from Asia. The broadcast window for YooHoo to the Rescue will be open for linear TV broadcasters in 2020. Therefore we will be looking for broadcast partners around the world for the show at this year’s MIPTV. We are also looking for co-production opportunities or licensing partnerships on properties that can be brought to life as attractive plush toys.”

Overall Outlook: “I believe 2019 will be another exciting year for us. The global launch of YooHoo to the Rescue is supported by a strong licensing programme, which we’re also very excited about. The core values of YooHoo as a show, as a character and as a licensed brand lie in conserving endangered animals and helping kids to learn about them. In 2019, Aurora is planning to support these values by not only using sustainable materials as much as possible in our YooHoo products but also by celebrating conservation and care for endangered species through digital campaigns.”

Alessandro Venturi

Alessandro Venturi

Alessandro Venturi
International Sales Manager
Mondo TV

MIPTV Plans: “Building on our impressive track record in co-production and distribution, we’re always on the lookout for great partnerships – and especially keen to develop partnerships on projects with great content creators worldwide. In addition, we have a number of established properties — like Robot Trains and Sissi the Young Empress — that are well positioned for further growth, and we will be aiming to expand their reach into even more regions while at MIPTV. At the same time, finding broadcast partners for our newer shows, like Invention Story, Bat Pat and MeteoHeroes, will also be a strong emphasis.”

Lionel Marty

Lionel Marty

Lionel Marty
Managing Director
APC Kids

MIPTV Plans: “This year, our scope has broadened considerably with the launch of our own studio, Zephyr Animation. We will be continuing to look for broadcasters for the shows on our distribution slate including Roger, Fox and Hare, Huggleboo, Ricky the Dinosaur and Kid-E-Cats, which is currently in production for Season 3, in addition to looking for commissioners for Zephyr projects in development. More widely, across both distribution and co-production, we would love to find exciting kids’ live-action projects, action-comedy shows for boys, and projects with a strong female lead, which combine international appeal and brand building potential.”

Overall Outlook: “It has always been, and remains, a changing and demanding market. Maintaining a competitive edge is key, hence our drive to curate and concentrate on a handful of high-end projects, which we are certain can be molded into a global property such as Kid-E-Cats. It is easy to look at market fragmentation or kids’ diversified access to content as challenges, but they are at the same time opportunities. Development requires thinking organically, while making room for new models and encouraging unorthodox ideas. Sometimes we see projects released to market that are opting to take shortcuts, using YouTube as a vessel to share often under-developed projects with consumers in the quickest way possible, but a real high-quality project with both a clear media roll-out strategy and an agile, disruptive approach, will find its way amidst the noise.”

Monica Levy

Monica Levy

Monica Levy
Head of International Sales & Acquisitions
Federation Kids & Family

MIPTV Plans: “We will be looking to further develop and consolidate our existing relationships with key buyers (as well as the digital platforms) so we continue to strengthen our position as a key supplier of premium kid’s content. We are also looking to establish partnerships with producers who have interesting original concepts that they are looking to develop.”

Overall Outlook: “Although animation continues to evolve by way of cutting-edge technologies and relatable stories that move with the times, traditional methods are still in demand and very much enjoyed. Kids will always be part of our lives and they continue to love animation shows! If the content has strong characters, entertaining storylines and high production standards, I am optimistic that great shows will be financed and produced in 2019 and years to come!”

Claudia Scott-Hansen

Claudia Scott-Hansen

Claudia Scott-Hansen
VP, Global Distribution
The Jim Henson Company

Market Plans: “Our primary goal for MIPTV is to reconnect with our broadcast partners. We have a rich catalog of existing properties and projects in development, with animation ranging from preschool to tween to young adult, and we want to ensure our current and potential broadcast outlets are up to speed on all we have to offer. During MIP we also plan to meet with third-party producers and content providers to discuss distribution partnerships under our newly relaunched HIP (Henson Independent Properties) banner. As for what we will be looking for in a third-party property, one of the questions I always ask is what is its ‘reason for being.’ What makes it special? What gap does it fulfill? It doesn’t have to be entirely new content, but it needs to have an original approach to topics, animation style or format.”

Overall Outlook: “The demand for high-quality productions, engaging characters, and compelling storylines will always be paramount, and that is our mission and legacy here at Henson. Looking at the industry overall, while SVOD platforms initially created a golden-age for content creators, their drive and competition for viewers will require them to differentiate themselves in the future by creating their own identity-driven content. Starting with a reduction in acquisitions of second-run programming, and continuing with co-development and the drive for full ownership, opportunities for new, creator-driven, independent content could begin to decline in the coming year. A similar shift and reduction could follow with linear networks, who compete for viewers with the streaming platforms.”

Hitoshi Hasegawa

Hitoshi Hasegawa

Hitoshi Hasegawa
President
Sony Creative Products

Market Plans: “We will be looking for platforms interested in acquiring our existing content. At the same time, it’s important to take in the tips and trends of the global content industry. We will have the new season of Pingu (26 x 7’) ready soon, so will be pitching that at the market, as well as our existing libraries (such as classic Pingu, Gaspard and Lisa, etc.)”

Overall Outlook: “We have been selling traditional kids’ content at the market for many years and that mission continues. We’d like to expand our catalog of content, in terms of co-pros or agent basis. We’d also like to strengthen our licensing function beyond content distribution. There is a huge catalog of animation worldwide coming in and out very quickly these days. It’s becoming more important for contents holder to approach the right partners (platforms) and make the decision quickly to distribute your own content.”

Frank Saperstein

Frank Saperstein

Frank Saperstein
Executive Producer
Yeti Farm

Market Plans: “On the production services side, we currently have availability for a  CGI series and are looking at two Harmony projects to fill current pipelines in fourth quarter ’19 and first quarter ’20.  For IP, we are very excited to be partnering on slightly older skewing properties, one based on a graphic novel and the other on a gaming franchise. So, if there is any gap we are looking to fill, it is in the 5-11 year-old skewing animated comedy. Something that is blow-milk-bubbles-out-your-nose funny.”

Overall Outlook: “Based on the most recent children’s market and numerous inquiries for our services, I believe the state of the kids, family and animation business is strong, if one can sustain high quality and a competitive budget while staying nimble and adaptable to change. The challenge is continuing to adapt to the shift away from the traditional kid’s TV broadcasters to the OTT and streaming platform commission/acquisition distribution model. Also, we face the continuing consolidation in the kids and animation industry to larger more integrated global production/distribution mini-studios.”

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