News came to light this summer that three key players in kids’ animation are leaving the original production business, although they will remain active as distributors or licensing specialists:
- Amazon is moving away from investing in original children’s programming in favor of shows for family and young adult audiences. It will continue to acquire licensed content for the kids’ space. Existing kids’ originals, including The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Pete the Cat, and more than 20 others, will reportedly remain in production for now. Whether or not they are renewed, they will still be made available for streaming.
- Universal Kids, the children’s network that is the successor to Sprout and now wholly owned by NBCUniversal, stopped commissioning original content. It will turn to acquisition for all of its programming, outside of series emanating from its partnership with corporate sibling Dreamworks Animation. Previously commissioned series, including Top Chef Junior and American Ninja Warrior Junior, will continue. The reason the network noted for the change was a desire to bolster its long-term prospects as a linear network.
- CHF Media Group (formerly Cosgrove Hall Films), closed its CHF Entertainment animation production arm. The British company cited regulatory changes that affected its ability to secure tax breaks as one of the drivers for the move. Work on its current series Daisy & Ollie and Pip Ahoy! will transition to existing partners Hoopla Animation and CHF Pip! (a separate company 30% owned by CHF), respectively. CHF will refocus its business on consumer products licensing for third-party properties.
Each decision was based on unique factors. But the increasingly crowded kids’ programming landscape, both traditional and streaming, makes it likely that more studios will rethink whether the original kids’ entertainment business is one where they can thrive. This will naturally have a significant impact on licensors of children’s IP, which are relying on such players to help them build exposure for their brands.