Nico Franks speaks to three major players in the Israeli children’s TV industry, Ananey, Hop!

Reacting to the constantly evolving nature of the Israeli television industry is no easy task. But as some of the
biggest producers, distributors, and broadcasters of content in Israel, that’s exactly what Ananey Communications, Hop! Media Group (HMG) and Talit Communications
must do.

Tel Aviv-based Ananey is leveraging its tech-savvy subsidiaries and its relationship with US media giant Viacom to try to stay one step ahead of its audience. The multi-channel pay TV group owns and operates 11 TV channels in Israel and also owns four subsidiary companies, including production arm Nutz Productions, which makes entertainment, kids’and youth content.

The long-standing relationship between Ananey and Viacom has been key in recent years, with Ananey licensing and representing Nickelodeon as well as other brands such as Comedy Central in Israel, with Nutz producing over 400 hours of content per year for the channels.

Then, in 2017, Viacom acquired an undisclosed minority stake in Ananey to cement the long-running partnerships between the two groups in Israel, where Nutz continues to make programming for Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, as well as MTV and Nick Junior.

Orly Atlas-Katz, CEO of Ananey Communications, says the minority stake Viacom now owns in the company has changed little about how the two work together, with Viacom viewing the move as a “strategic investment.”

Atlas-Katz adds that Ananey is focused on catering to a “booming market” in Israel. She claims demand has increased thanks to changes such as broadcasters Reshet and Keshet launching 24/7 services on separate channels, having previously shared airtime on Channel 2.

Founded by Udi Miron in 1996, Ananey is prioritizing making sure it remains relevant to the demographic that no longer pays much attention to old-fashioned, linear TV, says Atlas-Katz. “The big challenge is with kids and teens who are really spending a lot of time online, so you need to talk to them differently. This is what we are facing and working on,” she says.

A key weapon in Ananey’s arsenal is another of its subsidiaries, Mars Interactive, a tech company that specializes in producing ‘secondscreen’ content for mobile and VOD platforms. The firm developed a quiz app that has launched not only in Israel but in markets such as the UK, Poland and Hungary that can be repurposed depending on the TV show it is being used to promote. So far, SpongeBob SquarePants has been the main beneficiary, with kids in the aforementioned markets needing to watch the linear airing of the
animated comedy in order to play along with the app, Sponge Master.

The launch of the app coincided with ratings for SpongeBob going up between 15% and 44%, according to Atlas-Katz, highlighting how reaching kids online does not necessarily mean conceding a hit to linear viewing figures and can even result in the opposite.

Meanwhile, Nutz Productions has planted a flag in the ground when it comes to being able to produce daily
dramas with cliffhangers, to which kids and teens get addicted. “It’s a genre that until not long ago was
unique to Israel. It’s almost like a live-event because all the kids want to seeit together, talk about it and feel the vibe,” says Atlas-Katz.

“There have been telenovelas for kids and there have been dramas for kids, as well as sitcoms. But no one
did the telenovela with the suspense of a drama. It’s something very new to have this experience.
“Kids watch on the channel then go to VOD or the app and watch again and again. It really makes all the platforms strong,” adds the exec, who has been with Ananey since 2007.

The company’s work caught the eye of streaming giant Netflix, which tapped Nutz to make an English language version of one of the latter’s existing Nickelodeon Israel teen dramas, The Greenhouse, making it
the first Israeli company to produce a Netflix original.

Greenhouse Academy debuted on Netflix worldwide last year and follows a brother and sister at an elite boarding school for gifted future leaders where two competing houses must join forces to save the world from disaster.

“It was challenging to bring all the American actors to Israel and produce in English and to imitate Southern California, where the show is set. We had to build everything and be very specific on details. But it did very
well,” says Atlas-Katz.

The exec praises Israel as a place to produce international programming, pointing to the multiple benefits the country can bring to a production, such as good weather and a wide talent base. The exec believes this
makes it “more efficient” to produce in Israel compared with the US or UK.
A key part of the Israeli version of The Greenhouse that couldn’t be replicated with Netfl ix was the show’s app, which helped to maintain and satisfy viewers’ interest in the show once the programme had finished.
“We couldn’t do the app with Netflix because they launched all the episodes at once. For the Israeli version, we formatted a daily scripted application where every time an episode finished you could look at the social media channels of the characters and see them talking between themselves about stuff that happened in the episode and what would happen in the next episode,” says Atlas-Katz.
A similar app accompanies another of Ananey’s live-action dramas, The Hood, which focuses on an area of low-income housing where blue-collar families live in an otherwise rich town. “When we launched The Greenhouse six years ago, Facebook was big, so the app was imitating Facebook. But when we launched The Hood, kids had been leaving Facebook. So we did an app that imitated WhatsApp,” notes Atlas-Katz.
Rather than distribute series itself– something Atlas-Katz says would take its focus away from producing
programming and apps – Ananey prefers to work with third parties to sell its shows.
For example, Ananey last year agreed to a distribution deal with Keshet International (KI), the sales arm of its rival Israeli broadcaster Keshet, marking the first time the latter had taken on rights to shows aimed at children.
Elsewhere, Banijay Rights is selling Gotcha, a forthcoming Nickelodeon Israel prank show produced by Nutz alongside Keeping Up with the Kardashians producer Bunim/ Murray Productions and actor Billy
Crystal’s Jennilind Productions.