Federico Vargas, VP, Distribution, 9 Story Media Group


Kids Focus: Federico Vargas, VP, Distribution, 9 Story Media Group

ContentAsia talks to kids programmers about surfacing content, YouTube, Asia's acquisition habits, monetising kids content and what they think the biggest influences in 2020 will be...

Federico Vargas, VP, Distribution, 9 Story Media Group

Discoverability is as much an issue among kids’ programmers as among any other genre in the streaming universe. Do you have a preferred strategy for surfacing content?
"We believe that it is partially the responsibility of the producer and/or distributor to help ensure that content is discoverable. At 9 Story we like to build brand awareness through social media and other marketing efforts in order to support what our partner platforms are doing, which is primarily driven by algorithms".

Is there anything you wish platforms would do to improve discoverability?
"The SVOD platforms are quite sophisticated with their on-platform marketing efforts, including targeting different niche communities with specific content. Our SVOD partners are also producing incredible marketing materials when it comes to trailers and key art which can have a huge impact on discoverability. We’d love to see all the on-platform efforts work in conjunction with YouTube and other off-platform opportunities, but you are beginning to see that more and more."

If kids, as is commonly thought, live mostly on YouTube, what’s your approach to streaming video? Do you have a YouTube-first policy?

"When it comes to YouTube, we tend to customise our approach depending on the property and the platforms. Often, broadcasters are now turning to YouTube first to help build an audience for series premieres. We saw this with PBS Kids for Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum as well as with Nickelodeon for Top Wing. For us, it is important to make connections with kids wherever they are watching."

Are you seeing any significant changes in the way kids’ buyers are acquiring content in/for Asia?

"As the media landscape evolves, buyers are evolving alongside it. Consequently, we are now seeing a greater focus on acquiring bundles of rights that encompass multiple platforms, including OTT, linear, and free-TV."

Did monetising kids’ content in Asia become more difficult in 2019? Why?
"Monetising kids’ content globally and specifically in Asia has always come with its difficulties and challenges, and 2019 has been no exception. Again, as media consumption habits change so does the monetisation of kids’ content. Our strategy is to focus on more creative approaches to finding new homes and slots for our content."

Do you think it will become easier to monetise kids’ content in 2020?
"As the market continues to re-align with the new streaming era, there will be more and more stable slots and niche focused platforms for kids’ content. However, this space has always come with challenges and monetising kids’ content will require fresh, creative approaches."

What do you think will have the biggest influence on kids programming (production and distribution) in Asia in 2020?
"The biggest impact facing our industry today is the way kids are consuming their content. Audience consumption habits are changing rapidly, which means that production and distribution companies like ourselves have to be on our toes as we try to work with new distribution platforms to build brand awareness for our content."

What industry sector in Asia acquires the most from you (free-TV, pay-TV, streaming, others)?
"Platforms and buyers are seeking bundles of rights. There is no longer one predominant platform, rather we are managing a jigsaw puzzle of rights that includes free-TV, pay-TV, streaming, and other distribution platforms, such as social media."

How have rights negotiations for kid’s content changed in the past year or so?
"It’s not so much that rights negotiations have changed, but instead that they are adapting to the consumer demands put on the content platforms. In this new time of bundled rights management, more than ever rights negotiations are about optimising concurrent channels and modes of distribution to increase brand awareness."

How critical is licensing and merchandising to your business in Asia? Will this change in 2020?

"We recently established our 9 Story Brands division which predominantly focuses on English-speaking territories at the moment. However, it will be of critical importance in the years to come as our AsiaPac business capitalises on the close working relationship between distribution and consumer products."

Excerpts of this interview were published in ContentAsia's print magazine for the ATF 2019