As the industry returns to Cannes for MIPJR & MIPCOM, TBI speaks to leading children’s commissioners to find out what they are looking for and what they already have in store in terms of originals and acquisitions.
Here, Katie Wilson, VP of Channels & Global Acquisitions at WildBrain Television, shares her company’s open pitching policy, the current push toward content co-viewing, and upcoming short-form programming.
What’s on your startup wish list right now? Are you open to pitches?
Over the past few years we’ve been fully focused on our preschool offering and the development of the Family Jr. board, investing in some fantastic content along the way. We’re now refocusing on Family Channel, our flagship channel and home of primetime programming that really resonates with our 6-11 year old audience and also encourages family viewing experiences together.
Regarding our current wish list, we’re always on the lookout for engaging animation and live action content that works well in primetime slots. In particular, we continue to look for fun, animated comedies for the whole family.
We believe you don’t know what’s out there until you know what’s out there and that’s why we’re taking unsolicited pitches. We encourage anyone who would like to apply to have a solid understanding of our audience and what WildBrain is about before submitting a project. Pitches that align with the channel’s brand and meet our current content requirements will stand out and tend to rise to the top of the stack.
We have a wonderful submission system that sits at the heart of the WildBrain Content Group and ensures that all projects are reviewed by the appropriate teams, giving us the opportunity to respond in more detail. Projects are suggested to us from inside and outside the company through emails, meetings or referrals. Especially in the last few years we have had so many great pitches and creators coming to the table.
What upcoming shows are you looking forward to the most? What excites you about these projects?
I’m really excited about an upcoming series we’ve commissioned called Family Channel summer memories (25 x 30 minutes) is a brand new whimsical 2D animated series for kids ages 6-12, centered on the time- and space-bending adventures of best friends Jason and Ronnie. The series was directed by Adam Yaniv (night at the museum, Alvin!!! And the chipmunks) and produced by A&N Productions, Aircraft Pictures and Yeti Farm Creative. Truly the first of its kind for Family Channel, the series transcends time, space and memory – the good and the bad – as it chronicles the sweet, funny relationship between Jason and Ronnie. As part of our current go-live strategy, we are looking for similar shows that could run in parallel summer memories.
We’re really looking forward to the live-action side life with Luca a brand new 90-minute film spin-off from life with derekwhich is the perfect complement to our classic library of life with derek Series. The film stars Michael Seater (Derek) and Ashley Leggat (Casey), now 35-year-old parents, and we’re excited to bring this chapter of the beloved Canadian story to new and existing fans.
Family Channel is also working on new short form content for our action-adventure series Slugterra for the first time in six years! The shorts, titled Slugterra: Ascension, premiered exclusively on our linear network this September, and then our incredible fans around the world can find it on WildBrain Spark’s Slugterra YouTube channels.
What is your acquisition strategy? What do you look for in purchased children’s content?
When it comes to finding great projects to add to our content pipeline, we’re always looking for partnerships and projects to add to our list. We have an exceptional in-house development team and will be meeting with developers and producers at MIPCOM this year to bring more shows and partnership opportunities to the world of WildBrain.
Are there children’s shows that are doing particularly well for WildBrain? Do you see any trends in the content young viewers are watching?
We have started introducing our five new CG Caillou Specials that provide perfect occasions for preschool-friendly events throughout the year: Christmas, Halloween, family reunions, summer vacation, and even the all-important topic of bullying. We’re going to have quite a few Caillou Party around the specials all year long on Family Jr.
Over the years, Caillou has embarked on a truly exciting journey – the show began on the linear channel, then was reinvigorated with new digital-first content from WildBrain Spark, and continues to expand as we partner with NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock have to produce new episodes of the popular series. given CaillouDue to the continued relevance of , the series’ existing content library of 234 classic 2D episodes continues to resonate well with preschool audiences, and we can’t wait to introduce the all-new CG series.
Animation is still key for a younger children’s audience and we continue to see shows such as summer memories, The depth, Smurfs and spirit rides free, performing well among this demographic. Especially with preschool audiences, we’re all about bridge content, including shows curious george, Mighty Mike, Grizzy and the Lemmings and LEGO Ninjago Being a key driver on the Family Jr. channel.
It’s also really amazing to see the continued popularity of classic TV shows for multi-generational audiences such as family matters and life with derekis the exclusive linear home for the Family Channel and has built a strong audience for both children and adults.
Where do you think the most exciting things are happening in kids content right now?
The children’s content area is a dynamic and exciting place to be right now. We’re seeing kids consuming more content than ever before, and they can now find content in so many different places. Our ethos is to be where kids are. What really excites me is the ability to reach kids with amazing content and, as a company, strategize to ensure we reach all the key content entry points for them. In addition to interacting with families on our linear networks, we are increasingly leveraging the opportunity to engage directly with audiences through AVOD and FAST platforms.
As part of this, we want to work with producers and creators in new ways – for example, by tackling non-traditional runtimes and formats, or digital-first series like with Slugterra. As part of our broader 360-degree approach at WildBrain, we are committed to ensuring that all of the amazing content we commission and produce as a company finds children and families around the world.
What does the rest of 2022 hold for WildBrain?
We’ll be delivering even more great content for our audience for the rest of the year, and this will continue into 2023. For example, we will launch the rest of the brilliant new Caillou CG seasonal specials and life with Luca will hit our screens in early 2023. For WildBrain’s own beloved IP, strawberry shortcake, We will also debut the second season of the new 2D animation berry in the big city Series about Family Jr. on October 11th, which is also International Day of the Girl.
We are very much looking forward to returning to MIPCOM and MIP Junior this year and will be present with a full team at the market.