On the surface, non-fiction and children’s programming don’t seem to jive. But from a business point of view, there are a lot of synergies involved in serving these two disparate markets, and Parthenon Entertainment is gearing up to do just that. The five-year-old producer/distributor is officially launching a new kids’ division at MIPCOM Jr. on the backs of three proprietary series. But the broader plan is to bolster the Parthenon Kids portfolio by investing in third-party projects in need of a financing top-up.
‘We’re trying to be a distributor/financier whose offers bespeak service, but with lots of TLC,’ says Parthenon Entertainment MD Carl Hall, whose formative years in the entertainment biz were spent at HIT Entertainment, where he managed production under Peter Orton. ‘People want to know their projects are going to be looked after, that they’re not just going to be left on the shelf with everything else. We aren’t big enough yet to leave anything on a shelf.’
Parthenon Kids is prepared to kick in the last 20% on its production investments, in a sense replacing the increasingly rare UK pre-sale. The unit will provide distribution services in return, and partners who want to can also avail themselves of the company’s merchandise expertise.
Hall and his team – rounded out by ITEL alum Peter Pas as commercial director, former Tell-Tale Productions exec Karina Stanford-Smith as head of children’s production and Anna-Lisa Jenaar as head of children’s programming at S4C International – are currently scoping the international market for projects with broad appeal that can live on the Web in between TV seasons. ‘I think we’re looking for one or two big locomotives, and then on the back of that, we’ll need some volume to fill out some of the smaller broadcasters’ requirements,’ says Hall.
In terms of its own stuff, Parthenon Kids is farthest along on Ed and Eppa in the Wild, a mixed-media series for four- to seven-year-olds that combines animation with HD wildlife footage mined from Parthenon’s library with a pair of animated alien hosts. S4C has commissioned season one of Ridestar, a live-action reality series for girls seven to 10 that Hall describes as an X-Factor for the horseback-riding set. The 10 x 30-minute show is in production and will be delivered in Welsh to S4C by January 2008, and then Parthenon Kids plans to rebuild the elements into an international format and look for production partners abroad to sell it to broadcasters in their regions. Branching out from its live-action comfort zone, the division is also developing a 52, seven-minute all-animated 2D project called Kat and C.a.T.
Hall feels kids’ entertainment is a natural extension for the non-fiction specialist because ‘they’re both non-political genres in which quality counts, they have similar funding models, and they sell everywhere because all the major broadcasters around the world have dedicated slots for them.’ He adds that in some smaller international territories, buying duties for docs and kids are handled by the same person, and Parthenon already has relationships with these execs by virtue of its doc business.
Hall anticipates hiring a sales exec to broker deals in some of the major international regions, and he may eventually look at setting up a licensing exec in-house.