This year at MIPJunior, Walker Books TV production arm Walker Productions will be announcing its latest project, Pigsticks and Harold. The show is a humorous preschool animated action show that follows the exploits of the world’s most adventurous pig and his trusty assistant and best friend. It’s our second collaboration with children’s TV production JAM Media.
The origins of Pigsticks and Harold go right back to 2007, when we first set up Walker Productions. Back then, we knew that as a children’s publisher we owned numerous rights that had the potential to cross over into other platforms. Historically, we might have exploited those rights by selling them to a third party. Increasingly, however, we were coming to see that there were more longer-term benefits to be had by retaining them and developing them through co-productions. Now we create individual deal structures and partnerships for each new project. This means we hold a greater stake in the resulting productions. It leads to a greater revenue share for us, as well as the uplift in book sales that generally accompanies a TV series.
It also makes a lot of sense for us as a publisher in terms of keeping our authors happy, because we could them greater say in how their creations were developed for TV. For example, Alex Milway, the author of Pigsticks and Harold, has been part of the development process from the very beginning, involving every aspect from script writing to creating artwork.
Another benefit of working in collaboration was that it gave us extra leverage. Working with companies such as JAM Media didn’t just enable us to pool our creative and technical resources with theirs, it gave us access to additional financial resources. These government tax incentives, grants and investments are generally available only for creative collaborations. As such they gave us invaluable support, enabling us to get projects off the ground that we wouldn’t have been able to sustain as a sole venture.
The decision to retain the rights to develop content for TV also means we are much more closely involved in how they are exploited across additional platforms. It’s opened up new revenue streams for us and our partners that include TV territory sales, licensing and merchandising, DVD sales, magazines and TV tie-in publishing.
The model we established with Walker Productions means that Pigsticks and Harold is just the latest in a series of our books making the journey from the page to the screen and beyond. These include Tilly and Friends, our first collaboration with JAM Media, which won an IFTA Award after finding a home on CBeebies. On CBBC Walker Books IP has turned up in the form of Hank Zipzer and on CITV in the form of Fleabag Monkeyface.
Of course, none of these productions would be possible without the dedication and passion of our partners. Our work with JAM Media demonstrates that in order for such a partnership to work we need to share content and expertise, but to really succeed the relationship has to be based on deeper roots. Mutual admiration, respect and shared company values are all key to ensuring that the stories Walker authors tell find new life in new media.
We see the production-publishing partnership we’ve fostered in the last seven years as providing a model for how publishers can continue to look outside the industry. It has helped us to see content and content producers in new ways and provided the insight we need to identify how we can make our brands and IP work in emerging markets.
Fundamentally, production partnerships are a way for publisher to work out how to translate quality storytelling across formats and platforms. Through collaboration, publishers can reach new audiences throughout the world, while remaining the masters of their creative and commercial destiny.
Walker Productions and JAM Media speak at Bringing books to the screen: The Publisher Show & Tell (hosted by The London Book Fair). The event takes place on Sunday 12 October from 17:45 – 18:30 at the MIPJunior Agora, Palm Beach.
Top photo: Walker Books & JAM Media’s Pigsticks and Harold