The pandemic affected the industry in countless ways, although one segment was clearly less affected: animation. In dialogue with Señal News, Pam Westman, President of Nelvana, explained how the company dealt with these years of pandemic, analyzed customers' current needs, and indicated why Nelvana decided to invest in live-action shows.
● What changes have you observed in the kids & animation business in the past two years?
“For us, it’s been not only business as usual but extremely busy. We are overcapacity at this point, with productions going, some delivering soon, and new ones coming on board. We have a ton of business, like most animation studios. Overall, it is a good place to be right now. We are definitely in the time of plenty, with lots of business. However, I’m seeing a little bit of wavering of that, spearheaded by Netflix and what has been happening with them. Netflix led the streaming business into this time of plenty, and they are now the first ones to start thinking about budgets. That is a natural evolution as they mature. At the same time, in North America, we went from two streamers that focused on kids – Hulu and Netflix – to eight. From an animation studio point of view, the business right now is strong, but I think it will start to slowdown again and get back to a normal place.”
● How does all of that combine with the traditional pay TV business?
“I’m observing that most of our broadcasters have now opened up their own streaming platforms. They are undergoing a change in culture. They were very linear-led in terms of what projects they wanted, to now being streaming-led. I see that transition happening in most of our customers. That is something that will change the industry, which is streaming-led now. However, linear still is extremely important, especially in preschool. The choices of our clients are different.”
● Do you see that trend in all regions?
“I think if you don’t have a streaming platform or are not connected to one of the big global players, you will struggle to get the best content possible for your service. You don’t have to go door by door to put together a deal with those streaming players because you go to one streamer, you get a global deal, and you are done. What happens now is that it is really hard for regional broadcasters to get quality shows. What we at Nelvana are trying to do is to gather some of the key linear broadcasters and try to create shows together. One example is Redknot, our joint venture with Discovery. That really was about making shows with global appeal, with a strong co-production partner. I like having somebody from another territory, maybe from a completely different part of the world, coming to the table creatively. That is how you get a global appeal for a show.”
● What kind of content are you currently focusing on?
“We are investing heavily in the development of live-action shows. Based on the success of ‘The Hardy Boys,’ which just finished the production of its second season, we are investing in developing a slate for live-action. The demand now for this kind of shows, especially from streamers, is strong, and there is a really white space there. Nelvana is really starting to get into that in a big way, although there are many challenges. For example, live-action obviously is harder than animation to dub. There are also many differences in culture and how kids interact.”
● What type of stories are clients demanding?
“I don’t think if there is anything particularly new this year. Obviously, diverse representation on screen continues to be a big focus for everybody. Furthermore, many people are looking for male protagonists on shows, especially live-action, which tends to be more female-led. For animation, clients still want a diverse cast. Comedy is always big, particularly for the 6-11 age group. Nevertheless, tendencies change all the time.”
By Federico Marzullo & Diego Alfagemez