Kids’ shows, grown-up returns?
Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 has just signed a deal to create a range of children’s books in English and Arabic. But can entertainment aimed at the ‘little ones’ ever attract big money from Middle East advertisers and marketers?
March 4, 2010 1:14 by Ben Flanagan
Where’s our Harry Potter? Where is the equivalent of Barney, or Winnie the Pooh, in the Arab world? Is Hanifah Montana just a normal schoolgirl, and has Baher the Builder been laid off?
Childish questions, perhaps. But as the multi-billion dollar Harry Potter phenomenon proved, kids’ entertainment can bring with it very adult profits, especially given the associated marketing and advertising opportunities.
Yet the Arab world has not conjured up its own J. K. Rowling, and many say that the content currently available for children is – well, not exactly magical.
That could be about to change. Abu Dhabi’s media zone twofour54 today announced that it has signed a global publishing deal with Macmillan Children’s Books, to create a range of Driver Dan’s Story Train books in Arabic and English. The publishing house is part of Macmillan Publishing, which is in discussions with twofour54 about forming a base in the Abu Dhabi media zone.
Driver Dan (pictured) is an animation and live-action TV series aimed at pre-school children. The rights to the show are owned by twofour54, which signed a deal in early 2009 with 3Line Media of the UK. The English-language version of the show debuted on the BBC earlier this year, while the Arabic version is currently being produced at the twofour54’s production facility in Abu Dhabi.
Wayne Borg, chief operating officer at twofour54, says that the Driver Dan deal was formed due to the relative lack of children’s content in the Arab world – and because the children’s market represents a sound commercial opportunity.
“Freej is a fantastic testament of what’s in the region and what can come from the region,” says Borg, referring to the Emirati-produced animation Freej, which – like The Simpsons – proved popular with both children and adults alike.
“If you look at the size of this region… there’s very little in the way of children’s entertainment. For the size of the population, there should be lots of children’s characters. The reason behind this plays to broader reasons as to why twofour54 is here: there just isn’t the infrastructure [to create such shows],” says Borg.