Posted on Tuesday 5 November 2013 by Ulster Business
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness joined Colin Williams and Orlagh O'Keefe to launch the show.
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were on hand to unveil the new £2.5m animated children's show, which has been created and produced by the Belfast-based company.
Driftwood Bay has been pre-sold to countries including the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Israel. It will air from spring 2014 and is being distributed globally by The Jim Henson Company, best known as the creators of The Muppets.
Founded in 2008, Sixteen South is a twice EMMY nominated and BAFTA award winning children's television producer which has already developed a number of hit shows in partnership with other global children's entertainment companies, including Big City Park, Big and Small, Sesame Tree and Pajanimals.
The company, which has retained 75 people from across the local creative sector to work specifically on Driftwood Bay over an 18 month period, said it was excited to be producing the new show in Belfast.
Colin Williams, Creative Director of Sixteen South said: "We are truly overwhelmed with the demand for and interest in 'Driftwood Bay' from countries as far away as Japan and Korea. As a company, our core focus is on creating and producing unique and innovative IP - television that appeals to children all over the world, a truly global audience.
He added: "We have a brilliant team of people here at Sixteen South and we're thrilled to be producing this beautiful show right here in Belfast, our hometown. We're committed to providing exciting job opportunities for people in the sector and believe that it's our passion and love for what we do that has positioned ourselves in key markets allowing us to deliver multi-award winning projects."
Williams told guests at the launch of the show that he initially pitched the concept for Driftwood Bay to broadcasters at the MIP industry conference, making about 50 presentations over two days.
"It was probably one of around 7,000 shows that were being pitched at the same time to these handful of broadcasters who can afford to buy a show and they loved it. What they loved about it was its Northern Irishness and that made us really excited because that's who we are, Belfast is our city. To have broadcasters all over the world be interested in a show which celebrates our culture is incredible," he said.
Driftwood Bay is a mixed media animated show for 4-6 year olds. The styling of the show is unique in that all the characters and their world are completely made from things that have been found washed up on the beach.
Williams said broadcasters loved the different voice of the main character Lily –played by local girl Orlagh O'Keeffe, who auditioned with 270 other children for the part. The music, which has an Irish folk feel and is all performed by local session musicians, was also very popular.
Sixteen South pre-sold the show to 11 countries, enabling it to finance the project. Among those who have bought the show are NBC's kids channel Sprout in the US, Nickelodeon in the UK, RTE in Ireland and ABC in Australia. The Jim Henson company is also predicting additional sales across the rest of the world.
"Their predictions, which are realistic, is that it will likely be in 100 plus countries by the end of next year," said Colin Williams. "If you think about it that is stunning because it means that if you go on your travels, wherever you go, you switch on the television in that country and look at the TV guide , you'll see Driftwood Bay. It's nuts."
With 75 jobs created and the show worth £2.5m to the city in terms of spending, the Sixteen South founder believes Driftwood Bay's success bodes well for other creative businesses.
"It is a sign that the creative industries are the future of the city. Belfast's healing a regeneration and prosperity I believe will come through the creative industries... When government, industry and education come together and believe in one thing something incredible can happen," he said.
Both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness welcomed the launch of the new show, which they said demonstrated the potential of the creative sector to boost the economy.
Read an earlier interview with Colin Williams here.