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In kids TV, a great concept simply isn’t enough

Philippe_Soutter_pixel-enhance-copyEveryone in the television industry will agree to two things when it comes to kids TV: it’s tough to get funded for a US$10 million kids TV show, and it’s even tougher to make it successful.

What makes it even tougher to persist and subsist in kids TV is that, like the music industry, this is a ‘hits’ market.

When it comes to making a TV show is that you need more than a great concept – you need great everything

You don’t make any money with ‘average’: the winner takes all! But it might cost you US$1,000 to record a hit song, whereas when it comes to producing a kids show, you’d have to add four large zeros next to that studio bill.

With 95% of kids shows not going into season two, it’s easy to understand that either you barely break even and nobody wants to make more episodes or, worse, all your investors have lost money and nobody (well, at least the money guys) ever want to hear about it again.

Having worked with the best producers in the world for a decade now, I still can’t define what the magic formula is for a great TV show. However, I have identified several key points that I think are crucial for success.

As in most endeavours, success is a combination of hard work, dedication and passion, but what makes it slightly different when it comes to making a TV show is that you need more than a great concept – you need great everything.

A show that doesn’t go into production is missing something essential. So essential, in fact, that overlooking it might mean your show never had a chance in the first place. So, first off, you need to do your homework.

If you can’t think of how your show will stand out from what everybody else has already done, it’s not going to work

There are hundreds of show pitches a year, and hundreds more that sit on broadcasters’ shelves because they haven’t performed well. What they want is something different: how do you bring that into the mix?

If you want to do a superhero series, what makes your superhero more interesting and exciting than any in the Marvel franchise? If you create a great comedy series, how is it better or different than SpongeBob? If you can’t think of how your show will stand out from what everybody else has already done, it’s not going to work.

To tackle this challenge of creating the next totally unique series, you’ll need a great editorial team. With a movie script, you can come with a big name attached, but since Brad Pitt is unlikely to voice your main character, you’ll need to show that your team has the track record, expertise and knowledge to make your series concept exceptionally cool.

Think in practical terms. If you want to do a preschool show, do you have a great curriculum team attached? If you want to do comedy, do your lead writers have a good track record for creating laugh-out-loud TV scripts?

If you want to do the best toy-driven show, who on your team has ever successfully crafted and launched a consumer brand?

Unless you’ve found some millions under your mattress yesterday, you’ll need to be attached with leading financiers and leading producers at an early stage

What about production and financing? You have your great original concept and your great editorial team, but it’s still not enough to get a US$10 million cheque and time to deliver your show. The market has been getting tougher and tougher, and blank checks are a thing of the past.

Unless you’ve found some millions under your mattress yesterday, you’ll need to be attached with leading financiers and leading producers at an early stage.

Having the ability to show that you can bring your part to the mix is critical, because whatever time and energy have been dedicated to great images and a 20-page creative bible, if that’s all you have, it’s going to be hard to have potential partners see your project as worth their millions.

What I have seen is that the best producers have the ability to communicate their passion, while also having all the boxes ticked.

If you don’t have something that stands out from the pack, has a great editorial team attached, and a production partner that can deliver on-time and come up with a part of the budget, as well as entice potential partners to jump in at a reasonable price, you don’t have anything.

Philippe Soutter is the president of PGS Entertainment