17 APR 2024

Benoit Di Sabatino & Delphine Dumont: “We will focus on building our reputation as a company for global brands”

The CEO and the Chief Commercial Officer at Banijay Kids & Family explain the company's production and distribution strategy in an evolving landscape.

17 APR 2024

Delphine Dumont & Benoit Di Sabatino

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Banijay Kids & Family is looking at a hectic year in 2024, with the return of classical IPs and the launch of new ones, as well as partnership deals to keep expanding the business, led by its CEO, Benoit Di Sabatino, and Chief Commercial Officer, Delphine Dumont. Di Sabatino and Dumont talked exclusively with Señal News about its commercial strategy, the opportunities ahead for this year, and the new content slate, "2024 is a critical year for Banijay Kids & Family. We will focus on building our reputation as a company for global brands and commissioners worldwide," explained Di Sabatino.

Looking back to 2023, Di Sabatino said it was "a record-breaking year for production. Under our six production labels, we have started, developed, financed, and produced many series. It's amazing to work with this energy and those talents." Both executives expect to keep these rates in 2024. In addition, Dumont said, "It is a big year for us because we will put all our hard work in motion of the past two years. We have integrated a large team of experts for the brand and marketing team, a licensing team, and 'Totally Spies!', which is expected to launch globally. We have worked hard on a brand strategy to get as many licensees and agents on board." The classical series will return with a seventh season, expected to premiere later this year. "It will target a dual audience: kids and the millennial audience, those that have grown with the show. We are going ahead on linear TV, of course, on digital, exportation, social media, licensing and gaming," said Dumont.

2024 is also seeing significant companies return to a distribution business model rather than keeping their original content only for their streaming services. However, both executives agreed this is not a significant challenge for Banijay Kids & Family. "It is a reality of the market nowadays. That is good for us because it means distribution will come first. What it tells us is that it is a very competitive world out there, but it's been competitive for many years. We know that, and we've acted on this already. I think that there are two ways we face it: we maximize on the fact that we are fortunate to have evergreen IP in-house, such as 'Totally Spies!', 'Mr. Bean' or 'Lolirock,' which have done well without necessarily being new, and we are nurturing those creative talents in-house with our labels," Dumont explained.

Furthermore, Di Sabatino added: "We can see all the benefits of belonging to a large group. It's essential to say that because we belong to Banijay, one of the largest in the world, and have a vast catalog of content to work with."

When asked about what formats work best among audiences, Di Sabatino explained: "Our role as a producer is to anticipate what will be on the screen in the next three years. So, what is good today could not be good in three years. Generally, I do exactly the opposite of what is trending today because, in three years, it's not going to be the case." In comparing animation and live action, Di Sabatino said there might be a general rule to be applied. "However, there are always exceptions. Animation suits younger audiences, and live-action suits older audiences in general terms. However, we have some examples within the group; with Tiger Aspect Kids and Family, we produced a live-action series called 'Danny and Mick' that is for younger audiences, while with Movimenti, we are making a show called 'Tear Along the Dotted Line' and the second season of 'This World Can't Tear Me Down,' which are animations aimed at young adults. That last show became number one on Netflix Italy. Animation is always a safer and more robust business," he stated.

Both executives agreed that no "perfect rule" exists for creating a hit show. However, the CEO highlighted the importance of allowing creative liberty for the creators: "I let all the different labels and all the different producers develop what they love, which I think is key. From Banijay Kids & Family's point of view, we make sure that at the moment, in three years, we will have something successful because all those different producers are producing high-quality shows they believe in." Delphine Dumont added: "We have to cater to everybody, and that's why we need to let their creativity run wild because a show will work really well for certain territories, and not all shows will be global successes, but that is okay, and it is the beauty of animation. You can't have global hits every time you shoot a show because it does not work like that. One point is that England and France are the two biggest animation markets in Europe, but they are not complementary at all. A big success in the UK is not assured to be a big success in France and vice versa. And that is very interesting. And that's why we are in a powerful position: we have local producers in both of those countries."

Dumont explained that Banijay has been working on boosting its B2C model without leaving its B2B model behind: "We are a production and distribution house, in the classical terms where we work B2B. But our real big strength for all the commercial part of our business is that we have developed, in the last ten years with great success, our own digital platform, led by our Global Head of Digital, Dan Lewsey. So, within our business, we have a B2C direct access platform, which is growing every day due to the number of partnerships we have. We have partnered with Polar Bears, a company helping us generate more revenue through different brands in terms of brand partnerships, advertising sales, and paid media. So we're striking all these different partnerships thanks to them, to really blow up the commercial aspect." She also mentioned, "We have had to diversify the way we do things because it is kids' content, and we have to be very innovative in our approach to catch up on the loss due to the COPPA regulations."

The company also struck new deals with other partners, like TheSoul Publishing, the owners and creators of the YouTube channel "Five Minutes Craft," and launched a FAST channel with them. Dumont explained: "We take some of our brands like 'Mr. Maker' and 'Let's Play' and then partner with some of their brands and we created a channel together. We have also created a channel called 'Slick Slime Sam's Maker World' with one of their characters, 'Slick Slime Sam,' and our 'Mr. Maker'. It is all about collaboration, getting the views up, and generating greater awareness for our brand. We want to now go to licensees and broadcasters and say; you have got money to spend on advertising your products; come spend it with us." On this point, Di Sabatino mentioned: "All this digital organization is also used for the marketing and the branding of our own shows. When you work with the biggest brands in the world, you must also be a good support for them in terms of marketing. With our marketing tools, we are helping the broadcaster and all the different partners, licensees, etc.."

Looking ahead into 2024, Di Sabatino and Dumont shared some of the next releases expected for the upcoming months. "The most important thing for us is our strong IPs and brands, for which we are producing sequels. For example, season 7 of 'Totally Spies!' and season 4 of 'Mr. Bean, season five of 'Street Football,' and more seasons yet to be announced, meaning that we are staying on our brands, which are really a pillar of our editorial lineup." Among the new releases, the company will launch "Miniheroes of the Forest," produced by Movimenti in Italy and Zodiak in France; "Shasha and Milo," a CGI comedy action show produced with Korean partner Pingo; and "Super Happy Magic Forest," produced by Tiger Aspect Kids & Family with Movimenti Production (both Banijay Kids & Family companies).

By Federico Martinez