Youku inks global partnerships with BBC Studios, Genius Brands, Viacom

MUMBAI: Alibaba-owned Youku has entered into partnerships with global entertainment companies BBC Studios, Genius Brands and Viacom International Media Networks to co-produce and distribute a series of children’s animations.

Earlier this week at the entertainment industry’s annual Mipcom conference, in Cannes, France, Youku signed a memorandum of understanding with Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), a division of Viacom, while striking a deal with BBC Studios to distribute content from its kids’ channel, CBeebies.

The memorandum with VIMN includes a multiyear partnership in producing, distributing and developing merchandise for an original animated series with the working title, ‘Little Luban’. The show is based on the legend of master builder Lu Ban, who lived during the Zhou Dynasty in ancient China.

While the family-friendly series is inspired by Chinese culture, Youku Kids General Manager Aaron Liao said the characters and themes would resonate with global audiences.

“We look forward to not just bringing the series to Chinese viewers, but also sharing these characters with children and families across the world,” Liao said.

Nina Hahn, senior vice president of Nickelodeon’s International Production and Development division at Viacom International Media Networks, called the show a natural brand fit. “We are looking forward to developing the project into something that kids around the world will watch with love,” she said.

For BBC, Youku Kids said it would deliver more than 100 hours of CBeebies content, including ‘Yakka Dee’, ‘My World Kitchen’, ‘My Pet and Me’ and the hit Australian show ‘Bluey’, the story of a Blue Heeler puppy and her family. ‘Bluey’ premiered on Youku Kids on Tuesday.

Australian animated series “Bluey” was nominated for an International Emmy Kids Award in the Preschool category this week.

Youku will partner with Genius Brands International to co-produce Stan Lee’s “Superhero Kindergarten,” an animated action-adventure series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger, who plays the lead character, is one of the shows executive producers. Fabian Nicieza, who co-created “Deadpool,” will script the series.

The 52-part series tells the story of kindergarteners who developed superpowers after a superhero battle blanketed their small town in cosmic radiation. Captain Courage, voiced by Schwarzenegger, trains the kids to control their superpowers.

Genius Brands Chairman and CEO Andy Heyward called Youku one of the world’s most innovative media platforms, with an ‘unparalleled ability to integrate entertainment and commerce’. “We look forward to collaborating with Youku to create a high-quality program in the preschool space that will resonate with a global audience,” he said.

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