Kids programming feels financial crunch

MIPCOM Junior attendees see long-lasting effects

CANNES -- Financing issues were top of everyone's agenda at this year's MIPCOM Junior, and while the Riviera-side mini-mart's conferences, workshops and screening rooms were packed well into Sunday buyers and sellers alike privately acknowledged that the past month's economic rollercoaster would have serious and long-lasting effects on a kids market already feeling the pain of 12 months of advertising squeeze.

"It's going to be tougher to make programming and broadcasters relying on advertising are going to be hit hard," Paul Robinson, managing director of fast-growing global kids net KidsCo, who said that without co-production financing or government tax breaks the flow of programming would slow down.

"We have a number of advantages in that we are not advertising funded and we are cheaper for pay-TV platforms than the big studio channels," said Robinson, pointing to KidsCo shareholders Nelvana and Cookie Jar Entertainment as the source of its new shows. "If platforms look to cut costs they'll be looking elsewhere."

While producers and programmers alike have been riveted by the unfolding economic catastrophe that has seen a cascade of bank takeovers and bankruptcies, many were doubtful about how the impact would be felt.

It's a bit like in "Tom and Jerry," when they ran over the cliff edge and kept running," said Waheed Alli, executive chairman of "Mr Men," and "Olivia" home Chorion. "No one wants to stop and look down in case the ground just isn't there anymore."

"I'm sure the market is smaller than it used to be, but most people's advertising budgets have been booked till the year end, so we probably won't feel the impact until the beginning of next year, added Christophe Goldberger of Barcelona-based Imira Entertainment, who said that even though the past 12 months had been tough it had closed financing deals for shows like its forthcoming adventure comedy animation "Lucky Fred."

Away from the financial doom and gloom, business continued apace with meetings in the Carlton bar spilling out into the surrounding corridors and stairwells right through the end of Sunday.

Disney's "Jimmy 2 Shoes," Aardman's "Timmy Time" and TV Loonland's "Leon" proved the top three most requested screeners, while ther popular titles included "The Amazing Spiez!" from Marathon and Chorion's "Olivia," which is due to roll out on Nick Jr. in 2009.