By Yvonne Villarreal
Veteran TV producer Andy Heyward got into the business of children’s programming back when it was mostly relegated to Saturday mornings and when commanding the attention of youngsters didn’t require a touch-screen device.
“That world is long gone,” said Heyward, who spent his early career writing on shows such as “Inspector Gadget” and “Super Mario Bros. Super Show!”
Today, it’s rare to find a child plopped in front of a TV at a certain time to watch a certain show on a certain channel. So Heyward is unveiling his latest animated series the new fashioned way, on YouTube.
His Beverly Hills company, Genius Brands International, which creates and licenses multimedia content, is utilizing YouTube to exclusively launch a new animated property, “SpacePOP.”
Geared toward kids ages 8 to 12, the music and fashion-centric series follows five teenage princesses who disguise themselves as musicians and form a band while they secretly plot to a rebellion against the evil Empress Geela. The series is comprised of over 100 serialized episodes that are each about three minutes in length.
“It’s like Spice Girls meets ‘Star Wars,’” said Heyward, who is chief executive of Genius Brands.
The series arrives at a time when traditional children’s networks are grappling with shifting viewing habits of its core audience. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are clamoring to fill their slates with content that will keep young viewers locked on their services.
“We are a small company,” Heyward said in a phone interview. “We are competing against big giants with unlimited resources like the Walt Disney Co. … Our idea was to launch something for kids who were born into a digital universe, who live in that universe. For them, viewing does not occur on a television set. It most often occurs on a mobile device.”
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"SpacePOP." (Genius Brands International)
“SpacePOP” features a familiar name from within traditional children’s programming, with Steve Banks (head writer and story editor of “SpongeBob SquarePants”) serving as the show’s writer.
Helping on the music side are Grammy Award-winning producer Ron Fair (Fergie and Mary J. Blige) and his singer-songwriter spouse Stefanie Fair, who both worked on the theme music for the series. And music producer and composer John Loeffler (“Kidz Bop” and “Pokémon”) worked on the original music featured on the show.
Each episode will feature a 90-second music video of either original music or cover songs.
The first six videos will debut exclusively on the YouTube SpacePOP channel. Genius Brands will receive a share of the ad revenue generated when people view the videos.
Following the premiere, two new videos will be released each week on YouTube, as well as other digital platforms, Toon Goggles, PopJam, BatteryPOP and the Kid Genius channel on Comcast’s Xfinity on Demand platform. Music featured on the show will also be available on iTunes and Spotify.
"We are thrilled that Genius Brands recognizes the power of YouTube and is leveraging the platform to make their new series available to YouTube viewers around the world,” Angela Y. Lin, head of YouTube Kids and Learning in North America, said in a statement.
Genius Brands is also seeking the help of YouTube influencers, those with large followings who can help increase brand awareness and engagement, to help spread word about the series.
Popular YouTube stars such as Sophia Grace and Angelic, who have more than 2 million subscribers between them, will mention the series on their channels.
“You have to fish in the ponds where the fish are. And you have to have a communication strategy that is going to reach [young viewers] from those they are already watching and talking and listening to,” Heyward said.
The content and music rollout will be followed by a fall 2016 merchandise launch.