Television

'Quality storytelling' and 'diversity,' the key areas channels and platforms look for

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CANNES: It’s long been a question in the minds of content creators and distributors: “What do channels and platforms want?” With the advent of digital, the confusion has just increased as the content working on linear programming might not be suitable for the non-linear one. To address this was the session at MIPJunior with four programming executives from around the world who in a lively discussion spoke about acquisition trends and offered their perspectives on how to spot hit shows and offer content to young viewers on multiple platforms.

The speakers included: CANAL+ Group director of Youth unit Laurence Blaevoet, Disney XD SVP and general manager Marc Buhaj, CBBC Productions creative director, scripted, animation and co-productions Sarah Muller and Amazon Studios head of kids’ programming Tara Sorensen.

With Amazon entering the digital media platform quite late after its competitors it was necessary for it to stand out and to do so, it focused on pre-school curriculum. “On our platform, we encourage kids to stop, reverse programs and keep going back and forth,” said Sorenson. CBBC on the other hand focuses on older children as well. Explained Muller, “We have content right from hard hitting documentaries to sports coverage to original drama and animation series.”

“If you ask me how different is Disney XD from Disney, let’s start by saying that they are two different names,” laughed Buhaj. “Disney XD is more of a laboratory where we try things out with the content. Primarily it was focused on boys, but now there’s a focus on girls too.”

All the panelists agreed that while looking for content, quality storytelling is what they search for. CANAL+’s theme is universal and is mostly on love and friendship whereas BBC co-produces shows only for the UK market, which later might become international hits, for instance *Harry Potter. Disney on the other hand finalises the shows after listening to all the ideas from various partners. Any content that has good quality and can be transcended into humour works well. Buhaj accepted that they never thought kids would enjoy *High School Musical* but eventually the key to its success was the way it was executed.

And the key to have a successful show is “diversity”. Muller said: “At BBC, the success of a show lies in both the front and the centre. Behind the scenes work is equally important as writers from different backgrounds have different set of stories.”

Buhaj added that they work hard to get variety in their content. It is important to be interesting whereas Sorensen mentioned how the show *American Girl’s is women-led – the director, writer, all are women and though it was the director’s first project, they were ready to take the risk which took off quite well due to the fact that the audience could connect with it.

And finally the panelists revealed what each of them is looking for at MIP. Amazon Studios is hunting for content with a unique perspective and is also thinking about adult customers. Sorenson is definitely not looking for short form content (more than 11 minutes would do) and reality programming. Blaevoet mentioned that while pitching for your content, one should have creative content and be passionate about it and have fun while pitching. With a great story, Buhaj says he would like if the seller turns the table around by asking them “Why Disney would be good partner for us?” Lastly, Muller goes on to mention that it’s necessary to do your research and understand what you are pitching to whom.

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