Report: Commissioner Conversations- Channels

Posted on: Thursday 09 July 2020 5:26pm by Simon Bor

Takeaways

  • Producers must do their homework. They need to watch the channels and be prepared to explain how the project fits.
  • In normal times meetings would be at markets, but it’s virtual pitches only at the moment.
  • All content should have the potential to go global, even if it starts as a regional or national project.

Ben Cajee hosted this year’s commissioner’s conversation with global channels, Warner Media (Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Cartoonito) and ViacomCBS Networks (the Nickelodeon channels). Before this, he introduced a short Changemaker video featuring disability rights campaigner, Lucy Edwards. In the video, she highlights and challenges the fact that 18% of people of working age have a disability, but in the children’s media industry only 5.7% of offscreen and 6.2% of onscreen staff are represented by those with a disability.

 

Ben introduced Nickelodeon’s Nina Hahn who said that she had ‘The best job… ever.’  Introducing the Nick sizzle reel, she observed that it represented the organised chaos of the brand. In fact, the chaos of the current pandemic has been good for creativity and has been a call to arms for the organisation. Their #kidstogether promos encouraging their audience to stay at home to save lives.

Diversity has always been at the heart of Nickelodeon shows, and Nina shared a slide of their declaration of kids’ rights, dating back to June 1990: “What was true in June 1990 is still true today.”

As for pitching to Nick, Nina stated that the first thing producers have to do is their homework. They need to watch the channels, explain why their project should sit on the channel, and say what existing show could lead into theirs. They take great ideas at any stage, but prefer to be in as early as possible. As face-to-face meetings are not possible at the moment, she encouraged the submission of material via their website.

There are three ways that successful projects can go:

  • Gold standard is to make it and use it everywhere. ‘It’s Play’, from Blue Zoo, has become the first international show to have been made wholly outside the US. 
  • Silver pathway is to make shows without the US channel and hope it can go back there later.
  • Bronze pathway is for local content, for instance, UK and Ireland only. For preschool shows, they look to make them as local as possible and dub from American English to British English for UK transmissions.

Zia Bales was representing Warner Media. It’s been business as usual during lockdown, and Zia has been impressed by the efficiency and flexibility of everyone working from home. The first thing they did was to bring forward their summer schedule to cater for kids staying at home. Cartoon Network continues to air classics like ‘Ben 10’. Boomerang is popular with its Warner Bros shows, such as ‘Tom & Jerry’, and Cartoonito with the British series ‘Apple and Onion’, which has a very special place in their hearts.

Zia is excited about a new series from the makers of ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’. It follows ten-year-old Elliot on a journey through the Universe, where nothing is normal. The show premieres in quarter four.

They are fluid about their commissioning process: open 24/7, 365 days a year. Zia suggests that producers should send an email once they are ready to expose themselves to the networks. In normal times, she would meet at markets, but it’s virtual pitches only at the moment.

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Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor

Writer

Simon studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, was awarded an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University. He set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and has been involved in children’s television since the mid 1980s. As a writer, Simon has co-written and created several shows including Milkshake’s 'Funky Valley'. As a director and… Read more