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DreamWorks Animation Television is integrating itself deeper into the NBCUniversal universe as it continues its stratospheric growth, president Margie Cohn said Sunday during her MIPJr. keynote in Cannes.
“We are getting closer and closer with the NBCUniversal ecosystem and other members of our family, and we feel like that’s going to open up new IP and new relationships and partnerships that is going to make everything bigger,” said the exec, citing the company’s theme parks, live-action studio and cable delivery systems.
To envision even faster growth for DreamWorks Animation Television is tough — the company has gone from just five employees to 800 in five short years and a list of IP scrawled on a piece of paper. It was boosted early on by an unprecedented 300-hour content deal with Netflix in 2013 and had to learn how to do everything “on the run.” The Netflix deal helped shape the company culture, allowing it to diversify its brand style, as well as freeing it from “renewal anxiety.”
Cohn added that working on streaming has its drawbacks, however, and that it can mean kids may find DWA’s shows and then forget about them as they move on to the next in line. “We have to make sure that we make is being seen. This is where streaming can be tougher than linear. [Linear channels] know how to promote a new show and get the audience to check it out,” she said. DWA Television developed its own marketing department, using tools such as YouTube and social media, to promote its properties outside of the Netflix queue.
DWA Television is now diversifying, striking up deals with Amazon and Hulu, as well as taking to the air with linear Universal Kids’ Where’s Waldo.
Without linear backing, it hasn’t been able to build brand extensions. The company is now looking to get in on the merch game. “We are doing everything we can to figure out how to pop consumer product sales off a streaming platform, and we’re experimenting with various strategies,” said Cohn.
The company has 20 shows in production and 50 shows in development, and Cohn announced three new titles: Gabby’s Dollhouse, Rhyme Tyme Town and Archibald’s Next Big Thing, executive produced by Veep‘s Tony Hale.
The upcoming She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, set to debut Nov. 16 on Netflix, is a modern retooling of the 1980s classic with a 26-year-old first-time female showrunner, Noelle Stevenson. The company wanted to develop properties around the theme of girl power and did extensive research into what girls wanted from animated series. “We found that what they wanted was very different than just taking a boy action show and slapping a girl in the middle,” said Cohn.
The exec said girls cited influences from Michelle Obama to Pocahontas that demonstrated attributes such as doing the right thing and being smart. The biggest superhero for these girls? The Queen B herself, Beyonce. “She has amazing hair and she controls her world,” Cohn said. “The result is so different than anything I’ve ever seen for girls.”
Linear TV is still interested in gender-neutral programming that can attract an evenly split audience. But boys and girls “share the same or similar experiences through a different filter,” said the exec. “We’re not just reversing it and thinking that’s OK. We’re representing a huge variety of not only personality types but body types, ethnicity, and all of that is incredibly important to us.”
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