THE BIG INTERVIEW: Paul Robinson, Global MD, KidsCo

The new TV channel is taking over the world. Well, almost.
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Global children’s television network, KidsCo only officially launched in September 2007, but it has already rolled out across 83 territories around the world in 18 languages. And it’s coming to the UK later this year.

“KidsCo has been designed to be complementary to the existing kids’ channels,” global MD Paul Robinson explains to Licensing.biz. “We have huge admiration for Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, however, what we’re trying to do is something different. Overall, our strategy is to super-serve our audience with fantastic shows that are family safe and without violence or inappropriate content.”

KidsCo started as an idea between Robinson and David Hulbert, the former president of Walt Disney Television, back in 1995. By the time it launched in 2007, it had been brought to life as a joint venture channel owned by NBC Universal, Corus Entertainment (Nelvana) and Cookie Jar Entertainment. Programming ranges from recognised brands including The Wiggles, Inspector Gadget, Sabrina, Wallace & Gromit, S Club 7, Strawberry Shortcake, Babar, Dennis the Menace and Rolie Polie Olie, to original shows including arts series Jass Time and environmental show Boo & Me. The channel is available in territories as diverse as Australia, France, Portugal, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, Moldova, Greece, the Middle East, Vietnam and countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to name just a few.

“We’ve grown exponentially this year, launching in new territories while extending our presence in existing ones,” says Robinson. “It was always the plan to grow, but we could never have foreseen the rate, nor the extent, at which we have taken off.

“Last year saw a focus on Asia, so this year we plan to give Europe more attention. The big announcement will be our plan to launch here in the UK.”

And, while KidsCo continues to ramp up its portfolio with classic content – it recently struck a deal with FremantleMedia Enterprises for shows including Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Wind in the Willows and The BFG movies – it is also looking to up the amount of first party programming and exclusives.

“In February we commissioned further original productions in the form of idents,” Robinson continues. “The first in the series celebrated Chinese New Year, which we commissioned Indian production house Image Venture to develop. The ident brought our logo to life, which was a great process to watch. Following the success of Chinese New Year, we developed a second ident to celebrate Easter. The idea was to reflect KidsCo’s role as the world’s local kids entertainment hub; the creative theme of the animations re-enforce the channel’s awareness of environmental issues, different cultures and geographies.

“We also have a unique blend of first run, original productions across our feeds. This has developed into a real KidsCo benchmark.”

Consumer products are also, eventually, part of the plan: “We fully intend to extend our range of products once more original programming has been carried out.”

Not content with being ‘just’ a TV platform, however, Robinson has also set his sights on becoming the top online destination for six to ten year olds. “We are in the process of overhauling kidscotv.tv to create multiple engagement opportunities for kids and make it the lead marketing platform for our shows. To this end, we plan to show TV content on the web ahead of televising them, and encourage children to upload jokes, pictures and drawings, as well as to compete against each other in specially commissioned online games.”

A lot has certainly happened in a short space of time, but Robinson is wary of predicting what will happen in the future for KidsCo. “If there is one thing I have learnt in media, it is very difficult to forecast one year ahead, let alone five or ten years into the future,” he offers. “I remember when I was at the BBC being told by the director general that my ten-year plans were fantastically well thought out, but almost certainly wrong. So really all I can do is suggest where I would like KidsCo to be, and that is a global provider of high quality children’s entertainment that is enjoyed by children and appreciated by adults.

“I believe that linear television will still be a force in ten years time, but I also think that we are only at the start of the internet revolution and that children will be consuming content on multiple platforms in ways that we can’t imagine now. The challenge for KidsCo is to ensure that wherever kids are, and however they want to be entertained, that we are there with them.”

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