For the past week, the Intercontinental Miami has been home to the world’s most significant annual children’s entertainment pow-wow, Kidscreen Summit.
Globally, kid’s entertainment is a booming, ever-expanding industry with hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue each year. In the U.S., children account for 23 percent of the population (74 million people). With many household kid’s brands having made their market debut at Kidscreen Summit — including PJ Masks and YouTube Kids — it’s little wonder why a who’s who of kids' media giants including Disney, Amazon Studios, Jim Henson, BBC Studios, PBS Kids, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Mattel, and attendees from over fifty countries make it a priority to descend upon Miami each February, hunting for the next big hit.
Produced by Kidscreen Magazine, the Summit originated in New York City, and moved to Miami five years ago seeking a more travel-friendly winter destination, and the added appeal of the city’s cuisine, nightlife and culture.
Sunny Lauridsen, V.P. of Licensing for L.A.-based toy company, Just Play, a key vendor for Walmart and other major retailers, says, “The business is ever-changing. Teen star, JoJo Siwa, posted a video about her singing doll. Children everywhere saw it and five thousand of her dolls were sold that day – on a Wednesday. Then there’s Ryan’s Toy Review; a popular YouTube channel hosted by an eight year old with a following big enough that he’s now a media influencer. So as a toy company, it’s important to attend Kidscreen. Getting close to the content creators is a really big opportunity.”
Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children's, a trusted brand for 85 years, says attending Kidscreen Summit and meeting the industry’s most creative minds is essential to staying fresh. “The children’s media diet has grown very diverse with i-Player, music, games, live events, TV, theme parks, apps, online streaming, you name it. We want a piece of all of that, and we want to offer children world class content. Children deserve the very, very best.”
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As the major players set up splashy business spaces throughout the Intercontinental, homespun producers from around the world shopped their wares in hopes of a sale. One of these is Brooklyn producer Reyna Gobel, co-creator of the YouTube hit, Woof Woof Travels, a charming doggy travel series told from the point of view of a sweater-wearing Schnauzer. In one episode, we follow Woof Woof to Finland at Christmas where he meets Santa Claus while finding pet-friendly adventures and lodging.
“Kidscreen Summit has a very relaxed, welcoming and casual vibe, which is quite unique in our industry’s calendar of events,”says Kidscreen Publisher, Jocelyn Christie. “What that means is that our 2,000-plus attendees can make connections easily and organically. Some of the biggest deals we’ve been the backdrop for have started as naturally as a chat in the lunch line or the elevator.”
It is a refreshingly friendly conference. One afternoon, I suddenly found myself having lunch with Angus Killick, V.P. and Associate Publisher of MacMillan’s Children’s Publishing Group, whom I had never met before. Killick told me, “MacMillan has a considerable amount of Intellectual Property and we wanted to leverage it in the entertainment licensing and marketing space. Everyone’s here and approachable. It’s a rare business environment where magical things can and do happen.”
Christie adds, “I joined the Kidscreen team fresh out of university in 1998 and always said I would move on when I got bored. It’s been nearly 21 years and I’m just as engaged and fascinated as I was on day one. There’s something about kid’s entertainment that gets into your blood and makes it impossible to imagine working in any other part of the industry.”