Lifestyle makeover for ‘Bob the Builder’ heralds new era in kids TV

CANNES, France - Just like “Bob the Builder”, the jolly Mr Fix-it beloved of pre-school children around the world, kids TV is getting a lifestyle makeover that will springboard it into the digital world.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 16 Apr 2005, 3:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 5:58 PM

New dedicated 24-hour digital kids-only channels are starting up as well as video-on-demand services just for children.

TV executives at the influential MIPTV/MILIA audiovisual and digital content trade show that closed its doors here on Friday also expect that it won’t be long before pre-school children’s favourite shows and characters go mobile courtesy of the cellphone.

“Today, it’s content across all platforms,” Peter Orton, founder and chairman of Hit Entertainment, the British-based children’s entertainment company behind perennial hits like “Bob the Builder”, ”Thomas the Tank Engine” and “Fireman Sam”, told AFP.

“As (pre-school) children get more into technology, we will have to start addressing them in different ways,” Orton said.

Digital kids TV

The latest in digital and mobile telephone, gaming and interactive entertainment technologies were everywhere at this year’s MIPTV/MILIA show, whipping up excitement as well as some apprehension that the long-awaited convergence between the TV and hi-tech worlds is finally starting to happen.

The digital revolution in TV also looks set to take off with the smallest members of the household - the under fives.

Hit Entertainment has teamed up with US cable TV giant Comcast and Sesame Workshop, the creator of the hugely popular “Barney” programmes, to launch a new dedicated video-on-demand (VOD) service for children.

The new VOD service, PBS KIDS Sprout On Demand, which is due to start this spring in the United States, will be joined this autumn by the first dedicated 24-hour US pre-school digital channel, PBS KIDS Sprout. Orton said there are also plans to launch the VOD service in other regions of the world as soon as possible.

‘Parents taking charge’

The shift of children’s TV into the digital age and VOD should result in “parents taking charge of what kids can see,” believes Orton, who was in Cannes to receive the MIPTV 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Digital kids TV appears to be on the move.

Turner Broadcasting and VNL announced during the show that they are going to launch a new kids on-demand round-the-clock channel, Cartoon Network On-Demand.

Shows will include many Cartoon Network hits such as “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “The Powerpuff Girls” as well perennial favourites ”The Flintstones”, “Looney-Tunes” and “Scooby-Doo” from sister channel Boomerang.

Kids’ programme buyers at this year’s MIPTV/MILIA were spoilt for choice.

There was a great deal of interest in a brand new series of “Bob the Builder - Project Build It”. Bob and his team are taking on a big challenge in a new location, Sunflower Valley, to construct a whole new eco-friendly town from the ground up.

“Postman Pat” fans can also look forward to a new series about their favourite jaunty, mail delivery character, which will air on the BBC in the third quarter of next year.

Older children will continue to be offered lots of action-packed, animation but also a large dose of humour. Comedy is also a major factor in “Help! I’m A Teenage Outlaw”, typical of the inspirational lifestyle dramas that are due to hit screens later this year.

Reality TV for kids too

Format shows for kids are also starting to come on the market, doubtless helped by the huge and continuing success of the multitude of adult versions that continue to dominate TV across the globe.

Industry pundits speculate that lifestyle, reality and talent formats such as reality king FreemantleMedia’s “Planet Cook” which combines live action, cookery and adventure on a fantasy island could be the next big trend in children’s programming.

But on a musical note, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one the world’s greatest composers and child prodigies, had major broadcasters from around the world rushing to snap up “Little Amadeus”.

This cute animated series from small independent German producer Penta TV tells the story of Mozart and introduces children to his music in a lively and amusing way. It also showed broadcasters are still interested in good old-fashioned story telling in today’s increasingly digital age.

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