Jammy deal for creative industry leader

Good news for animators who are also job seekers … as Irish animation group Jam Media signs a contract with the BBC to produce three children’s television series. Founder John Rice says that the company that currently employs 15 people will hire an additional 40 staff. The deal “covers-off the next 2½ years for us in terms of production, which is great,” Rice said.

Jam is best known for its award winning interactive children’s animation series “PICME”, which it sold to MTV Networks International for Nickelodeon channels across Europe, Asia and Latin America. That five-year deal resulted in 104, five-minute long episodes of PICME being rolled out to Nickelodeon channels around the world including Holland, Scandinavia, Italy, Latin America, Japan and Australia, from late Spring 2006.

PICME had been running on RTE 2’s “The Den” since September 2004 and had proved extremely popular with its young audience. The series was the largest animation commission in the history of RTE and was re-commissioned three times. Aimed at pre-school children it allowed young viewers to be the star of the cartoon alongside a group of animal friends.

The BBC productions will cost about €11 million, and Rice is hoping to raise about one-quarter of this through a section 481 investment, which offers film tax breaks here.

Rice would only confirm the title of one of the shows – Magic Baby – which Jam will start producing next year. All three will be run on Cbeebies, the Beeb’s children’s channel, and are aimed at pre-school kids.

Kerry-born entrepreneur Rice has also taken a 22 per cent stake in new sports website Ubecha. It hosts fantasy sports events and holds the pool of money until the game has finished, after which it pays out the prizes minus a 7 per cent administration fee.

Fantasy Football is by far the biggest game. “We’re also looking at Aussie Rules, Formula One and golf,” Rice says. He adds that Ubecha.com will probably seek to raise about €1.5 million through a tax-efficient business expansion scheme.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the Creative Industry in the Irish Economy – its a sector that can, with a little support, create significant economic benefits …

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