03/15/17: Rita Ferro outlines Disney’s Upfront model; Rovio/CAKE all smiles over new Angry Birds; Cartoon OKs latest multi-screen launch


Good morning. It’s Wednesday March 15, 2017 and this is your first early morning Kids briefing.


Disney Media will wrap its kids and family Upfront today in Orlando. In an interview Rita Ferro, president of sales for Disney-ABC, gave CynKids the playbook for how the company aims to top its 2016 Upfront  which yielded a 20 percent spike in ad commitment volume across Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and Radio Disney, among other properties. With content including live-action series Andi Mack set to bow on Disney Channel, a new Guardians of the Galaxy season on tap for Disney XD and a new Muppet Babies headed to Disney Junior, “The importance of multiple screens and how we think about the ecosystem from linear to OTT to apps to our games has never been more important” in a continuing measurement-challenged environment, Ferro says. “Advertisers are challenged to figure out how to measure kids. The common currency isn’t keeping up with kids’ move to different platforms. We know kids are the earliest adopters of those platforms so bringing to bear all of the possible touch points across an execution of a media commitment from a company is going to be the focus for us from a television and video perspective.”

To help fill the gaps, Disney is showcasing for clients a suite of tools to gauge accountability across screens, social media and live events, including the April 29 Radio Disney Music Awards. “We’ve built multiplatform tools, we also have very rich third-party data from our data management platform, and we’ve done some qualitative studies around that show the impact and halo effect and intent to purchase on programs and partnerships that have been done across Disney.” The toy and studio categories point to another robust market, Ferro says. “Toy Fair was really strong, there’s a lot of growth in that area, and the studio slate next year across all studios is really strong. So when you think about the anchors that move the kids and family marketplace, those two categories take such a big share of the market that when they are robust it tends to be a robust year.” Additionally, co-viewing engagement and the impact kids have on purchasing decisions, especially in millennial families, is opening new doors. “There are a lot of brands that want to do things in the space to drive incremental revenue that are different than their traditional media buys in the past,” she says.

Ferro in February was promoted to her role overseeing sales operations across all Disney-ABC broadcast, cable and digital teams except for ESPN from her post as EVP of Disney Media Sales and Marketing for Disney Channels Worldwide. The complete integration of company ad sales won’t happen until after this year’s Upfront, she tells CynKids, but conversations with clients are under way. “This Upfront will likely be very flexible. The broad and across [the portfolio] conversations are more at the agency level, and to an extent across some of our key strategic clients,” she says. “And then there are others… if you think about some of the toy brands, they are driven by our kids and family portfolio however there will likely be an opportunity given the integrated structure to bring other pieces into that conversation as well.”

Nickelodeon debuted an on-air and online brand refresh over the weekend at the 2017 Kids’ Choice Awards. Created with Buenos Aires-based Superestudio, the new look consists of close to 300 deliverables  including bumpers, IDs, promo toolkits and graphic developments  that focus on the power of imagination via an array of kids interacting with the real world and classic Nick characters in mixes of live-action and graphics. Updated elements for the network’s international channels will follow. Among updates, Nick’s classic orange logo is now set against an updated color palette including purple, light blue, lime and cream.




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Still angry: Angry Birds Blues, a new edgy comedy series for 6-12 year olds starring the boisterous blue birds and hatchlings from The Angry Birds Movie, is taking flight. Angry Birds Blues follows the antics of mischievous bluebird triplets Jake, Jay and Jim who, when not under the watchful eyes of their doting parents, charge into uproarious and outrageous escapades on Bird Island. Series, teased during the end credits of The Angry Birds Movie, is produced by Rovio Entertainment Ltd and distributed worldwide by CAKE, which will be shopping the series at MIPTV.

Cartoon Network greenlighted animated series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, created by Ian Jones-Quartey and produced by Cartoon Network Studios. Series is set in Lakewood Plaza, a mall for heroes, and follows an endlessly optimistic kid attempting to be the best he can be in a dynamic universe of friends and challenging foes. Cartoon is also developing an integrated console and PC game with indie game studio Capybara Games, due out later in the fall. The net offered a sneak peek of the series at SXSW this week; it’s slated to premiere this summer in the U.S. and will later roll out globally.

Competition series Paradise Run is getting a third season on Nickelodeon, and Daniella Monet (Victorious) will be back as host. Paradise Run follows three teams of kids racing across a luxurious resort in Hawaii and competing in a sequence of funny and adrenaline-pumping challenges to win a paradise vacation. Production will begin in Hawaii this spring. The series is produced by Stone & Company, with Scott A. Stone and Marcus Fox serving as exec producers.

Disney XD ordered an early second season of Big Hero 6 The Series before the first season premieres this fall, with Emmy winners Mark McCorkle, Bob Schooley and Nick Filippi (Kim Possible) as executive producers. Based on Disney’s feature film inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, the series continues the adventures and friendship of 14-year-old tech genius Hiro and his compassionate, cutting-edge robot Baymax. It stars Maya Rudolph as Aunt Cass, Jamie Chung as Go Go, Scott Adsit as Baymax, Ryan Potter as Hiro and features Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.


MTV is mixing it up. After 25 years, the network is expanding its screen-focused awards show with the reimagined MTV Movie & TV Awards. The new incarnation, which will include honors for the best in young-appeal television, will air live Sunday, May 7 at 8p. Host, nominations, performers and presenters are TBA. “We’re living in a golden age of content, and great storytelling and characters resonate regardless of whether you’re watching it in a theater or on TV,” said MTV president Chris McCarthy. Additionally, fans at the Shrine Auditorium event can experience the daylong inaugural Movie & Television Festival with musical acts, special guests and food, leading up to red carpet arrivals. For her second consecutive year, Casey Patterson will serve as exec producer of the show with MTV’s Garrett English. Official sponsors include Always, Diamond Producers Assn., Taco Bell and Toyota.

Ellen DeGeneres, Fifth Harmony, the Ghostbusters, Kevin Hart, Chris Hemsworth, Little Mix, Jace Norman, Zendaya were among those who took home orange blimps at Nickelodeon’s 2017 Kids’ Choice Awards on Saturday, March 11. This year’s show put the power of choice in the hands of kids at home with an interactive digital experience like never before. Kids had the opportunity to choose what happens live during the show by casting votes to determine the outcome of multiple stunts, including Jack Griffo and Kira Kosarin competing in the “chubby bunny” challenge, and Big Sean and Bethany Mota tossing t-shirts into the audience.


Walk the Prank, the Disney XD series that blends scripted comedy with elaborate hidden-camera pranks, kicks off its second season with two back-to-back eps on April Fool’s Day, Saturday, April 1 at 11a on Disney XD, the Disney XD app, VOD and Disney XD’s YouTube. Among guest stars on tap for season 2 are Zendaya, Veronica Dunne, and Kamil McFadden (all from sister series K.C. Undercover), plus NFL and WWE athletes. The new season will be ushered in with an all-day Walk the Prank marathon featuring a variety of fan-favorite episodes from season 1, beginning at 6a on April 1. Series was created and exec-produced by Adam Small (Mad TV) and Trevor Moore (Whitest Kids U Know) and hails from Horizon Productions.


The advanced rate for our Cynopsis World eSports Summit ends on March 22. With no sign of slowing down, enthusiasm & engagement for competitive gaming is on the rise and smart marketers around the world are paying close attention. With over 30 expert speakers, we’ll cover the current climate, what it takes to launch an eSports event, the future of this ever-changing industry + much more.
Sponsors & Partners: Go To Team, PromaxGAMES, Polygon, Bruin Sports Capital, theScore, eSports Ad Bureau, rEvolution, rEvXP.


Sony’s PlayStation Now will be adding a slate of PS4 games to the streaming service this year. Noted on the company blog, Sony said PS4 games will be available on a standard PlayStation Now subscription, and that this spring it plans to launch a private beta for current PlayStation Now subscribers to test out PS4 games on the service.

A 12-episode series of Rocket and Groot short films, starring the two titular characters from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and set before the Galaxy action, will begin rolling out on the Disney XD app, one per day, beginning March 27. Animated by Passion Pictures based on designs by comic book artist Skottie Young, four of the films also will be posted on YouTube beginning March 27. A compilation of all shorts will premiere on the Disney XD network April 10 at 7a. The full Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 series bows on XD on May 5.

To complement the release of live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, Disney is releasing new themed updates across some of its digital offerings including Beauty and the Beast figurines and worlds for Disney Crossy Road; new tales, including The Enchantment, World of Reading: Beauty and the Beast, for Disney Story Central; and new digital assets in the App Store for iMessage. Additionally, a standalone Beauty and the Beast mobile game is in development for launch this summer.


Kerry Washington, Nathan Fillion and Lea DeLaria (Orange Is The New Black) joined the voice cast of Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3, set for release this June 16. Returning Cars cast mates include Owen Wilson and Larry The Cable Guy. The latest road picks up when Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves, and needs the help of an eager young race technician to get back in the game. Brian Fee is directing.

Not everyone has musical fever. DreamWorks Animation pulled the plug on its animated rock’n’roll-infused film Larrikins, about the road tripping antics of a desert-dwelling marsupial and was to star an Aussie-heavy cast of Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie and Naomi Watts. Co-director Tim Minchin, composer and lyricist for Matilda The Musical, announced on his blog that the project had been “shut down.” His blog read, in part, “I’ve recently been working in 3 different continents, missing my kids a lot, sleeping too little and not playing piano enough. And then a couple of days ago, the animated film to which I’ve dedicated the last 4 years of my life was shut down by the new studio execs.”

David Pimentel, who was head of story on Disney’s Moana, and Douglas Sweetland (Storks) are on board to direct Darkmouth, Alcon Entertainment’s animated fantasy feature film based on Shane Hegarty’s children’s book series. The action will center on an over-eager kid who prematurely jumps into the family business of hunting monsters. Canyon Creek Films’ Simon Brooks and 8:38’s Kira Davis will produce, with Craig Peck and Alcon’s Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.

Conglomerate Media and Kingsway Productions released the first trailer for their live-action version of The Little Mermaid starring Shirley MacLaine, Poppy Drayton (Downton Abbey), William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Loreto Peralta (Instructions Not Included) and Gina Gershon (Empire). The film is due for release this year and offers a different take on the 1837 classic, centering on a young girl and her older brother, a reporter, who travels to a small town in Mississippi to find a woman believed to be the real Little Mermaid.

Release of Disney’s film Beauty And The Beast has been postponed in Malaysia despite approval by local authorities. The Associated Press reports the majority Muslim country’s Censorship Board gave an OK to the live-action update with what Chairman Abdul Halim characterized as “a minor cut involving a gay moment.” The movie was then given a PG-13 rating but is now postponed pending an “internal review,” Disney’s Malaysian office told local paper The Star. Halim told the AP he did not know why the film had been pulled.


Steve Milovich, SVP of human resources for the Disney-ABC Television Group, is leaving the company after 15 years; he’s been in the top HR post since 2009.

Cathy Applefeld Olson

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
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