Report – Panel 2: Creative Snapshot with the BBC

Posted on: Thursday 17 November 2016 5:21pm by Helen Dugdale

Commissioners panelSpeakers
Westley Wood, CITV (moderator)
Sarah Legg, CBeebies
Jo Allen, CBBC
Tim Searle, CBBC Productions


  • Like cream, the best ideas always rise to the top!
  • Spend time watching the channels to see what we’re doing and if you have anything different to offer.
  • CBBC is on the hunt for a strong female-led series for 6-8 year olds, not pink princesses.
  • The BBC still has lot of hope for kid’s content after Brexit – it will affect producers rather than the channel.


Areas of discussion from the panellists included:

Sarah Legg
On the whole, CBeebies is looking for new ways to inspire and educate – big ideas for little people, such as ‘Messy Goes to Okido’, something that’s fresh, and has original ideas. ‘Bing’ was a runaway success, and the channel views this as reality TV show for toddler.

Sarah is looking for shows which have compelling characters that are visually distinctive and have engaging stories with a real understanding of the young audience. But most importantly they need to be fun.

In 2017, watch out for ‘Pablo’ a funny and transformative series that mixes live action and 2D animation. Pablo is on the autism spectrum and uses his magic crayons to turn his life challenges into fantastic adventures.

Jo Allen
In terms of existing content, ‘The Deep’ is doing really well. The channel is now looking for really strong storytelling with a relatable family set-up – anything with jeopardy, action and adventure. ‘Arthur’ is popular still, because it’s a school friend-based show, even though it’s 20-years-old. The key to this show is it covers small things that are big in their lives. Character-driven comedy is huge, the older audience want to switch off after school.

CBBC is on the hunt for a smart, funny female-led story for 6-8-year old girls, and is really eager to move away from pink princesses. They’re also on the look out for action and adventure for older boys.

They are not looking for any more heritage brands, or supernatural fantasy (as they have that in ‘Strange Hill High’ “Scream Street’ and some live action content. Neither are they currently doing anything specific in the world of VR, though BBC R&D has recently announced a VR project launch.

Brett is a concern for producers, but it shouldn’t impact on BBC budgets as such.  The children’s budget is now fixed and while there is never enough it is at least more  certain than many things in the outside world.

Tim Searle
Tim has recently arrived to look after animation within the production arm of CBBC – the difference being that his team are co-producers of the animation they co-fund – e.g. ‘Dangermouse’, whereas Jo and the team she works in are essentially “buyers”. Despite being heavily involved in the editorial of the new ‘Dennis the Menace’ 3D series – the BBC does not own rights.

Tim’s advice as someone recently translated from producing: people think they know what the BBC are showing, but they don’t spend time watching the channel.

There is no one-size-fits-all advice for writers, creators, producers large or small.  Alliances can work and so can going it alone.  Good ideas always find a way, and one-page pitches can be really powerful, if the idea is strong. But you only ever get one chance to make a first impression, so prepare well.

Event Reports Manimation Blog BBC. CBBC. CBeebies CMC commission Manimation

Helen Dugdale

About the author

Helen Dugdale

Scribble, Writer/PR Consultant

Helen is founder of Scribble the little, but mighty PR and writing agency based in Altrincham. She has over 18 years experience writing for and promoting events and brands aimed at children and families. Helen has written and created content for children’s books, educational resources, TV and radio and (fun!) corporate literature.… Read more