Industry Report: Distribution and exhibition
Distributing Animated Series on the International Market
by Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
- Lionel Marty is President, Worldwide Distribution for MoonScoop. His responsibilities include managing a worldwide team of sales agents in Paris, London and Shanghai and overseeing the sales of over 3,000 half hours of animation, encompassing some of the most recognizable worldwide brands and best-loved animated creations in the global television market. Marty and his sales force distribute MoonScoop's programming to leading broadcasters in 160 countries around the world.
What is MooScoop?
MoonScoop was born as a production company. We are now distributing and broadcasting our programmes. We succeeded to establish in 16 years a worldwide leadership in the family entertainment business with a unique portfolio of 45 world class family Brands (Titeuf, Casper, Fantastic Four, Geronimo Stilton…) and a worldwide cutting edge network of New Media platforms like Kabillion, Taffy Kid and Kaze.
The particularity of Mooscoopt is that the company masters in house all the pieces of the value chain, from production to new media. With 370 people in 6 countries, MoonScoop created a worldwide fully integrated organization.
What are the advantages of this global approach?
We are able to anticipate the needs of our client base and we can maximize access to talent and financing. On the top of these elements, I would add that we can optimize the industrial process of our shows. We have a slot of 5-7 new series a year, a catalogue of 3,000 hours including a diversified genre of series (adaptation, pre-school, action, adventure). An average of 10 MooScoop’s shows are aired per year in each key territory.
How do you organise the distribution of your series?
We re-organised our distribution services in 2009. We cannot anymore sell a TV series first and deal with the merchandising aspect later. This kind of selling strategy does not correspond to the new structure of the audiovisual market.
Today, to answer to the new evolution of the market, each seller is responsible at the same time of the television rights and of the merchandising strategy in his territory. Before there was two units, one for selling the television rights and another for the development of the merchandising. The two units were sometime in conflict and had different priorities. If a programme worked well in television, the merchandising unit was not always there to support the merchandising strategy. It could also happen that the television rights were sold to a broadcaster that was not interested in the merchandising campaign. We now look for an integrated approach. The seller tries to sell to the right broadcaster which is interested in developing the merchandising.
Our new approach is also dictated by another element: children are different in each territory. For example in France, as the children goes to school quite soon, the pre-school programmes are different from the ones that are viewed in UK. The series has to be treated in different ways according to each territory. In the past the merchandising unit had a global approach and some territories were neglected. The series Samsam, for example, worked very well in Italy, but nothing was done to develop the merchandising. We have now a very detailed and precise approach in each territory.
What are the links between the distribution and production units of the group?
Both units are working very closely together. During the development phase we have monthly meetings with the in-house producers to identify new potential shows per genre, third parties for potential co-production or distribution agreement and deciding which projects to prioritize per genre. The production department decides autonomously the series they want to produce while the distribution department gives advise on how to “internationalise” the product. For example in UK there are many requirements for pre-school programmes that have to be counted by the production department in the development phase.
When do you generally start the presale phase?
Basically when substantial financing is already in place and after the production has been green-lighted. We try to understand which are the potential broadcasters that might be interested in the production. My credo is to limit the number of broadcasters that have to be approached.
What kind of material do you use to present the show for a pre-sales?
Generally we pitch the project with the producer - the project is its baby! - with a pilot, the bible and the scripts.
When the series is financed, when do launch the show in the market?
Generally when the final episodes are completed. As the market is extremely competitive, we want to have the best possible selling points. We think together with the producers to the right selling points. These selling points can be either adaptation from books or games, but also pre-sales already realised or viral marketing in place.
It is very important to have two kind of presentation material: one with the potential merchandising and one without merchandising elements. Some broadcasters may be interested only to the television rights, and can be frighten by the merchandising approach. We avoid mentioning the age group, as the show can be considered pre-school in a territory and for an older audience in another country.
Another very important point is to connect all the potential partners for a wide distribution: television must be connected with the web agencies, PR experts, new media developers…
During the broadcasting phase we control the dubbing operations, retaining the rights for further exploitation. We appoint an agent that takes care of the brand as a whole, monitoring the TV, DVD, Web and New Media sales.
Are you developing your own distribution platforms?
Yes, we wanted to control the distribution of our shows. We launched in the States a channel called Kabillion which is a multi-platform kids entertainment network and on-line destination, featuring top-quality on-demand cable television programming and state of the art on-line community. Kabillion is a free VOD service included in the basic offer of Comcast. It currently reaches 15M US households and will soon reach 20M. The business model is advertising based. The channel developed a very dynamic 2.0 community website which is for the fist time also including high quality content (VOD and games) to maximize traffic and brand expansion.
How do you see the opportunities and threats of the distribution sector in the following years?
As far as the opportunities are concerned, we can mention the new channels that are increasing their share year after year - IPTV, Digital Terrestiral Television, Independant linear (Kidsco, JimJam…), non-linear (Kabillion…). These channels are interesting because they are independents from the big networks. We assist to interesting opportunities thanks to successful formats like shorts films (Bernard, Leon…), even if short formats have reduced life duration. There are also new successful genres, like for example comedy with co-viewing potential or live-action.
I would say that the main threat is the decrease in advertising revenues for traditional broadcasters. The number of channels is increasing and the audience is very fragmented. Few years ago a successful show in the BBC was viewed by 600,000 kids. Nowadays with 100,000 viewers it can be considered as a success. This phenomenon is amplified by the restriction on advertising regulations for commercial and public broadcasters.
Another trend is the decrease of DVD revenues that is not compensated by digital revenues.
Ultimately, the deals are more complex and it takes more time to get and negotiate contracts.
How do you react to the crisis?
We create new partnerships with the broadcasters, allowing them to have revenues on the merchandising products. We create pre-awareness of brands to accelerate the sales process. And of course we try to control the TV distribution and TV linear and non-linear channels with our own diffusion arms (Taffy/Kabillion).
We are more active with the TV stations to launch of our series and we create more buzz around the show with innovative PR actions.