Kids prog & merchandising debate opens Mipcom Junior

CANNES: Two powerful executives from the world of kids television made their presence felt at Mipcom Junior’s opening conference in Cannes’ Hotel Martinez by the picturesque seaside today - 4Kids Entertainment chairman & CEO Alfred Kahn and Warner Brothers Consumer Products executive vice president worldwide marketing Jordan Sollitto.

License USA editor in chief Joyceann Cooney moderated the session with aplomb.

Kahn is a leading figure in the licensing industry, responsible for many of its biggest hits, including Pokémon, Cabbage Patch Kids and Yu-Gi-Oh! A pioneer in identifying trends in Japanese popular culture and adapting them to a global audience, he pitched and won a four hour programming block on Fox called Fox Box running Saturdays 8 am to 12 noon while Sollitto has been driving Warner Brothers Consumer Products’s initiatives globally.

The biggest trend driving the business according to Kahn is the fact that you have to be multimedia. “You have to aggregate content everywhere for kids– be it for television, the computer in the form of flash animation or in retail sales,” he pointed out. “You have to maximise revenues. The next most important trend is that you have produce programming that follows children’s play patterns or leads to them. Boys emulate what their cartoon heroes. So create content that leads to play patterns – in fact it is what drives the business.” he added.

He also pointed out that his company is responsible for more than $18 billion in retail sales, across the various elements of the vertically integrated value chain.

Sollitto’s take on the biggest trend was the reduction in attention spans that the kids programming business is witnessing. “A decade ago, the attention span used to run five years, now if it runs a couple of years you can consider yourself lucky,” he pointed out. “You have to constantly produce new product or revitalise the product.”

Kahn differed from Sollitto in that the kids programming business today has evolved to mean that you have to deal with it show by show. “Kids respond to their heroes, their shows. They do not respond to corporate brands. You have to make them eat their favourites, watch them, drink them, sleep them, anything you can do with your property. Entertain kids at every level while you make money,” Kahn stressed.

Sollitto said partnering with Warner brings many benefits to the table. “While the kids animation business is tough and we are all crying, the good news is Warner Brothers is thriving. To our partners we bring what has been associated with Warner Brothers for the past 80 years, content, branding icons and assets, and relationships in the areas of toys, retail and promotions we have forged globally,” he said.

Kahn highlighted the new shows that 4Kids is planning to roll out or has rolled our recently. These include Shaman King, Sonic XT, Funky Cops, Winx Club, Magical Do Re Mi as well as new episodes of returning shows Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kirby: Right Back At Ya! and Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy.

He said that his company had done very well in creating the phenomenon of trading in playing cards of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and other characters. “There is great potential and we would like to explore it every inch of the way.”

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