The woman nurturing TV channel for babies

By Candice Krieger, August 2, 2012
BabyTV’s Maya Talit

BabyTV’s Maya Talit

In the weeks following a wedding, you'd expect most newlyweds to be on honeymoon.

But Israelis Maya and Liran Talit spent that time in London launching what was to become one of the world's most watched and talked about children's television channels.

BabyTV, provides high-quality programmes for children from birth to age four. It is believed to the world's first 24/7 advert-free channel for infants, toddlers and their parents.

Launched in the UK and Europe in 2005, BabyTV is available in over 100 countries via more than 400 affiliate platforms and in close to 20 languages. It also provides its content via internet and mobile applications.

In 2007, the company was bought by News Corporation's Fox International for an undisclosed fee, helping the business to continue its growth and expand into other markets, such as the recent launch in Japan.

Growth spurt: BabyTV is watched by toddlers in more than 100 countries

Growth spurt: BabyTV is watched by toddlers in more than 100 countries

But the story behind BabyTV goes further back. The concept was born in Israel in 2003 by Liran and Maya Talit and their family, well-known in the country's entertainment and television industry. Mrs Talit says: "My sister-in-law had a son and we realised that there wasn't much available for him to watch. There were these Baby Einstein videos that were on VHS, which he liked, but you would have to keep rewinding and playing it again.

"So we thought 'why should parents have to pay for a video or DVD? Why don't we put something on television and make it easy for parents to access?' We felt there was a gap in the market for below pre-school age children."

They joined forces with Israeli content provider and BabyTV co-founder, Ron Isaak, plus a team of other Israeli experts, to put together the content for the channel, all of which is developed in Israel. "The aim was to come up with high-quality and more sophisticated content for babies."

Mrs Talit, 33, recalls: "When we came to pitch at our first meeting we made this kid's book with six pages and it was very naive.

"We had no experience selling a TV channel in the global market but the branding was great and I think people felt that we were doing something with a lot of love and passion, not really thinking too much about where it was going - just working hard and believing in it.

"We thought it was a great idea and the satellite platform thought that it would really appeal to mums."

They secured their first deal and BabyTV aired on Israeli channel, Yes. It was an instant success. "We launched it as a premium channel, enabling people open access for a limited amount of time as a trial before having to pay. But when we turned it off there were so many people calling and wanting to reconnect that it crashed the call centre."

And so, in 2005 - 11 days after getting married - the duo decided to move to London to establish BabyTV overseas. They set up International Baby TV, a separate entity from the initial Israeli business.

"We came over here with one backpack and a laptop that we shared," says Mrs Talit, head of marketing and sales in north and south America. "We had a few television contacts and started knocking on affiliate doors to start distributing the channel.

"It was after the Teletubbies boom. There were pre-school channels such as Nickelodeon and Disney Junior and it wasn't easy to convince people there was a need for another TV channel."

But they managed to secure their first international deal with France's TPS.

"Liran took the Eurostar to sign the deal and when he came back the first thing he said was: 'we have one, now I need four.' Then after four, it was 10, then, 'when am I going to have 14?'

"The first deal was big. Before you have that you are not really selling anything." Several international deals have followed including with Sky, Virgin Media and BT Vision in the UK, and in September 2007, Fox bought a controlling interest in the company. The Talits continue to own the content and all programming continues to be developed in-house.

"It is really difficult to succeed as an independent in the TV and media industry today. Having the leverage of Fox made a big difference. Our business grew from two people running an operation to having a network of global offices with legal and marketing support."

The company has been able to expand its licensing programme, developing the brand off-air and target other baby-related markets such as books, DVDs, toys and educational resources.

"No matter what happens, parents are always going to spend their last dollar on their child and put them first," says Mrs Talit, a mother of three daughters under the age of 8.

Would they sell? "We have thought about it but we are in a great position now. It's a global business and we lead it, even though it's within Fox. There are so many ways we can still grow."

The duo are currently on a round-the-world trip to visit existing markets and target new ones. They are in the process of launching the first HD version of BabyTV in Asia. "All TV content should be HD eventually, so its natural for us to invest and make this progression."

Last updated: 12:08pm, August 2 2012