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Pre-MIPTV interview series: Paul Robinson, YFE

Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson

German-language kids broadcaster YFE has ambitious goals for its Fix & Foxi channel. International chief Paul Robinson talked to Stuart Thomson about his plans.

Kids programmer Your Family Entertainment (YFE) has burst onto the international stage in the past year, rebranding its flagship channel and launching in multiple markets.

German-language area channel provider YFE’s profile has been boosted by its hiring one year ago of former KidsCo managing director Paul Robinson as executive vice-president, international. However, the company’s key strength is its ownership of a significant library of content with global rights in multiple windows and for distribution across linear and non-linear platforms.

“That’s a big plus. Our goal has been to see what we can do about rolling out the channel outside the German-speaking market but it’s still early days,” says Robinson.

Last year, YFE launched a Middle East and Africa feed, with a deal in place with East African platform operator Azam Media. “Operators like to see the service on air before they commit, unless you are global brand. Our strategy is basically to get deals, get launched and add digital distribution on the back of that,” says Robinson.

Next up is a Latin American feed, launching April 3. “We don’t have distribution deals yet but we are talking to about 30 affiliates and that will be targeted at Hispanic communities in North, Central and South America,” says Robinson. YFE has teamed up with Eutelsat-owned distributor AlternaTV, which is providing technical and sales services, with playout provided separately by Level 3 in Atlanta. Robinson says that the Latin American launch will also give the channel a ‘back-door’ route into the challenging US market, allowing it to build an audience among the underserved Hispanic population as a first step.

YFE also has plans for a South-East Asia feed and is pushing the channel in Europe. As part of its international drive, YFE rebranded its main channel Fix & Foxi after characters created by famous comic artist Rolf Kauka. YFE owns about 104 episodes of the Fix & Foxi show, but the characters also “host” the channel and provide its identity. Fix & Foxi is currently present in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria, with the MEA feed set to be rebranded later this year.

“Pitching that has had good traction – you can do something that looks fun and adds value and differentiates the channel,” says Robinson.

Family-friendly

The channel targets 5-11 year-olds with family-friendly, non-violent content. Robinson says the characters have strong resonance in Germany, while the original Kauka comic series was also popular in Latin America. In the latter market, YFE will add Spanish-language content and has struck deals with one Chilean and one Colombian producer to deliver a mix with pan-continental appeal.

YFE also owns a free-to-air channel, RiC, which it recently launched internationally (as RiK) in Slovakia, a joint-venture with Bratislava-based broadcaster Joj TV. “It is a complementary channel with different shows and windowing,” says Robinson,. The Slovakian venture has been successful because there was no previous Slovakian-language dedicated kids channel. While the free-to-air market “carries higher risk”, the group will look at opportunities on a case-by-case basis, says Robinson.

RiC aside, YFE is focusing on a single-channel strategy, although Robinson recognises that non-linear services are important in this genre. “We want to add branded SVoD and that is certainly something for the future,” he says. “As part of a deal with an MSO we will contribute to their existing SVoD service or create a separate SVoD service that is either bundled in or sold separately.” In addition, he says, YFE will need to develop a broader digital and licensing and merchandising strategy, but that is for the future.

For now, Robinson says that the 5-11 age range is relatively underserved, even if the kids market as a whole is increasingly competitive, while a library of family-oriented and gender-neutral content offers an alternative to the typical Hollywood kids diet of male-skewed action properties. “The critical differentiator for us is the library,” he says. “With that you can create a schedule and marketing that is consistent across the world.”

 

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