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CARTOON 2024 Cartoon Next

Parrot Analytics expert Alex Cameron looks at the future horizons of animation

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- At Cartoon Next, the analyst shared some key trends and discussed untapped market segments, touching in particular on adult animation and female audiences

Parrot Analytics expert Alex Cameron looks at the future horizons of animation
Lisette Looman and Alex Cameron during the talk (© Cartoon)

On day 3 of Marseille’s Cartoon Next (9-11 April), Lisette Looman welcomed Parrot Analytics expert Alex Cameron on stage. During his contribution, Cameron adopted a data-driven approach to examining historical and current market trends in animation, looking ahead to the sector’s future horizons.

First, Cameron talked the audience through Parrot Analytics’ mission, as the firm “helps its partners navigate today’s entertainment-industry challenges”. The British outfit works together with studios, streamers, broadcasters, producers, creators, talent, agents and lawyers, among others.

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“We live in the attention economy,” explained Cameron, where “time and attention are [considered] a finite resource”. He added that the current landscape is witnessing growing phenomena such as “platform proliferation” and “audience fragmentation”. Meanwhile, traditional audience-measurement tools are proving “ineffective”, and thus tracking the consumer’s journey is much more complex than it used to be in the past.

Parrot Analytics captures the behaviour of two billion consumers around the world. The firm aims to “clean, enrich and combine all digital signals that users emit for content into a single metric and weighting by the time and effort it takes for each interaction”.

Expressions of demand are mostly tracked by looking at social-media activities, consumers’ searches, social videos and consumption patterns. These include both “active” and “passive” activities, spanning creative participation, public posting, expressing opinions, subscribing to updates and simple post impressions, among others.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s not just the animation sector that is struggling today, but the whole entertainment business,” Cameron underscored, despite the complex geopolitical context we live in and the unpredictable impact of AI. Therefore, he zoomed in on some key trends that may be good food for thought when it comes to producing content and intercepting new audience segments. For example, despite an increased proliferation of platforms, animated linear originals continue to outperform digital originals.

In terms of “travelability”, Japanese animation, animated sitcoms and pre-school titles deliver the highest levels of international circulation. Since January 2020, demand for adult animation has continued to outpace supply. Besides, adult animation remains most popular with younger male audiences. Cameron highlighted how this presents an opportunity for storytellers to attract more of a female demographic, especially when compared to comedy and drama titles, which skew predominantly female and have a more even gender split.

The most in-demand animated content worldwide in Q1 2024 was the series Hazbin Hotel (which recorded a demand 116 times higher than an average title), followed by popular franchises such as Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, Spongebob Squarepants, Peppa Pig, PAW Patrol, Rick and Morty, Masha and the Bear, Family Guy and The Simpsons.

Breaking down the demographic split, Hazbin Hotel “performs exceptionally well with Gen Z audiences”, while Jujutsu Kaisen is slightly more “male-orientated”. Meanwhile, Spongebob Squarepants “manages to recycle its own audience” while “always staying with younger cohorts” – something one wouldn’t necessarily expect for such an old show.

“What’s also interesting is that a lot of these [titles] are all predominantly original stories. And that’s great for storytellers, as it means there’s still a market for fresh ideas. But on the flip side, there really is a growing importance for known IPs.

“If we look at video game [adaptations], you will notice that within that space, 65% of all titles are animation. And this is set to grow, whereas if you look at literature, [that space] is mainly for drama adaptations. Literary adaptations and comic books remain the most-adapted source materials for animation.

“But then you'll notice that video games now account for 80% of all the data source materials, and that’s ahead of the Monopoly movie. […] I think Hasbro really wants to get into what Mattel has been so successful with recently [with Barbie.]”

Overall, adaptations from video-game IPs have witnessed the fastest growth over the past few years (150% since 2021). The audience is mostly male (69%) and largely Gen Z. “[More broadly,] video games appear within that younger-male sector, whereas literature adaptations tend to feature in the more female side of the quadrants,” Cameron said.

The last part of Cameron’s talk focused on digital distribution. To date, YouTube remains the number-one children’s platform in the world, “with Netflix and others needing help to catch those lost eyeballs. […] Their ad-free model now boasts more than 100 million subscribers worldwide. So, there are definitely opportunities for increased revenue there,” Cameron continued, adding how YouTube is a strong launchpad for IPs, with Disney and Amazon “trying to follow suit”.

Finally, he shone a spotlight on Nimona and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. Nimona was available for free on YouTube, and Netflix acquired it to exploit YouTube’s broad reach in order to expand its own audience, utilising the platform’s credibility with parents to bolster viewership. Cameron defined it as a successful move for Netflix.

Meanwhile, the second show is a French original launched on TF1, which managed to build up a dedicated fan base all around the world. “This show started organically. It went through linear, then straight on to Disney Channel, then through to Netflix, and now it has a first-look deal with Disney Plus. What's really interesting is that they managed to achieve this without having a strong presence on YouTube. It was all fan-generated content. They weren’t showing longer clips, so this proves it can be done without YouTube.

“Of course, another way to grow your brand – albeit an expensive one – is to release a feature,” Cameron suggested. The 2023 release of the feature based on the show, Ladybug & Cat Noir Awakening, prompted “an uplift by around 296%”, proving that long-form content can help grow brand engagement.

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