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Kid TV Series Hit DVD in a Big Way

19 Oct, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

Children's entertainment is slowly but surely migrating to DVD, fueled by hot kiddie TV series from “Sesame Street” to “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

“Last year was a big breakthrough in children's TV programming on DVD,” said Martin Blythe, VP of publicity for Paramount Home Entertainment. “And this year, we have significantly increased the number of our franchise series coming to DVD.”

Indeed, Paramount is one of the major players in this space, with the rich Nickelodeon line that includes such top-selling franchises as “SpongeBob,” “Rugrats,” “Jimmy Neutron,” “Dora The Explorer” and others.

Also stepping up their output are such suppliers as Warner Home Video, with Cartoon Network fare and other programming; Sony Wonder, which distributes “Sesame Street” on DVD, among other properties; and independent suppliers Artisan Home Entertainment and Image Entertainment.

According to the DVD Release Report, about 280 nontheatrical children's titles were released on disc last year, up from just 88 in 2001 and 62 in 2000. So far this year the tally stands at 294, a significant percentage of which originated on TV.

Analyst Tom Adams of Adams Media Research said the flood of kiddie TV shows coming to DVD was triggered by the rapid transition of families from VHS to DVD in the last year or so.

“And people overall are buying more product -- about a dozen titles a year, more than twice what it was in the heyday of VHS,” he said.

Glenn Ross, president of Artisan's Family Home Entertainment (FHE) division, has scored with several “Clifford the Big Red Dog” compilations and special-edition DVDs of vintage “Speed Racer” cartoons. FHE also has marketed miniseries from Hallmark, including “Merlin,” “Gulliver's Travels” and “Dinotopia.”

“Children's product has always been strong in the marketplace,” Ross said. With DVD, however, he maintains “you need to have more integrity in the way you choose your programming.”

In FHE's case, that often means special features that are both fun and educational. “We use special features as a way to help immerse the kids in the fantasy, and to elevate the property,” Ross said.

On Dinotopia, for example, DVD buyers got such extras as a maze game, hidden footage, a 3-D motion picture gallery, tips for the related Game Boy game and deleted scenes not shown on TV.

Artisan is hardly alone. Interactive games, music videos, and edutainment bonus features are just some of the ways suppliers are taking advantage of DVD's greater storage capacity.

As in the VHS days, the kid TV fare that does best on DVD tends to be highly rated shows on familiar branded channels like Nickelodeon, PBS or the Cartoon Network.

Both parents and children “migrate toward the brands they trust,” Ross said.

“Parents and children know their favorite TV series and zero in on them at retail,” Paramount's Blythe said. “Our work as marketers is to make them aware that a new release [of their favorite show] is hitting the market and use the DVD format to add more value for their money.”

The upcoming boxed set of the complete first season of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which Paramount is releasing Oct. 28, is “loaded with special features, but it's aimed squarely at the family -- not just kids, but adults, as well,” Blythe said.

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