Ushering in a new era of Degrassi

Executive producer Stephen Stohn and DHX exec Joe Tedesco discuss rebuilding Family's slate and why Degrassi is a natural for Netflix. (Stohn pictured.)
Stephen Stohn

Stephen Stohn

Long before Bell Media’s MTV Canada and U.S. net TeenNick announced Degrassi would end after a 14-season run, producer Epitome Pictures was already working on a reboot, said executive producer Stephen Stohn.

“We have done 14 seasons of talking to millennials, and we realized, hey, now we are talking to Generation Z,” Stohn told Playback Daily.

In January, the producers started creative work on the next iteration of the franchise to focus on teens born in a post-9/11 world, Stohn said. The result is Degrassi: Next Class, which DHX Television’s Family Channel and Epitome Pictures announced was greenlit to production on Tuesday. (Epitome Pictures was acquired by DHX Media in 2014, and DHX Television is a subsidiary of DHX Media.)

Family Channel will bow Degrassi: Next Class in January 2016, and has a first-run window on the series. The series will also stream on Netflix globally starting early next year, except in Canada, Australia and France, where it will appear at a later date. While development on a reboot of the series has been underway for months, the retooling of the broadcasters attached to the project came more recently, Stohn noted.

While he declined to provide specifics about the nature of the discussions between Epitome, MTV Canada and TeenNick, he did indicate all parties agreed the series would best reach its global, young audience on a platform like Netflix.

“The broadcast spectrum is changing so dramatically. We had in Canada, of course, the CRTC announcements, in which they have said they are not going to regulate the internet and services like Netflix and we have also seen a shift in younger audiences away from the traditional broadcasters towards online,” Stohn said.

For Family Channel, the addition of the series helps execs meet the goal of aging-up its content in the post-8 p.m. slot, said Joe Tedesco, SVP and general manager at DHX Television. After 8 p.m., Tedesco said Family Channel sees a drop in viewership, as younger audiences wrap up their TV viewing for the day and older kids change the dial to conventional or other specialty channels – some of whom may have even been trying to catch Degrassi, Tedesco said.

“We thought this was an ideal property that could fulfill an opportunity for us, and specifically target that older, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old that was already coming to our network for some of our programming,” Tedesco said.

Tedesco also noted the series helps builds DHX Television’s original slate after it lost the rights to Disney programming following a deal struck between Corus Entertainment and Disney/ABC Television Group to bring the Disney Channel to Canada this fall.

DHX Television expects to announce more teen-targeted series, Tedesco said, although he stressed Family Channel will remain committed to its core tween demo.

“We’re not at all abandoning our core tween, 8 to 12 [demo] on Family Channel – that is still going to be very well served. We have a huge programming slate being produced and in development that is going to continue to cater to that audience in a very meaningful way,” Tedesco said.