Report – Commissioner Conversations: Commercial Networks
The three big commercial kids’ broadcasters, Disney, Turner and Nickelodeon, talked to Stewart Clarke, Editorial Director at TBI
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- Tax breaks have had a huge impact on UK production
- Disney, Turner and Nickelodeon are open to submissions from UK producers at any time
David Levine, VP Programming, Productions & Strategic Development, Disney Channels EMEA & GM Disney Channels UK & Ireland, and Louise Benham, Director of Programming, Disney Channels UK & Ireland introduced an exclusive concept music video titled ‘Believe That’ from a new locally produced Disney Channel series.
‘The Lodge’, which recently finished filming in Northern Ireland, was inspired by Disney’s original Israeli programming ‘North Star’. David was asked if it was set to be EMEA’s new ‘High School Musical’, which had a huge impact on Disney Channel globally nearly 10 years ago. Similar to this successful franchise, song and dance are integral to the storyline of ‘The Lodge’, and will showcase original songs and music videos. It’s the first time Disney has taken an existing format and made it into something different. ‘North Star’ was 50 episodes, but ‘The Lodge’ has been compressed to ten, to cater for a European audience. Producers The Foundation, a production arm of Zodiak Kids, pitched to make the show for Disney, and its idea to incorporate a reality show into the narrative was one of the things that swung it for them.
Turner’s Cecilia Persson, VP of Programming & Content Strategy Kids EMEA, Acquisitions & Co-productions, International, focuses on original ideas from outside the US. She outlined Turner’s needs along with Sarah Fell, the Executive Producer of hit show ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’, now in its sixth series. There is around 20% of non US content on Cartoon Network, 40% on Boomerang, half of which is commissioned, the remainder acquired. Cartoon Network’s pre-school channel, Cartoonito, is 100% acquired. Non-linear shorts and micro content is also commissioned. For example, ‘Magiswords’ started as a choose-your-ending app of 15 seconders and has now evolved into a full series of 11 minute episodes.
Nickelodeon’s Nina Hahn, SVP International Production & Development, looks for projects that have international appeal, but she added that there is space for the local. James Newton, the newly appointed VP Programming, Nickelodeon UK & Ireland, agreed – he cited ‘Peppa Pig’ as something that had seemed very local to the UK, but worked internationally. ‘Fun’ is the word they both used to describe the channels. James has an aim to make Nicktoons the funniest children’s channel. ‘Ride’ is a new live action co-production, and thanks to tax breaks, 40% of the show was shot on location in Northern Ireland, the rest in studios in Canada.
What the companies had in common was that they are open to submissions from UK producers at any time, as Nina said: “Great ideas are like the weather, they can come in anytime.” There was also agreement from Nickelodeon and Turner that the Europe issue will make little difference to the way they work in the short term and that tax breaks have enabled them to produce more UK content.
Disney Channels UK & Ireland
Director of Programming
The Amazing World of Gumball
Senior Vice President, International Production and Development
General Manager, Disney Channels UK & Ireland
Vice President, Programming, Production and Strategic Development, Disney Channels EMEA
Nickelodeon UK & Ireland
Turner Broadcasting System
Vice President, Programming & Content Strategy Kids EMEA, Acquisitions and Co-Production International, Kids
Green Bay Media
T1M Consult Ltd
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