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The global economic downturn might not be over, but organizers of MIP Jr.’s two-day confab of conferences, panels, screenings and even, for the first time, a cartoon contest, are clearly attempting to top last year’s event, which set records for dealmaking and presentations of new TV shows.
This year’s event offers several major breaks from the past, chief among them the keynote to be delivered by Mahmoud Bouneb, executive GM of the pan-Arabic Al Jazeera Children’s Channel. Bouneb is the first TV exec from the Middle East to be invited to deliver a keynote here.
Bouneb is an “obvious choice,” given the launch this year of the first Arabic preschool TV channel, Baraem, by Al Jazeera Children’s Channel and the fact that JCC is producing plenty of original content, says Reed Midem TV topper Laurine Garaude.
The veteran Arabic media exec is unlikely to sugarcoat his views on what he calls “the tremendous responsibility” content makers have on the kidfare front.
“Kids in the Arabic region spend some three hours a day on average watching TV and their sponge-like brains absorb every little detail that passes in front of them,” he says, adding that finding financial support that does not affect the quality of content is also major challenge.
Indeed, falling license and ad revenue coupled with reduced government funding have hit original kids’ content hard across the globe, changing funding patterns dramatically. The U.K.’s Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television estimates that only 1% of all U.K. children’s programming is actually produced in the U.K.
Suzanne Kunzeler, children’s programming manager for Dutch public broadcasting, says increased competition with established brands like Jetix and Nickelodeon has resulted in cutbacks in production development in favor of more acquisitions and reruns.
In an effort to move past old business models, MIP Jr.’s panel on Online Gaming & New Digital Revenue Streams tackles potentially lucrative alternatives to traditional kids’ programming. “Original content is very much alive because of the growth of new digital platforms like online games,” Garaude says. The panel, which includes Walt Disney Internet Group’s Alan Welsman, takes on cross-platform programming strategies and the need for content that erases lines between TV, social networks, games and the virtual world.
— Marlene Edmunds
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