French-Spanish group Amuse Animation – with hubs in Paris, London, Beijing and the Canary Islands – has recently inked broadcasting deals for Latin America and Middle East/North Africa, for over 540 episodes of its popular YouTube shows, including “Shark Academy,” “Miliki Family,” “RoboFuse,” “AnimaCars” and “Increditales.”
Founded in 2014 by Arthur Lener, Amuse Animation began as a multi-channel network (MCN) supplying third-party content to YouTube and soon began producing shows for global pre-school audiences. Fueled in part by the pandemic, many pre-school viewers have migrated to YouTube and linear broadcasters are interested in bringing them back by acquiring content from digital-first studios.
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Amuse Animation has embraced what it calls a 360º content strategy, combining digital and broadcasting content. It is repackaging its extensive library of shows – mainly short format of five minutes or less per episode – to secure deals with linear broadcasters.
This spring it plans to launch a dedicated multi-region fully localized themed preschool FAST channel (Free Ad-Supported TV channel), with a global FAST channel provider.
Linear TV deals have recently been signed for Latin American rights with Mexican network, TV Azteca and with Dominican Republic’s Guest Choice, complemented by deals with public broadcaster RTVC in the Canaries, and with MBC for the Middle East-North Africa region.
The digital first approach has delivered particularly strong results in China, leading it to open a dedicated office in Beijing, to sell its own IPs, and since 2023 as a distributor of third party content. Lener says that his company has regularly ranked in the top 10 IPs of Chinese platforms iQiyi, Youku and Tencent and has been named Tencent’s best cooperation partner twice over the last five years.
Amuse Animation also provides 2D and 3D animation production services for third parties, including “Molang,” “Louie,” “Tulipop” and “Odd-Paw Vet” for Hasbro, and is currently in production on Hasbro eOne’s first ever digital-led preschool animated series.
The group has around 80 staff. The Paris office, managed by Lener, is responsible for distribution, co-production and strategy. The main production base, with 70% of its staff, is located in Gran Canaria, Spain, where the group benefits from the 54% animation tax rebate scheme, joining a plethora of animation producers who have moved to the archipelago.
Amuse Animation’s strategy is to build high-end IP that works across all broadcasters, from YouTube to platforms and television channels. At the same time, it is expanding its digital-first footprint outside of YouTube, overseen by Jiella Esmat, chief revenue officer, based in the London office, who was previously senior director of distribution and content partnerships for Moonbug.
Existing shows have been repackaged for linear broadcasting and adapted to the needs of each market.
“The global marketplace has been impacted by reduced advertising revenue, which has squeezed investment in new original shows for YouTube,” explains Esmat. “That provides an opportunity for distributing existing content. Our catalog is ready for premium distribution, and we’re also creating a lot of themed and tentpole compilations. We can give broadcasters bundles of content that they can program easily, backed up by hard viewership data.”
Lener says that the knowledge and skills learned from YouTube have helped the group develop projects with competitive advantages that can be attractive to premium broadcasters.
“As a digital-first company we have developed a lean, cost-efficient approach, based on our research into why certain shows perform much better than others. For example, studying the data showed us that vehicle-based shows were performing much better than ones with cats, dogs or other animals. We learned how the viewing figures depended on the theme of each episode, the rhythm, story hooks, introduction, character design, sound design. Even something as simple as the thumbnail for the episode can influence almost 50% of its performance.”
To ensure a cost-efficient approach, the group uses proprietary software, further leveraged by the Canaries’ 54% animation tax rebate. Lener says that the concept for each show must also be tailored to the available budget.
As a French-Spanish group all of its shows qualify as European productions. “Our content is 100% qualifiable for the European Union’s Audio Visual Media Services directive,” explains Esmat. “This is an advantage when we talk to broadcasters and platforms.”
The group is now looking to secure deals with French broadcasters and potentially develop shows that can combine production in both France and the Canaries, thereby tapping into the tax incentives that exist in both.
“Whether it’s TF1, M6, Canal+ or even Disney, there are many opportunities to coproduce content with French partners,” concludes Lener. “We haven’t done so yet, because we have been focused on digital. But now that we are preparing premium IPs, this will definitely be a very good occasion for us to test out capacities and to use our French nationality to work with French players.”
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