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A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Randi Zuckerberg is getting into the animation business.
The Zuckerberg Media founder and CEO has partnered with NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s 24-hour preschool network Sprout to bring her children’s book Dot. to TV as an animated series. The show is a production of Industrial Brothers in association with The Jim Henson Co. and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Zuckerberg will executive produce alongside Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Co., and Halle Stanford, executive vp children’s entertainment.
This marks Zuckerberg’s first time as an EP on an animated series and second time as an EP on a TV show, following her 2012 Bravo reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.
The story revolves around Dot, a tech-savvy young girl whose interactive adventures are meant to inspire children by showing the ways she uses technology to enhance her experiences and incorporate them into her playtime. Dot. is set to debut in September.
Asked where the inspiration for Dot. came from, Zuckerberg tells The Hollywood Reporter: “The inspiration came from two places. First, there really is a lack of women in tech, and we need to expose young girls to role models that are tech-savvy. Second, we need a clear message out in society that it is important to find a balance — knowing when to plug in and when to unplug.”
Zuckerberg, who also is set to appear as a mentor to young professionals on Sprout sister network Oxygen’s upcoming series Quit Your Day Job, adds that she will be collaborating on the storylines for Dot. She hopes that both kids and their parents and caregivers learn some valuable lessons by watching.
“For parents who watch the show, I hope they see that tech can be a wonderful place of creativity and excitement for children and not just go to a place of negativity around screen time,” says Zuckerberg. “For kids, I hope they feel inspired and excited by the adventures that Dot and her friends have with technology. I hope Dot excites them enough to try things on their own like a coding class at school or build something with their parents.”
Sprout president Sandy Wax notes how technology is part of everyday life for kids today. “They’re not even digital native anymore; it’s just part of their fiber,” she says. “Dot. is an opportunity to reach kids who are in that stage of adapting and embracing technology in a slightly more sophisticated way than the younger ones and teaching kids how to responsibly live in a technological world in a way that is fun and engaging.”
Wax adds that the series will have a “retro-cool” feel to it. “The visual style is very compelling,” she says. “At the core, it’s really a family show. … That’s important to us.”
The show, designed to appeal to both kids and their parents and caregivers, also targets the older end of Sprout’s audience — kids 4-7, or what the network refers to as a “bridge market” — similar to other new shows including Floogals and Nina’s World.
It’s also part of the network’s overall effort to increase its original programming, with five originals currently on the schedule and another, Terrific Trucks, debuting in April, followed by Dot. later this year.
“From the start of 2015 to the close of the year, we had more than double the percentage of originals on our schedule — close to 50 percent of our schedule — and we’ll continue to increase this year,” says Wax.
Zuckerberg also is editor-in-chief of a modern lifestyle community and blog, and host of a SiriusXM show, both titled Dot Complicated — also the name of a book she published in 2013. She also was an early employee of Facebook, co-founded by her brother Mark Zuckerberg, where she pioneered live-streaming initiatives and struck groundbreaking deals with ABC and CNN.
In addition, she has been nominated for an Emmy and is ranked among the “50 Digital Power Players” by The Hollywood Reporter.
Watch an exclusive teaser for the show above.
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