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Cartoon 2024 – Cartoon Next

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Three European pubcasters break down their production slates and audience-engagement strategies


The Cartoon Next session saw the participation of executives from Italy’s RAI, Croatia’s HRT and the BBC

Three European pubcasters break down their production slates and audience-engagement strategies
Krešimir Zubčić during the panel discussion (© Cartoon)

Day 3 of Marseille’s Cartoon Next (9-11 April) hosted a panel discussion titled “What’s Next for Our Broadcasters?”, moderated by Christophe Erbes. The talk saw the participation of Krešimir Zubčić, of Croatia’s HRT; Anna Taganov, of the BBC; and Annalisa Liberi, of Italy’s Rai Kids.

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Liberi explained that Rai Kids’ engagement and production strategies adopt a cautious pace – probably slower than one would expect at a time when the landscape is dominated by a number of platforms and tech innovations. Rai Kids’ overall budget consists of €1.5 million for in-house productions, and €24 million for co-productions and acquisitions, including €18 million for animated content. “We strongly connect with kids and their families through our two linear channels, Rai Yoyo for pre-schoolers, and Rai Gulp for older kids,” she said, adding how Rai Radio Kids focuses on producing podcasts and other child-orientated audio content. Aside from rare exceptions, Rai Kids doesn’t have any slots on the pubcaster’s generalist channels.

The division’s main goals are providing the best content available for kids, supporting Italian and European creatives, and fostering innovative languages, styles and techniques. Rai Kids creatives are both young and established professionals.

She later touched on Rai Kids’ latest slate. In 2024, a special focus was placed on TV animated specials and shorts tackling contemporary issues, with an ideal running time of between 20 and 40 minutes. The Italian pubcaster invested about €250,000-400,000 in each project. A prime example of these is Acquateam, which sensitises its young audience to the importance of protecting life in the oceans, and Bruno Bozzetto’s TV special Sapiens?, which explores whether humans are “sapient” enough. The special is made up of three stories using three different techniques (2D, 3D and CGI), focusing on three different historical musicians (Beethoven, Verdi and Chopin).

Other ambitious projects on the Rai Kids slate touched upon during Liberi’s presentation were Lampadino e Caramella (focusing on diversity), Go go around Italy (centred on Italian geography), Oblò (revolving around fake news), Un cerotto per amico (providing basic medical advice), Quando batte il cuore (a show about emotions), Hello Yoyo (teaching English language), Il mondo di Leo (an animated series about autism) and Clorofilla (placing an emphasis on nature and sustainability).

When asked about the future horizons of European animated productions, Liberi said: “The examples I showed are what I think is about to happen. We still don’t know the recipe, but if you ‘meet’ the right characters and stories, you’re able to spot them after years of working in this business. And I think we have to keep up our ability to look at the different productions from our audience’s viewpoint. […] The most important things remain storytelling and character-driven stories.”

Next, Zubčić spoke about Croatia and other Central Eastern European countries’ efforts to find ways to cooperate together, build their presence at markets and festivals, produce independent content and find common strategies. He mentioned the pivotal role of CEE Animation and the Animation Festival Network, which includes several gatherings from the region. “We try to stick together to find money and survive the challenges of tech, and to keep going with the quality of our programming and shows, rather than [focusing on] quantity,” he underscored. He also touched upon Eeva, an Estonian-Croatian co-production that premiered at the Berlinale last year, and added how several other films are in production that see CEE and other Eastern European countries working together “like never before”. Finally, he admitted how HRT and other pubcasters are losing their audiences aged between six and 24 on linear channels, and mentioned a general lack of specialised press for animation professionals.

Later, Taganov introduced her work for the Manchester-based division of the British pubcaster, for which she works as head of content strategy. Her role entails overseeing two linear channels as well as the content made available on iPlayer, the BBC’s own VoD platform able to compete locally with streaming giants.

“Apart from that, we’ve got a very strong curriculum-based educational offering, [available] online only; [we also host] CBBC, the oldest-running TV news for children as well as game apps for pre-schoolers based on BBC properties. We’re also very present on social-media platforms, including YouTube and TikTok,” she explained.

The BBC is obliged by its regulators to produce 350 hours of youth-orientated content per year – 100 for pre-schoolers and 250 for older children – “right across every known genre, apart from horror”. Audience analysis centres on measuring “time and attention” through collecting “viewing hours and requests”. Moreover, the pubcaster’s new content strategy was revised three years ago: it’s now based on five pillars, and one of them is animation.

Towards the end of the panel, Taganov spoke about the recent children’s animation talent-search programme, aimed at discovering and producing fresh content from a diverse pool of artists. “UK residents were able to apply, and we judged them anonymously. We received 1,000 ideas and narrowed them down to three titles: Duck and Frog, Captain Onion’s Buoyant Academy for Wayward Youth and The Underglow.”

The event was rounded off by a short Q&A session.

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