Nelvana time buys could plug Fox Kids gap

Nov 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Fox Kids Network is said to be holding talks with Toronto-based Nelvana Entertainment for the latter to produce and make time buys for educational and entertainment series programming in its Saturday morning lineup next season, according to ad-buying sources.
Those talks follow Fox Kids’ recent announcement that it is exiting the weekday afternoon kids business at the end of the year.
With Disney-owned ABC closing its $5.2 billion acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide, including the former Fox Family Channel on cable, Fox officials are looking for ways to minimize investment in new kids programming-particularly educational series its stations are required to air under the FCC’s Children’s Educational TV Act of 1996.
Because the deal transferred former Saban Entertainment and Fox Family Worldwide series library assets to Disney/ABC, Fox Kids Network now has to pay license fees for such top-rated Saturday morning shows as “Power Rangers” and “Digimon: Digital Monsters.”
Under one scenario being mentioned by a pair of ad-buying sources, Nelvana is being considered to produce several hours of entertainment or educational series and would lease the airtime on Fox. In exchange, Nelvana could share ad revenues and ancillary toy merchandising sales with Fox. Since Fox already has a sales force in place, sources speculate Fox would sell the ad time on a commission basis.
“By going after Nelvana, other series producers and toy licensees, Fox could look to similarly have the development and production of entertainment series covered because it is essentially out of the ownership business,” said a New York-based ad buyer who requested anonymity.
NBC is also reportedly looking for producers to take over its three-hour Saturday morning block, currently occupied by its teen TNBC shows. The network is said to be looking at a similar arrangement where producers would essentially make time buys on the network for their programming.
Preliminary talks between Fox and Nelvana and other children’s series producers are said to be overseen by Patrick Connelly, who recently took over the programming reins of Fox Kids Network as vice president. Mr. Connelly has replaced former FKN and Fox Family Channel President Maureen Smith, who moved over to ABC Family Channel at the close of the Disney acquisition. Fox Kids Network is now under the overall purview of Sandy Grushow, chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group.
Mr. Connelly and Nelvana Entertainment President Toper Taylor were unreachable for comment on any negotiations or potential deal.
Currently, Nelvana produces and licenses to FKN the animated series “Medabots,” which, at a 4.4 rating/17 share in the key boys 6 to 11 demographic, is Fox’s top-rated Saturday morning show this season.
Fox, in helping its affiliates and owned stations meet the three-hours-per-week FCC requirements for educational kids series, has been licensing Nelvana’s former PBS series “The Magic School Bus.” However, with the show out of production for the last three years and having only 52 episodes in the can, the multiple airings of it could be running out of steam and raising FCC questions about the lack of new educational series content on Fox stations.