Fox Kids Europe becomes Jetix to appeal to boys

Now a Disney company, Fox Kids Europe is rebranding, as Maria Esposito explains. This year will see the gradual demise of the children's broadcasting brand Fox Kids Europe.

By spring 2005, it will have cut all ties with its past as part of the News Corp family and taken on its new name of Jetix Europe across all its channels, programme distribution and consumer divisions.

The rebrand has been a long time coming. FKE switched hands from its joint owners News Corp and Saban Entertainment to the Walt Disney Company back in July 2001. After shelling out $5.3 billion for the Fox Family group, Disney initially planned to capitalise on its own brand's strength and stamp FKE with the Mouse logo.

Three years on, Disney has instead opted to re-invent FKE as Jetix. Rather than merging the boy-skewed channel with Disney's more girl-friendly identity, Jetix was conceived as "a strategic, ad-supported complement to Disney-branded television", Anne Sweeney, the president of ABC Cable Networks Group and Disney Channel Worldwide, says.

Fox and ABC see Jetix as "a word that implies action and adventure and yet could be used in a number of international markets without being a proper name for something else".

It's also a word they think will work for six- to 11-year-old boys tuning into any of FKE's 14 feeds across Europe. "We had 18 different languages to deal with and we wanted to find something relatable to our brand that could be pronounced," Shari Donnenfeld, a senior vice-president of marketing and communications at Jetix Europe, explains.

The brand also brings together the ABC Cable networks and Fox Kids in Europe and Latin America in a joint programming alliance. "It was an important part of the acquisition to up our content," Donnenfeld says. The first fruits of this alliance are the original co-productions WITCH and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go!

While FKE started to phase in blocks branded with the new name in April, the first fully fledged Jetix channel is being rolled out in France later this month. The UK, the most competitive European market for children's broadcasting, will get its own Jetix channel early next year. Along with Spain, Italy and Germany, these territories form part of the broadcaster's "fab five" core markets, followed by The Netherlands, Scandinavia and Central and Eastern Europe.

Whether Jetix will grab FKE's regular advertisers such as Hasbro, Mattel, Lego and Nintendo is a matter of conjecture. Valerie Grezes, the TV media buyer at MindShare, France, believes the proof will be in the programming.

"The success of the brand will depend on the content," she says, a view that is shared by Ulrike Steidel, the head of TV for MediaCom in Germany.

"The name change is not going to affect its position in the market very much," Steidel says.

Initiative's international strategic planning director, Jamie Leach, is alone in seeing beyond the new Jetix label to the alliance's potential pulling power. "We haven't seen the full effect of the change yet," she says, "but the library of content and the new joint resources and programming development are going to give it more leverage."

Number of European feeds: 14

Core markets: France, UK, Spain, Germany, Italy

Total European territories: 58

Typical programming: Action adventure

Typical audience: Six- to 11-year-old boys