Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
MIPJunior, the world’s largest showcase for children’s television rights, was both inspiring and invigorating this year. It saw authors and TV producers, digital players and licensing gurus, all rubbing shoulders as they showcased the very latest content and debated the challenges and opportunities in a world where on-demand and streaming platforms are transforming the children’s TV business.
Even the biblical rain that flooded Cannes and forced the conference to change the venue couldn’t stop the business, deal-making and debate for long. As Jeff Norton from Awesome observed, “Since it’s the entertainment industry, the show must go on.” This disruption, though, was an apt metaphor for the TV industry itself, which is only just starting to come to grips with the fundamental changes that come with how a new generation consumes its digital entertainment.
Speaking at MIPCOM on Monday, the BBC Director of Audiences, Nick North, said he was more worried about losing the attention of young viewers distracted by their devices than he was about new over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Netflix.
At MIPJunior the day before, the chief executive of Hasbro, the largest toy maker in the world, explained how the company had transformed into a “360 degree entertainment provider.”
But how does this disruption in TV affect the book world? When we met at Cannes, both the LBF delegation of publishers and PACT UK’s delegation of producers felt that the evolution of the TV industry provides publishing companies that hold intellectual property (IP) with new opportunities for valuable rights sales and brand licensing partnerships.
There are more platforms and more delivery modes than ever, and so iconic characters and compelling stories are in huge demand. Indeed, book rights were hot property in Cannes. Greg Childs, Editorial Director of the Children’s Media Conference, commented, “There are pioneers out there, and Walker Productions is leading the way in classy, creative kids entertainment across page and screen.”
Helen McAleer, Chief Global Development Officer at Walker Productions, was eager to share her company’s most recent success with the audience of international buyers. As was announced in August, Walker Books’ children’s classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, will air in the UK on Channel 4 in 2016. Coming to TV as a 30-minute animated special, it is a co-production between Walker Production and Lupus Films, the makers of “The Snowman” and “The Snowdog.”
We found the most successful publishers in this rights market were the ones with the best digital infrastructure and understanding, and these can be either big players or start-ups. It was exhilarating to see publishers leading the way in new business models, including new ways of bundling rights and managing brands’ IP. This flexibility and willingness to experiment with new rights deals were core to successful deals in the increasingly multi-media, multi-format world in which books are an important part of the vertical chain.
Karrot Studios, the award-winning animators of the CBeebies (BBC) series “Sarah & Duck,” are book publishers, as well, with the charming adventures of “Sarah & Duck” brought to life on page and screen. As animators, they are also behind Josh Davidson’s magical “Night Zookeeper” schools project—a digital learning tool with animation and ideas that make you envy today’s children. Davidson’s brainchild inspires children to create their own characters who live in a magical world. Once again, the evocative screen animation is complemented by a great book.
“Awesome” is the only way to describe the energy and talent of writer-producer Jeff Norton for his (Awesome) company and bestselling projects. Executive Producer on the pre-school show, “Trucktown for Nelvana,” Norton’s executive experience at Chorion surely stood him in good stead for doing business at MIPJunior, where he had plenty of book projects to showcase and talk about—the MetaWars series, Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie and the Princess Ponies series. But he’s also busy developing two upcoming books for the screen, Alienated and Star Pressed.
So books are without question a hot property in this digital landscape, with IP moving seamlessly and flexibly across formats and worlds. Fundamentally, the entire creative animation and TV community is focused on how to meet the demands of a new generation that expects entertainment on demand, delivered how they want it and when they want it, while expecting education to be imparted through entertaining means and often by stealth. We were delighted to be helping publishers join the conversation.
The UK’s Children’s Media Conference will return to The London Book Fair in 2016, with a bigger rights and partnership and conference offering.
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