Tonight I went to panel discussion at our Union with development execs from Cartoon Network, The Hub, Frederator, and RGH Entertainment. They were there to discuss what criteria they evaluate when making programing development decisions. It was an interesting talk and Q&A. Below are the notes that I tapped away on my phone. They’re pretty much in chronological order. Hopefully, they are useful to you. There really weren’t any surprises, just some good insights and pointers about what to be conscious of if you want to pitch your ideas or become a content producer.
David Corbett (Executive Director N. America, RGH Entertainment) -theme park/brandinig/(web) content. They “Co-produce” IP and distribute through various channels depending on content viability-Basically a middle man operation with many partners and seeks to ‘exploit’ and grow value from animation content. RGH has it’s own in-house art department and marketing arm, and typically partners with larger distribution conglomerates.
Katie Krentz (CN comedy animation)-shorts program/In response to a question: she’s empowered to green light projects to a development stage w/ exec partner/Further investment in series development involves higher level execs./CN develops ‘70% of new shows’ using in-house talent.
Rick Blanco (VP CN Enterprises (consumer products)-Rick is involved in brand strategizing and consumer products. He has varied experience from being a MBA to an artist. Regarding salable product, he believes ”Content will always be king”,
Donna Ebbs (Sr. VP of programming, The Hub)-a Hasbro, Discover Kids joint venture.
Eric Homen (VP, Development, Frederator Studios/Cartoon Hangover), Currently looking for content for YouTube channel launching soon
Unanimous-Network strategy is to look at collective whole when green lighting or making acquisitions/typically, 1yr dev for a pilot and before a property is ready to be packaged for corporate presentation/
The Hub is growing (‘mid start-up phase’) & ever conscious of: programming, content, scheduling budget-ie., operations : HUB doesn’t do pilot episodes/very stripped down operation at this point. They make investments in production runs and go ‘head first’. So they’re very cautious.
Mr. Corbett stated that companies appreciate entrepreneurs who do legwork prior to pitching-like: securing partnerships, market research, providing stats, etc. Address risk: $10,000s at stake, try to demonstrate proof of concept. ”Line up your ducks”
*At which point I began to wonder why we need middle men nowadays. It seems it’s not enough to just create content, characters and environments. In a perfect world, they also would like you to be business savvy and present a business case along with your creative content. Mr. Blanco made it a point that it behooves aspiring content creators to have a business education-even a rudimentary one is better than nothing. More than once Mr. Corbett remarked that he loved to take pitches and see peoples ideas regardless. He finds it inspirational. Who wouldn’t enjoy that privilege? Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice man and being forthright. But, you gotta wonder if you’d be better off owning your own content and keeping it private and protected and finding a new means of distribution. Each panelist did however explain their virtues and why you may prefer to partner with them and possibly benefit from their experience, networks, and capital.
Understanding their audience; brand testing; brand value, audience analytics (utilizing services like FB, or Google) is very important to networks in determining whether new IP holds value for their respective company and in their efforts in understanding and defining their audiences.
Development execs are spending substantial time and resources scanning user generated content on Youtube and the like, as well as combing the more traditional festivals and conventions looking for content.
Retail Conundrum: ”Girls Isle” vs “Boys Isle” is a very big obstacle with traditional retail & consumer product. ”Spongebob” was cited as an example of a highly successful property that never really fully capitalized on it’s toy market potential. Partly, because the show doesn’t fit the tradition retail mold of Girls Isle or Boys Isle.
Some examples of “girls shows” with a cross-gender appeal: ”Buffy”, “Zena”, “Power Puff” (originally, Whoop Ass Girls), “She-Ra”, “Wonderwoman”, “Atomic Betty”, etc.
Traditional Retail Theory:
Girls = Pink/Boys= Monsters & Trucks
*Target was cited because they have started something called, ‘Innovation Station’ as a gender-neutral shelf space. And, the panelists sensed a change in The Force.
Mr. Homen’s words of wisdom regarding “The Pitch”: Every executive’s job is to say “NO”, and it’s ‘your’ job to anticipate that “No”, be prepared and counter it-like a game of Chess. Try to anticipate barriers. Be informed they all reiterated.
Mr. Blanco: ’Focus groups are BS & can be skewed ‘
Before you pitch: know your IP backwards & forwards: Own it! Don’t let them question you as a show runner (a potential creator pit-fall) because you aren’t confident or versed enough about your own creation. Be passionate, believe, do your homework. Know who you’re pitching to. For the best outcome, take your work to the most receptive company. And, be respectful. If you aren’t, you’re unlikely to be received again.
Q: Who’s the “decider” (when receiving a pitch)?
-Mr. Corbett: Ultimately Finance says, “yes”.
Q: What kind of content to include in a pitch?
-Ms. Krentz: Providing artwork=good. They like to see a sense of style, your color palette and artistic sensibilities, etc.
Q: Any advice about pitching hard to classify concepts?
-Ms. Ebbs: Try to classify define your IP irrespective of it’s peculiarities. It can be done & is what they expect-a longline.
Q: ’What gets you excited when taking a pitch?”
-Ms. Krentz: Is it funny? Do ‘I’ connect w/ character(s)?
-Mr. Corbett: Is the story good and passionately written?
Q: What are you looking for w/ shorts?
Frederator: A beat board/material to walk you through the cartoon episode-backstory etc. unnecessary to pitch a short.
-Ms. Krentz: Looking for funny, edgey, geared to 6-11 boys, consistent w/ studio’s tone
-Ms. Ebbs: imaginative/world viewed through a new perspective?