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Showtime Makes Name in Kids Space

While Showtime has made great strides in reaching minority audiences with its original movies and series, it has also been quite successful in attracting younger viewers through its family-oriented original movies.

Targeting 8-to-14-year-olds, Showtime Originals Pictures For All Ages has long garnered critical acclaim. This May, the franchise captured five awards at the 29th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, highlighted by My Louisiana Sky's win for outstanding children's special — the fifth consecutive year the premium network has claimed that honor.

The franchise also has brought new audiences to the pay TV service by tackling tough and often controversial issues that other networks won't touch, according to Showtime executive vice president of programming Ann Foley.

Kids-targeted original programming isn't new for the network — in the mid-1990s, Showtime produced such teen-oriented series as Shelly Duval's Bedtime Stories
and The Busy World of Richard Scarey.
But recently, the network scrapped its series production to concentrate on feature-length movies. This year it will produce seven original films, with another six to eight scheduled for 2003, Foley said. With an average budget of $3 million per movie — well below adult-oriented Showtime original flicks — Foley said Showtime's movies have drawn younger viewers by often broaching issues eschewed by other programmers.

The network's movies have dealt with the horrors of the Holocaust

(The Devil's Arithmetic) and race relations (Just A Dream). October's Bang Bang You're Dead
examines school violence as experienced through a young adult's eyes.

"Over time I think that family-oriented movies have come to mean inoffensive movies, but we've been fortunate enough to work with writers and actors that have a deep-seeded passion about certain issues that aren't always talked about," Foley said.

Still, she admits that the subject matter of several films may be too intense for the younger end of the network's target group. Consequently, Showtime provides much information to allow parents to determine whether a movie is appropriate for their children.

Foley said the network tries to market the movies to parents through on-air promotions. Many of its movies are based on popular books, which helps build awareness and familiarity among adults.

"One of the things that we're trying to do is to get parents to bring their children over to the network," she said. "If we do our job properly, we're producing movies that parents are interested in watching with their children — and often on their own," Foley said.

For its October debut of Bang Bang You're Dead, Showtime will use more conventional marketing efforts. The network will work with the National Education Association and parents groups to aid in the movie's promotion.