Hasbro to back kids programming

Jul 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Looking to get back into the toy licensing and merchandising business in a big way, Hasbro is linking with veteran kids TV series creator Tom Lynch on two series: “Skate,” the new Saturday morning skateboard-based action series to debut in the fall on Teen NBC; and “Caitlin’s Way,” currently airing on Nickelodeon. Under the new agreement, sealed by Carol Monroe, vice president of Hasbro’s Entertainment Division, the Pawtucket, R.I.-based company has agreed to provide advance money for program development and production in exchange for master licensee rights to Tom Lynch Co.’s intellectual series properties.
“I’ve never done anything with a toy manufacturer before,” said Mr. Lynch, whose company currently produces tNBC’s “Just Deal” and Nickelodeon’s “100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd.” “Typically, I had no clue of how to tap into the sort of ancillary revenue that could help fund a larger program slate, and now I have this great partner [Hasbro] with expertise in the merchandising arena.”
Hasbro’s presence in the kids arena was scaled back when Claster Television (producer of “Romper Room” and “G.I. Joe”), in which it had an equity investment, closed its doors a couple of years back. Hasbro recently has been seeking out licensing relationships with Fox Kids Network on its computer-generated “Action Man” and on a relaunch of the “Transformers” franchise.
But the company’s link with Mr. Lynch on tNBC’s “Skate” perhaps also signals Hasbro’s interest in similarly developing video game properties through its association with Tiger Electronics.
“I met with [Hasbro] Chairman Alan Hassenfeld, who showed preliminary interest in what we’re doing with `Skate’-though it is too early to say they’re necessarily going to develop a game property out of it,” Mr. Lynch said. “It does seem like it would offer an ideal extension for `Skate,’ because many of those teens and kids who are wrapped in the world of skateboarding also love playing with hand-held and desktop video games.”
Hasbro’s Ms. Monroe could not be reached for comment.
In particular, Mr. Lynch and “Skate” co-creator Chris Mack claim that more than 25 million youths and adults are recreational skateboarders. Lee Gaither, NBC’s president of Saturday morning and daytime programming, is so high on “Skate’s” prospects for tapping into the craze he has signed off on Mr. Lynch’s plans to shoot the series in the high-definition television format.
Mr. Lynch and David Sloan, who is also serving as an executive producer of “Skate,” said by using mini high-def cameras, they will be able to mount cameras in skateboarders’ helmets and on skateboards.
“Having the ability to mount the cameras on helmets or under ramps will allow us to capture a whole different dimension of skateboarding, including those who love to grind against rails and curbs,” Mr. Sloan said. “Professional and amateur skateboarders love to see their work in a visual medium, where it is set to music and is offered in a heightened perspective.”
Mr. Mack, who has written for ABC’s “The Practice” and NBC’s “ER,” said producing “Skate” in the high-def format will allow the producers to see “dailies” immediately, then possibly make any changes “on the fly” in terms of reshooting scenes or rewriting the script.
“Skate,” which will begin shooting next month in Vancouver, British Columbia, is about a 15-year-old boy who works for an online video magazine and dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder.
“What is compelling about `Skate’ is that it is a story about a teen-ager who is trying to reach his goals and establish his own creative channel of expression; that’s at the heart of the story,” Mr. Lynch said. “But the show will also be filled with all kinds of cool grinding action to boot.”