Jeremy Dickson / Kidscreen
With the Canadian broadcasting system poised to enter a new, more consumer-friendly SVOD era, thanks to regulator CRTC’s major playbook re-write in March, Corus’s top-rated children’s network YTV has been busy preparing for the future. But its strategy, according to Corus Kids’ head and VP of television Colin Bohm, hasn’t changed drastically.
“We continue to see strong originals like Some Assembly Required and Max & Shred drive a lot of ratings, and obviously our renewed Nickelodeon output deal ensures that exclusive first-run Nick content will continue to air on YTV,” says Bohm. “It’s a brave new world and we’ve decided strategically to build scale in kids. It’s our greatest challenge, but we believe that our recent content partnerships, combined with our own brand offering, will help us emerge from a pick-and-pay world in a healthy spot.”
One of the media conglomerate’s more significant new partnerships came in April when it announced a long-term, wide-ranging licensing deal with Disney ABC Television Group to launch Disney Channel in the Canadian TV market for the first time.
When asked how YTV will co-exist alongside Disney Channel once it debuts on September 1, Bohm says he’s not concerned about the channels potentially competing against each other. “I don’t see the fact that we will be managing Disney Channel changing anything,” he asserts. “It will give us an opportunity for more complementary scheduling, depending on which shows best serve the particular needs of kids.”
Looking ahead, YTV will continue to reach kids no matter where they are, says Bohm, pointing to the channel’s website, VOD offering, and in-house and third-party developed apps and games as ways to leverage its linear programming. In addition, its new long-term deal with Nickelodeon gives Corus exclusive rights to all Nick content across digital and linear platforms in Canada. “The Nick deal gives us a chance to really broaden that product offering. In the world of digital, we’re just getting started,” says Bohm.
A TV Everywhere app for YTV is also expected to launch this fall after Corus rolls out its first TV Everywhere app for its preschool net Treehouse this summer. “The apps, for the moment, will feature most of the content that is currently on linear. We have to first make sure that kids can enjoy the content we have, regardless of the screen. The secondary focus would be a TV Everywhere exclusive,” says Bohm.
Holding down the top spot as Canada’s number-one kids channel targeting kids ages six to 11, YTV’s lineup includes a mix of original, character-driven animation and live-action comedy series, popular shows from Nickelodeon and blockbuster family movies. Bohm says primetime live-action sitcoms continue to rate well on the channel, including YTV, Nickelodeon and Breakthrough Entertainment co-pro Max & Shred, as well as Nick series The Thundermans. For original animation, Numb Chucks from Toronto’s 9 Story Media Group remains a hit, and Bohm foresees more success in the series’ future.
As for new pick-ups, Bohm is anticipating great things for Make It Pop, a half-hour tween sitcom produced by Canada’s DHX Media that’s expected to make its YTV debut this summer. “Make It Pop is something a little different for us with its music angle. It really caught our eye,” says Bohm, noting that Corus will be spending as much on original Canadian productions as it has in the past. “Those rules haven’t changed. We need great new content for YTV and our other channels,” he says.
Personal connections Another area of differentiation for YTV is its top-rated hosted school block The Zone, and its accompanying cross-Canada Summer Road Trip event, both of which continue to be popular with fans, says Bohm. “It gives YTV a face, engages kids directly and is a good reminder—for us—of the power of our brands.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Kidscreen