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Christopher Skala, Senior VP Programming, HIT Entertainment

Meet Christopher Skala, Senior VP Programming of HIT Entertainment. Recently, I spoke with Christopher about his work at HIT and their incredibly successful line up of programs.

Christopher joined HIT Entertainment in Autumn 2004 as Vice-President, Programming & Development and was promoted to his current position in December 2005. He refers to himself as a “late-bloomer” who worked as a secretary for longer than his father wanted to see. Yale educated, he took his time before he figured out his true niche. Obviously, he has done that and done it well. At HIT, his responsibilities include overseeing the creative and production of current properties such as Bob the Builder, Thomas & Friends, Pingu, Angelina Ballerina and perennial favorite, Barney. Additionally, he’s the MAN with whom the responsibility lays in developing new programming for HIT.

When asked what his favorite HIT show is, Christopher gulped. I guess it’s like asking a Mom or Dad which of their kids is their favorite. “Actually, I had a favorite when I first came here but after you work with the properties, each one takes on its own special characteristics.” Today, he sees the value in every property, from Barney which “appeals to that kid who needs unconditional love” to Pingu in which the characters speak their own brand of language – penguinese.

I have to admit, I have my own HIT favorites: As a former dancer and avid reader, I was a die-hard Angelina Ballerina fan from the get go. This literature-based animated film tickles my funny-bone. And, my grandson loved Thomas so much when he was four that we thought he’d never outgrow it. But, enough about me. What makes HIT tick and where is it going? Christopher has certainly found many animated hit properties, no pun intended. So, I asked him if they were only going to focus on animated shows. He quickly pointed out that Barney is not an animated show and neither is Thomas. What they are really looking for are excellent properties that can be wholly-owned, wholly-funded or partially funded properties. Literature-based properties are a plus.

What about digital platforms, online presences, all the buzz things that everyone is talking about. How important is that to HIT? What is most important is that they make a great TV show first and foremost. All of those other things weigh in but if they can’t pass criterion #1, they won’t get out of the starting gate. They are looking for new properties, so all you indie producers out there, keep your heads up.

HIT Entertainment PLC is a children’s entertainment company. Its portfolio includes Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu and Guinness World Records. The Company has developed into a mini studio with activities spanning television and video production, publishing, consumer product licensing and live events. With operations in the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Germany and Canada, approximately 45% of its revenue comes from home entertainment sales, with another 45% deriving from consumer product licensing. With over 1,000 episodes of young children’s programming, it sells programs to over 180 territories worldwide.

The latest HIT show that is playing in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival circuit this quarter is ‘Pingu: On Thin Ice.” Created by Swiss animators Otmar Gitman and Harold Muecke, Pingu is a charming, cheeky young penguin who connects with kids of all ages and has a knack for mischief and a flair for flippered fun. Pingu spends his time playing with his friends and family and gets into all sorts of comical situations. Part of his unique appeal lies in his hilarious “penguinese,” and his exceptional ability to turn his beak into a trumpet to express feelings.

Check out these snippets on YouTube:

Pingu is currently seen in the US on PBS KIDS Sprout. The show has received numerous awards and honors including Best Animated Short at BAMKids Film Festival, a Finalist Certificate at the New York Film Festival and the Audience Award at the New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival. For more information on Pingu visit www.hitentertainment.com or http://www.pingu.net/.

About HIT Entertainment
HIT Entertainment, owned by private equity investment group Apax Partners, is one of the world’s leading independent children’s entertainment producers and rights-owners. HIT’s portfolio includes properties, such as Barney™, Bob the Builder™, Thomas & Friends™, Pingu™, Fireman Sam™, Angelina Ballerina™ and Rainbow Magic™. HIT represents Fifi and the Flowertots™ in North America and Japan and acts as a worldwide representative for The Jim Henson Company’s library of classic family brands and as representative for The Wiggles® in the UK. HIT also owns the Guinness World Records™ publishing and television property. Launched in 1989, HIT’s lines of business span television and video production (including studios in the US and the UK), publishing, consumer products licensing and live events. With a catalogue of more than 1,000 hours of young children’s programming, HIT sells its shows to more than 240 countries worldwide, in more than 40 different languages and has operations in the UK, US, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan. In 2005, the Company joined Comcast Corporation, PBS and Sesame Workshop to launch PBS KIDS SproutSM, a 24-hour digital cable channel and VOD service for preschoolers. In 2007, HIT and Chellomedia, the European content division of Liberty Global, Inc and its subsidiary ChelloZone, announced a joint venture to launch and distribute JimJam, an international preschool TV channel (excludes the US, UK and China). For more information, visit http://www.hitentertainment.com/.

According to yesterday’s news, HIT Entertainment is the latest company to join the rush to lend its IP to a theme park based in the oil-rich kingdom of Dubai. (more)

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