TV now only part of deal at booming MIPCOM Jr.

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CANNES -- How to build program franchises and reach kids through the burgeoning jungle of cross-platform outlets were key issues under discussion at MIPCOM Jr., the two-day kids market that precedes the Riviera-side program sales market.

Running alongside this year's kids market and creating a buzz were telenovela screenings, with attendance boosted by the success of the last year's hit Colombian telenovela format "Betty the Ugly" (now airing on ABC as "Ugly Betty").

In its 14th year, the MIP Jr. market that used to be a dusty program-screenings event has been transformed into a full-blown power hub where toy manufacturers, consumer-product licensing businesses, cross-platform brand builders and new-media partners meet to do business.

In all, more than 800 delegates from 497 companies spanning 53 countries are thought to have attended the two-day pow-wow that ended Sunday in its new home at the Carlton Hotel, located on Cannes' world famous Croisette.

"It's impossible now to launch any program brand by television alone," DIC Entertainment chairman and CEO Andy Heyward said. "The days when that was possible are so long ago now that they aren't even relevant."

These days, reaching the sought-after tween demographic means doing deals across music, television, online and consumer products, Heyward said. It has lead to an era of specialist partnerships with licensees, retailers, broadband operators, record companies and tour organizers.

"You just can't get the kind of critical mass you need through a television window," Heyward said. "You need to have what we call a 360-degree approach."

DIC, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary at the market, hosted a lavish bash Sunday to launch its new tween brand, the Slumber Party Girls, in partnership with Geffen Records and Kids AOL.

The all-teen act this month will launch their debut album, "SPG-The Slumber Party Girls -- Dance Revolution," and music video through Geffen Records as well as host a new kids block on CBS and AOL's kids site, KOL. The group, chosen from more than 1,000 hopefuls, also have a live-action TV series and primetime feature film lined up for next year.

"Finding kids is all about going where they are going and doing what they are doing," said Paul Taylor, CEO of the Walt Disney Co.-owned pan-European children's entertainment company Jetix Europe. "You have to use the environment that children get excited about."

To support its anime-style action space adventure "Oban Star Racers," Jetix has launched a Web site with a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that allows users to play characters from the story line and interact with other players.

"We had 26,000 users within days of launching," Taylor said.

Not all projects need to launch via the television window either, according to Jetix.

"One of our characters, Pucca, was originally launched as an online greeting card in South Korea by a company called Vooz before we worked with them to build a much bigger brand," Taylor said. "The great thing about today's market is that you don't need to create content brands via the traditional routes."

Not everyone believes that traditional television is on its way out, however.

"We had a product, "Franny's Feet," that we launched 2 1/2 years ago, and it was only after we signed a deal with PBS that we were able to drive the business," Decode Entertainment partner Neil Court said. "At the end of the day, before you greenlight a new investment, a television window goes a long way to cover the risk."
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