YTV ramps up

Canada’s old kid on the youth net block, ytv, has greenlit over $117 million worth of production, stepping up its role as coproducer or producer on several of its fall launches. ytv’s new preschool shows debut Sept. 7 and the rest launch Sept. 14.

For fiscal 1998, ytv racked up 66.5 hours of coproduction and for ’98/99, is contributing to 197.8 hours of coproduction (defined as commissioning, triggering Canadian funding for input rights as a creative copro for ytv). In its 10 years on air, ytv has contributed over $502.5 million in new Canadian production, with cumulative licence fees, including development, of $67.5 million (averaging 14% of the budgets).

Curiously, although more in-house hours are slated, budgets haven’t gone up because the shift has been to more resourceful scheduling.

‘We’re looking for a different kind of show,’ says Peter Moss, vp, programming and production, who is facing a lot of new competition since last October when youth-friendly animation outlet Teletoon, The Comedy Network and sci-fi entry Space: The Imagination Station launched.

Discussing the impact of new niche viewing options to the Canadian kids’ tv landscape, Moss sums up, ‘In the last year, there’s been very interesting fragmentation. We’ve been around for 10 years and we’re so big – we reach eight million homes – we’re comparable to major terrestrials. Although different segments have been eroded by some specialties, overall reach and share is high.’

Moss says Teletoon has eroded part of the two-to-six audience during the day, but ytv is holding the six-to-11 set. ‘The erosion is why we’re beefing up preschool,’ he adds.

Space and Comedy have caused some erosion in late night, and ytv has Saturday competition from the Global Fox lineup, the Baton Disney block ‘One Saturday Morning’ and from Teletoon, but overall, Moss says ytv dominates in its 4-9 p.m. primetime target. Its overall share from September 1997 to May 1998 was 14.8 for ages two to 11.

One of the programming shifts is on the pj front, an area ytv pioneered. Last year, ytv did eight hours a week of live pj programming, and now some of that time is being given titles, shaped into shows and made repeatable.

On the preschool front, there were 1.5 hours daily of pj time, and now five shows are replacing some of that programming. Per Moss, ‘pjs characterized ytv at the beginning, now everybody’s doing it. Fox Family (with some ex-ytv pj power), Global, Baton and now cbc. Where everyone zigs, it’s time to zag.’

ytv’s new sister preschool channel, Treehouse tv, is remaining completely hosted, adding an area of differentiation between the two.

Fall copro slate

For the new season, as a coproducer, ytv is in on:

- Shadow Raiders, a half-hour cg series out of Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment; from Mainframe and Decode Entertainment, the teen cg series Weird-Ohs (for a January start); and from Decode, with Jim Henson Television and Wandering Monkey, is Brats of the Lost Nebula, about a tribe of alien child warriors;

- Radio Active, a live-action, half-hour series about high school radio show antics, produced by Montreal-based Les Productions Tele-Action;

- Sixth Grade Alien, the adventures of a one-antennaed purple extraterrestrial enrolled in an earthling-centric primary school, produced by Alliance/Atlantis (for February delivery);

- Incredible Story Studio, a live-action series in which kids call the shots (each episode is two stories written and introduced by kids), produced by Saskatchewan-based Minds Eye Pictures;

- Twisteeria, a live-action/stop-motion animation entry from Scintilla Entertainment (for October delivery), in which a hip dude hero must find a tongue-twister to slide back to reality from an alliteration-driven alternative world;

- And for October, Worst Witch, a big-budget, live-action drama series based on Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch books, which have sold 2 million copies in the u.k. since 1974. The 13-part series is produced by the u.k.’s United Productions, Global Arts and Gala Films for itv.

ytv also has a slew of its own shows on the slate: warp, a half-hour kids’ pop culture magazine; System Crash, a sketch comedy presented as the fruit of a junior high’s closed-circuit tv labors, billed as a Roger & Me documentation/lampoon of kids’ issues (for January ’99); and A 2 O (alpha to omega), a magazine with a contemporary screen presence about teen lifestyle and other weird stuff that has three different views of a story on screen at once (also for January). Per Moss: ‘This is an attempt to deconstruct the tv environment for teens, who are so sensitized to it.’

Primo pickups include The Addams Family (produced by James Shavick for Fox Family Channel) and Animorphs (Scholastic Productions).

On the preschool front, ytv productions include: Fuzzpaws, a puppet sitcom; Little Big Kid, live-action, life-lesson shorts; My Special Book, story shorts; Nanalan’, a toddler’s-eye view of life in puppet/live-action shorts; and Pet Squad, tot cult hero PJ Katie’s (of Farm fame) newest animal shorts vehicle, in which she sleuths out answers to kids’ animal queries.

ytv copros include 15-minute puppet/animation entries Panda Bear Daycare and Ruffus the Dog with Toronto’s Radical Sheep Productions (The Big Comfy Couch).

Treehouse fall lineup

Treehouse tv, Canada’s newest kids’ channel (launched November 1997), unveiled it’s fall sked for the six and under set, featuring several series debuts packing a whack of cute animals.

The 26 x 30-minute St. Bear’s Dolls Hospital (Norma Denys Productions) combines live-action puppets and animation in a series about doctors, nurses, teddy bears and rag dolls who mend wounds and teach kids about countries, culture and history.

Also launching on Treehouse is Fennec (Cactus Animation, Ellipse Animation, France 3), a 26 x 30-minute animated mystery series about a crime-solving fox and his dog assistant Achilles, adapted from the Antoon Krings and Alexis Lelaye children’s books.

And RedCap Productions has created The Funny Farm, 40 five-minute, live-action shorts. Aimed at preschoolers, the tiny shows will combine cute animals with fave games and activities like peek-a-boo.