Summer break is near and kids are rejoicing. But TV programmers aren’t as happy: Camp, vacations and the outdoors will take kids away from their shows.
But for Saban Brands, the TV unit of L.A. billionaire Haim Saban’s empire that owns the “Power Rangers,” there’s a chance to grow its audience this summer – by offering its shows at any time via cable on demand.
Starting this week, episodes of Saban’s “Power Rangers Lost Galaxy” and “Sonic X” will start showing on Kabillion, a cable video-on-demand network of channels in Woodland Hills.
The free Kabillion channels make money by selling ads. It’s a relatively small but growing player in the kids’ entertainment world. It has distribution to some 40 million cable households through such systems as Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Its channels, Kabillion and Kabillion Girls Rule, target kids 6 to 11 and claims about 6 million shows are viewed each month.
Saban is providing Kabillion with programs coming from a block of shows it calls Vortexx, which will be a third channel for Kabillion. The block airs Saturday mornings on the CW network, which airs on KTLA (Channel 5) in Los Angeles. What drove the deal is the need to adapt to changing viewing habits.
“It’s all about being able to reach kids whenever they want (to watch),” said Joel Andryc, president of Saban’s Vortexx division.
In addition to the first two Vortexx shows debuting on Kabillion this week, the anime show “Dragon Ball Z Kai” will launch on the channel in July.
Saban will get a share of ad revenue. Kabillion is hoping that the Saban shows will lure yet more advertisers.
Kabillion’s other shows include “Bratz” – based on the dolls from L.A. toy company MGA Entertainment Inc. – and “Bobby’s World,” a popular cartoon from the 1990s.
In many cases, content owners pay Kabillion a fee to air their programs along with related advertisements. For example, a package would include providing episodes of “Bobby’s World” and an advertisement offering episodes of the program for sale on Amazon.com.
Nicolas Atlan, president at Kabillion, which has four employees, said the model is working.
“We have more and more brands coming to us,” Atlan said.
The network launched in 2007 as a promotional outlet for content produced by parent company Moonscoop LLC, an L.A. producer of kids’ shows that generates about $25 million in revenue a year. Moonscoop’s programs include “Lalaloopsy,” which is also based on MGA dolls.
Moonscoop LLC is an affiliate of Moonscoop Group, which is a Paris-based animation studio.
While Kabillion accounts for a small part of Moonscoop’s business, the channel has been growing lately and pushing for more ambitious deals, such as the one with Saban announced in April.
Vortexx marks a return to kids’ TV for Saban, who popularized the “Power Rangers” in the 1990s, sold it and then bought it back from Walt Disney Co. in 2010.
Saban Brands licenses the rest of the Vortexx programming from other content owners; for example, a professional wrestling program called “WWE Saturday Morning Slam.” The content is primarily aimed at boys 9 to 14.
Frederic Soulie, vice president of distribution at Saban Brands, said he has been expanding distribution not only with Kabillion, but also by putting episodes on Hulu and on a website hosted by the CW.
“We’re focusing on getting the brand out there,” he said.
One reason the deal worked is that Kabillion operates as an independent in a landscape dominated by large corporate media players. For example, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are owned by Time Warner and Viacom, respectively.
But being independent isn’t always an advantage. For example, Kabillion could easily be overlooked when placed next to the likes of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon.
However, Cathy Hetzel, corporate president at Rentrak, a media tracking firm in Portland, Ore., said on-demand viewing provides good exposure for a company such as Kabillion because the focus is more on programs than channels.
“Kabillion has a great chance of being viewed in the world of video on demand … greater than they would on a dial,” she said.
She noted that viewing free video on demand for kids grew 9 percent last year to 4.6 hours a month for each television set.
What’s more, the deal will likely give Kabillion a visibility boost: Saban is heavily promoting the August launch of new programming in the Vortexx block. The company is rolling out an ad campaign that spans cable TV channels, social media and movie screenings.
“Anything to keep the summer viewing levels high,” Saban’s Andryc said.
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