A Mul­ti­lin­gual Suc­cess

Oznoz finds a grow­ing niche in stream­ing chil­dren’s con­tent in many lan­guages from around the world. By Tom McLean.

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

Reach­ing a di­verse, global mar­ket­place is a goal for pretty much ev­ery me­dia company there is, but few have shown the do-it-your­self pluck of Oznoz, an on­line ser­vice that is suc­cess­fully de­liv­er­ing to fam­i­lies mul­ti­lin­gual and eth­nic­ity-spe­cific chil­dren’s con­tent.

Oznoz be­gan life as the so­lu­tion to a prob­lem faced by Big Bad Boo, a Van­cou­ver-based stu­dio that pro­duced the Per­sianthemed di­rect-to-video fea­ture Babak and Friends — A First Norooz and the se­ries Mixed Nutz and 1001 Nights.

Oznoz co-founder Shab­nam Rezaei, who also co-founded Big Bad Boo with Aly Jetha, says it was the dif­fi­cul­ties she en­coun­tered in try­ing to get dis­tri­bu­tion for Mixed Nutz that lead to Oznoz.

“We came across a lot of is­sues — one of them be­ing there’s such a huge mo­nop­oly on the dis­tri­bu­tion net­work that’s out there,” says Rezaei. “So to reach an au­di­ence, you have to work with one of four or five net­works and that’s it. And that just seemed ridicu­lous in an era where ev­ery­one has a cell phone or an iPad or tablet de­vice and you can get to the cus­tomer di­rectly.”

With her back­ground in tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware, Rezaei says it seemed like the best so­lu­tion to reach cus­tomers di­rectly would be by build­ing an in­ter­face them­selves.

Start­ing as a Shop

So Oznoz be­gan small, as a on­line shop through which Big Bad Boo sold its ti­tles as well as bilin­gual books with text in English as well as Per­sian, Chi­nese, French and Ger­man. That’s still part of the site, though it’s evolved to add the abil­ity to buy stream­ing or down­load­able an­i­mated video con­tent in the lan­guage of your choice. Cur­rently avail­able in the United States and Canada, plans are to ex­pand to Europe in the next year and then to the rest of the world in the third year.

Oznoz re­quires ex­clu­siv­ity in North Amer­ica for its con­tent and splits rev­enues with its part­ners 50-50. “Our pric­ing is mar­ket stan­dard be­cause we don’t want to in any way com­pete, and our rev­enue share is ex­actly what the other big guys are do­ing,” says Rezaei. “We typ­i­cally will deal with three- or five-year con­tracts with our ven­dors.”

The company’s reach is so far small, Rezaei says, with about 5,000 cus­tomers ac­tively buy­ing from Oznoz. They also have a data­base with about 10,000 news­let­ter read­ers and 13,000 likes on Face­book.

Break­ing through the clut­ter and get­ting at­ten­tion for a ser­vice like this re­quires

The re­cep­tion they re­ceived from Sesame Work­shop was “ec­static,” says Rezaei. “They told us they went to iTunes with this idea and iTunes said, ‘We don’t want it’ — be­cause it’s too niche for iTunes, frankly.”

Global Dis­tri­bu­tion

With Sesame Work­shop on board, other com­pa­nies also have signed on. “Most of the com­pa­nies we work with are in­ter­na­tional, ei­ther pro­duc­ers or dis­trib­u­tors, so they’re al­ready sell­ing into all th­ese dif­fer­ent ter­ri­to­ries,” says Rezaei. “And for the pro­ducer or distrib­u­tor, it’s ad­di­tional rev­enue that they wouldn’t be oth­er­wise get­ting. So we’re cap­tur­ing a whole new au­di­ence and a whole new rev­enue stream for our ven­dors.”

Among those ven­dors is Nel­vana, from which Oznoz is get­ting some 2,000 hours of pro­gram­ming, and HIT En­ter­tain­ment, bring­ing such fa­mil­iar shows as Thomas the Tank En­gine, An­gelina Bal­le­rina and Bob the Builder to the site.

Other chan­nels that have shows on Oznoz in­clude China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion, Ja­pan’s NHK, South Korea’s EBS and Is­rael’s Hop! TV.

There also are small pro­duc­tion out­lets, like Lit­tle Dumpling, a preschool in New York whose owner cre­ated videos teach­ing chil­dren sim­ple el­e­ments of Man­darin Chi­nese, like col­ors, shapes and num­bers.

Oznoz also has pro­vided a North Amer­i­can home for orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming from Car­toon Net­work In­dia and Al Jazeera Chil­dren’s Net­work. “For ex­am­ple, Car­toon Net­work In­dia has a great show called Chota Bheem, and it’s orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming.”

About a dozen preschool shows from Al Jazeera Chil­dren’s Chan­nel that are pro­duced in the United Arab Emi­rates and Qatar are now avail­able in Ara­bic in North Amer­ica via Oznoz.

The re­ac­tion to Oznoz mak­ing those shows avail­able is strong and sup­ports the idea that im­mi­grants rais­ing their chil­dren in two cul­tures are ap­pre­cia­tive of bilin­gual ma­te­rial.

“Our Ara­bic au­di­ence loves those shows,” says Rezaei. “A lot of times, the par­ents will know th­ese shows or th­ese brands from when they were kids, so there’s a nos­tal­gic fac­tor that we play into.”

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