Beth Stevenson, founder of Brain Power Studio, is an executive producer specialised in children’s and family entertainment. Recent credits include: Julius Jr. (photo, Saban Brands/Nick jr), Fuzzy Tales (Disney Jr./CBC), Monkey in the Middle (Marvista Entertainment), My Dad is Scrooge (Marvista Entertainment) & Gastroblast (TVO).
MIPBlog: What’s the most innovative thing in kids entertainment right now in your opinion, and why?
The innovation that is happening in the broadcast sector–it’s wild! The digital revolution in technology has formed a new generation of quick-minded humans with little patience and an appetite to consume huge amounts of media. The most innovative kids programming is anything that is that soothes that “kid-watching-beast”, like a wide library/ instant view model. We can see that many traditional broadcasters and content creators are racing to connect with this new impatient being. This has caused a time of major innovation in the classic broadcast model. With Disney’s purchase of Maker Studios this year, we see that a traditional player recognizes that it is possible to have vision in this changing kidscape. Broadcaster success in the kid’s space has always had alchemy to it. It will be very interesting to see how new and established kid’s distribution channels vie for attention by bringing all their magic tricks to the table. Vive the revolution!
> Why does kids TV have such potential for innovation? Do kids have a different relationship with technology than adults?
With phrases like “digital natives” and “early adopters” assigned to the latest crop of kids, it is a given that they have an easier time with the rapid changes in entertainment consumption. It is actually very funny when you see a kid now trying to swipe a screen that is not touch or look for the instant view button on a non digital camera. The ease in which they consume certainly pushes the kid’s industry into forging content into other platforms and screens. It is not only a potential area for innovation it is an essential for survival in our world.
> What is your favourite kids IP right now, and why?
I am completely enamoured with Minecraft. It is an amazing property that spans games, videos, and merch with the greatest of ease. It has core educational values that many IP creators have to retro fit into their products. It’s principle game use it is simplistic yet so never ending that it can engage a user for hours/ever. It is empowering as you create your own narrative, character and settings. It has the ability to promote combined play either on line or together in the room. It has clear settings that make it scalable for many age ranges. You can tend to a farm animal or blow it up depending on the style of play you choose. It commands YouTube video hits with just having a single voice narrate their experience playing the game in a cheeky way. We love you Stampy! It has very good merchandise out in the marketplace in mass and specialty. The publishing lines particularly have a very classic, lovely feel to them. Overall extremely captivating. Truly perfect for family game night!
> How do you see the (near) future of kids entertainment?
Space suits and a lot of tin foil. Winning properties will be an organic mix of digital new day tools and grassroots traditional production methods. Keeping the quality of productions that had “go go days” money behind them in mind, but be able to produce for the realities of what the market is currently–that will be the next few years, for all of us. If anyone can invent a transporter that returns the financing for bigger budgets sooner rather than later, that would be something we all would do a happy dance over.
> How can producers keep up with kids insatiable appetite for fresh exciting content with dwindling budgets?
There is an equalization happening that is evening things out in a « natural order » kind of way. With dwindling budgets comes a new day of reduced costs in technology to produce many forms of kids programming. Other good news is that kids have always been very open to story and creativity over high budget production values. New experimental programming can be created with a much smaller budget than what has been made in the past. How many times will kids watch a baby goat bay loudly on Youtube? As content makers we have always had to be nimble and “fresh”. There have always been factors that we have had to consider to see our visions through. These are times of great excitement. Where will the next hit come from? How will it be monetized? How will it be sustained and not become yesterday’s buzz? We will leave it to the universe to take us on a wild ride. As I have for many years, I keep my bike helmet near my desk and I get on the bike everyday and pedal up the hill.
Beth Stevenson is one of our pre-MIPJunior 2014 kids entertainment ambassadors. These posts are coordinated by Debbie Macdonald, a children’s media consultant. She was formerly VP, programming director at Nickelodeon UK, having worked in acquisitions at the BBC. You can find her on LinkedIn here.
Top photo: Julius Jr. © Nick Jr.