Nickelodeon Israel Mines seam of successful locally produced shows to become highest rated kids tv channel in israel
Nickelodeon is mining a seam of successful locally originated shows via its Israeli partnership with Ananey. C21 Media‘s Gün Akyuz reports.
July 15, 2018
Viacom’s Nickelodeon brand currently enjoys an enviable position in the Israeli market. Despite hefty competition, its children’s channel portfolio now attracts a 50%-plus share of all kids’ viewing.
With eight different kids’ networks vying for just one million Israeli youngsters, this spring the Nickelodeon portfolio claimed up to a 54% share of 3-13s, says Orly Atlas-Katz, CEO of Ananey Communications, one of Israel’s largest multichannel media groups.
Ananey is a long-standing Viacom channel partner in Israel, managing and programming Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central brands locally. Their ties were bolstered last year when the US media group acquired an undisclosed minority stake in Ananey.
The channel partnership is supported by Ananey’s portfolio, spanning in-house production companies such as Nutz Productions, which specialises in kids, youth and entertainment; post-production facilities Post Office; and digital services and apps development arm Mars Games.
Separate to its Viacom partnership, Ananey also operates its own suite of in-house lifestyle channels, Food, Health, Good Life, Travel and male-skewing Ego and Ego Total, for which it produces around 200 hours of local content annually. Its current focus is on increasing digital crossover opportunities around content and talent with platforms such as Facebook.
In all, Ananey supplies 14 channels to Israel’s cable operator Hot, satellite platform Yes and OTT suppliers Cellcom and Partner. It also pitches to third parties as an independent producer across lifestyle, documentaries, kids and entertainment, including documentaries with Kan, and is developing a comedy drama for Yes. “We work with them all,” observes Atlas-Katz.
Ananey manages and programmes three Viacom channels under the Nickelodeon banner: pre-school brand Nick Jr. (ניק ג’וניור), targeting kids up to the ages of six or seven; Nickelodeon for older kids up to 10; and the more recently launched Nick Teen (TeenNick), targeting 9-13s.
Nickelodeon Israel’s (ניקלודיאון) already extensive digital presence has been extended to VoD via partnerships with local OTT suppliers Cellcom and Partner. Last year Ananey also struck a content deal with Keshet International (KI) to bring its scripted kids and teen shows to the global market.
In addition to its production and channel-related activities, the Israeli group manages local merchandising for Nickelodeon properties like PAW Patrol (מפרץ ההרפתקאות), and has expanded into apps and second screens, “working 360º to make the brands work,” says Atlas-Katz. Most recently, Nickelodeon Israel launched a local version of Nickelodeon’s award-winning Nick Play app.
Atlas-Katz claims Ananey and Nickelodeon Israel are investing significantly in content. “No one knows what the future will be,” says the exec, “but it will involve strong content.”
Moreover, with the shift in viewing habits now underway thanks to services like YouTube and Netflix, “the competition is not only ratings but producing the best shows on all platforms,” says Atlas-Katz. “We’re now fighting on all fronts.”
Current schedule, children’s acquisitions, original production, formats
Up to 80% of Nickelodeon Israel’s programming is sourced from the group’s global inventory. “We have good Viacom content such as Paw Patrol,” says Atlas-Katz, “but Viacom also give us full programming freedom and we can programme as we see fit for the local market.”
This freedom and Ananey’s role in attracting younger Israeli audiences have helped spawn a wide range of local production opportunities. While familiar international shows like Paw Patrol, Nella the Princess Knight (נלה הנסיכה האבירה) and The Loud House (הרעשנים) perform well thanks to being dubbed into Hebrew, Atlas-Katz says Nickelodeon Israel’s local productions are the portfolio’s most successful drivers.
One of them is Nick Jr.’s in-house show Craft Party (מסיבת יצירה), fronted by two girls who show young viewers how to make things. Atlas-Katz says the duo have become very popular. Made by Nutz Productions, a second season launched this spring and a third is now in the works.
Ananey is keen to give its shows a digital presence; Craft Party, for instance, has a VoD and YouTube presence. “We do a lot of content on YouTube to complement our shows,” explains Atlas-Katz, advocating a “don’t fight it, work with it” approach to digital. “We wanted kids to engage more with the show and our main aim was to drive kids from YouTube to the channel, and we’re doing it with content clips.”
A second local production hit is scripted preschool series Rescue Team (צוות הצלה), involving a team of six- and seven-year-olds who solve problems for adults. Atlas-Katz says the aim of the show is to place small children at the fore, to make them feel empowered. Also a Nutz production, Rescue Team returned recently for a second season.
Atlas-Katz says Ananey has been building up its kids-fronted programming strategy. Although it brings a number of challenges – such as the fact children can only work for limited hours and are subject to other welfare and safeguarding considerations, limiting production and pushing up costs – kids really relate to the shows, she says.
A few of Ananey’s local ideas for its Nick Jr. brands have also gone international, says Atlas-Katz, noting claymation shortform filler series How to Clay, which was picked up by Nick Jr. internationally to accompany global hit Paw Patrol.
On Nickelodeon, Ananey’s Nutz Productions is a key provider of local daily drama for kids, which has broken through internationally. Teen drama Spell Keepers (כדברא) has been picked up by Nickelodeon Poland and SIC Portugal, while The Hood (שכונה) recently launched on RTP in Portugal. The genre has also attracted new platforms like Netflix, with Nutz’s The Greenhouse (החממה) having been adapted by the company for Netflix as English-language series Greenhouse Academy.
Atlas-Katz claims Nickelodeon Israel and Ananey are the experts when it comes to local daily drama for kids, promoting the same positive values of equality and girl empowerment seen in Nickelodeon Global’s animated shows such as Dora the Explorer (מגלים עם דורה), Nella the Princess Knight and The Loud House.
Nickelodeon Israel schedules three dramas each weekday with a weekend binge-viewing marathon catch-up. Moreover, shows like The Greenhouse, which aired for a third season this spring at 15.00 on Nickelodeon, are also available almost simultaneously on VoD.
“In Israel, it’s almost like a live event, with kids all watching at the same time,” says Atlas-Katz. “It doesn’t matter how, the fact is that kids are all coming together. We don’t feel that it takes away from the ratings at all but that brands are getting stronger because of it.”
Ananey and Nickelodeon’s commitment to local daily drama for kids continues. Already in the works is The Covurts (40×22’), Nickelodeon International’s first Israeli coproduction, a partnership with Nutz Productions and HOT. Led by head writer Michal Cooper Keren (Spell Keepers), the series will be shot in Israel and is due to launch internationally in 2019.
Another area of local production focus for Nickelodeon Israel is sitcoms, entertainment and gameshows. “We’re interested in all kinds of gameshows,” says Atlas-Katz. “We need to be unique and different.”
These include kids’ stand-up show The Laugh Basement (הצחוקייה; 49×15’), also from Nutz. The show, which has run for five seasons, puts well-known comedians in front of an audience made up entirely of children. “No one had done this genre for kids before,” Atlas-Katz says. The format is popular locally and has also run as a live event.
Another is Champions (צ’מפיונסניק), which sees different school classes compete against each other. Participants, chosen via an app, join teams made up of pairs of girls and boys taking football penalty shots. This year’s winning team got to attend the Fifa World Cup finals. The show is among Nickelodeon Israel’s top five and has also generated over two million views on YouTube.
On the local sitcom front there’s Bed & Biscuit (בית הכלבים; 32×22’), also from Nutz Productions. The series, about a dogs’ day-care service, has now notched up three seasons and is also one of the kids and teen titles included in Ananey’s distribution deal with KI.
An entertainment newcomer to the line-up is prank show Gotcha (6×30’), made for Nickelodeon Israel by Nutz together with Bunim/Murray Productions and actor Billy Crystal’s Jennilind Productions. Banijay Rights is selling the show internationally.
Atlas-Katz says Ananey is now developing more new shows that put kids centre-stage, including more seasons of Craft Party and Rescue Team. “We’re also looking to do some unique stuff with social media,” adds the exec. “We’re doing all kinds of experiments. We’re a small territory so we can do that.”