By Chris Seper
Tom Megalis thinks puppets can be a solid substitute for doctors.
Megalis, an Ohio-based broadcast media specialist who has worked with everyone from Nickelodeon to Comedy Central, has started Pedia Media, which would produce short videos featuring puppets that explain concepts to children like diabetes, anesthesia and treating a cut, among others.
Megalis said the videos would help free up time of already overburdened hospital staff members, who have less and less time to talk with their patients. He could sell them directly to health systems, put them on a destination website or syndicate the programss to existing mother-focused websites. He’d also consider getting a sponsor for the episodes or eventually doing live shows.
“I want this to be a hit with mothers,” Megalis said.
Megalis thought of the idea when a family friend’s son lost an arm.
“These are scary things, and there has to be a better way to communicate these scary concepts,” he said.
“If I had a company that explained to children and, as a close second, moms, this is what’s going to happen in basic and accurate terms, we would entertain, enlighten and embrace the children.”
The videos would target children ages 5 to 11, last a few minutes and would include a doctor who would interact with the puppet characters. There would be distinct characters — from living body parts to “Mythians” who pop up when rumor or misinformation appear.
“They aren’t going to be cutsey,” Megalis said. “They are going to be real and appropriate.”
Megalis runs Crab Media Group, which creates broadcast media for advertising agencies and television networks. He’s done webisodes for Lowes , worked on MTV’s late ’90s Cartoon Sushi show, and has created pilots and short videos for Nick at Nite and Comedy Central.
He’s done some child-oriented work. But many of his projects to the networks — like a Comedy Central pilot Mad Greek — are less child friendly and more edgy. Megalis said he comfortably works in both worlds and because of that he won’t talk down to children, which in turn will keep them engaged.
Megalis has picked up some early seed funding — though he’ll need more to fully launch the business — and has help from a Cleveland pediatrician who is endorsing the concept with potential investors.
Hospitals rely less on physicians to do the explaining to children and increasingly use child-life specialists, who sit with children and incorporate puppets and dolls into their explanations. These are interactive sessions with the children who then get to do many of the things to a doll that will be done to them.
Also, there’s an increasing amount of health-focused content for children. Kidshealth.org has sections for parents and children, while WebMD has its own children’s health section. Also, startups like HealthiNation develop videos for other media outlets.
Creating such spots can cost $10,000 to $25,000, Megalis said. Though that doesn’t include other likely costs: site development, physician consultations to approve scripts and the like. It’s unlikely any health system would accept health-driven videos without a signoff from a reputable physician or organization.