Friday, May 19, 2017

How Nickelodeon's Preschool Series Are Helping To Break Gender Stereotypes

As far as gender stereotypes go (and they seem to travel surprisingly far), girls have been traditionally depicted as sweet and nurturing creatures who gravitate toward quieter and more thoughtful play. The message seems to be: Leave the action and adventure to the boys. Well, it’s 2017, and a new crop of empowered preschool characters are changing perceptions about what it means to be a girl, right at the moment when their viewers’ identities are forming. These characters are also making their mark on the toy industry, Kidscreen reports.

Nella, for one, carries a sword and is happily slashing through dated depictions. She is the star of Nickelodeon's latest new animated preschool series Nella the Princess Knight, which follows the titular character as she embarks on daring quests to save her kingdom while promoting a social-emotional curriculum that concentrates on empowerment, inclusiveness and compassion for others.

According to Pam Kaufman, Global Chief Marketing Officer and President of Consumer Products at Nickelodeon, Nella embodies what it really means to be a little girl. She’s a princess who loves unicorns, and she’s also a knight who’s unafraid of adventure or physical challenges. Children have layers, Kaufman says, and Nella the Princess Knight is a representation of that.

Representation is crucial for kids, especially at the preschool age. “There’s so much research saying that gender stereotyping starts at an early age. Girls begin to view themselves, unfortunately, as less smart or talented. And this impacts their confidence,” notes Kaufman. “We believe the content we’re putting forward is really breaking down those barriers.”

According to recent research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, 83% of film and TV narrators are male, and for decades, male characters have dominated nearly three-quarters of speaking parts in children's entertainment. The female characters that do exist show dramatically more skin than their male counterparts and often display exaggerated body characteristics.

A new wave of female leads is working to end this trend. Like Nick's Nella, Genius Brands’ Rainbow Rangers is focused on empowering girls. The action-adventure series for preschoolers was just picked up by Nickelodeon for Nick Jr. USA and the Caribbean. It follows seven superheroes—Earth's First Responders—as they protect the planet. Each character is inspired by a different color of the rainbow and possesses a unique personality and skill-set.

“Each color shows different strengths and vulnerabilities,” says Stone Newman, President of Global Consumer Products and Worldwide Marketing for Genius Brands. “The show allows little girls to see that everybody gets an opportunity to shine.”

New toon Rainbow Rangers features seven female heroes with unique strengths to show girls it’s OK to be different

Breaking up the boys club

Sarah Chumsky, Vice President (VP) of Insight Kids at research organization Insight Strategy, says these messages have the biggest impact on kids in their preschool years.

“Kids are just developing their sense of gender identity in preschool, and media can play a really strong role in reinforcing stereotypes or reinforcing the possibilities,” says Chumsky. “Because these stories are so engaging for kids, and these characters are so relatable and aspirational, there’s a big responsibility in how you portray boys and girls in your work.”

And the portrayal doesn’t stop on the screen. Tara Hefter, VP of global licensing for L.A.-based toy company Jakks Pacific, says companies are capitalizing on the trend of strong female characters in consumer products.

“We’re seeing different shows where female characters are empowered to wield swords and shields,” Hefter says. “It’s not just about fighting; it’s showing that they can be just as strong and courageous as male characters.”

As a result, she says, items that have traditionally been associated with boys—such as role-play products and weapons—are now much more likely to be released in association with girl-skewing properties. Nella the Princess Knight has a sword, and the titular heroine in Disney’s Elena of Avalor carries a magical scepter. Kaufman agrees, saying that categories like construction and gaming are also seeing more and more entrants from girl-centric shows.

This issue of merchandising is also being reexamined in the wake of so many strong female leads, according to Hefter.

“It’s becoming a bigger question as to how to merchandise,” she says. “I think there’s more of an impression that aisles are becoming gender neutral, because if I put this product in the boys aisle, I could turn away girls. And if I put it in the girls aisle, I could turn away boys. Companies are wondering how they can take a character that appeals to both boys and girls and place it so that everyone can buy into it.”

Saban’s marketing shows girls playing with the full line of Power Rangers toys, not just the pink ones

Breaking down walls and crossing aisles

An aisle that is not defined by gender, Hefter says, automatically becomes an aisle filled with toys that are no longer defined by gender. This invites half the consumer population previously ignored by strict boy/girl merchandising to engage with the product.

Following Disney’s 2012 film Brave, Hefter says there was debate about whether or not girls would want a bow and arrow set based on the main character's weapon of choice. But she says the bow and arrow quickly became a top-selling item and had to be triple-tooled to meet demand. Jakks continues to feature opportunities for empowered dress-up play with products like Elsa’s ice scepter (Frozen) and Wonder Woman's action purse.

Similarly, Nella the Princess Knight presents a number of opportunities for empowering role play with a focus on swords and suits of armor. UK-based Vivid Group has been named global master toy licensee for the series (excluding the US), and categories covered in the deal include dolls, playsets, plush and role-play toys set to launch in spring 2018. Another of Nickelodeon's girl-focused preschool shows - Shimmer and Shine - launched its inaugural consumer products line in July.

Shimmer and Shine follows twin genies-in-training who grant wishes for their best friend. The property's games and puzzles capitalize on the show's focus on teamwork and resilience in overcoming obstacles, while toys and role-play items center around flying carpets and the main characters’ magical abilities.

“It’s always been very important to me that our female lead characters solve the problems,” says Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, creator and producer of Shimmer and Shine. “They are their own heroes. They don’t need the boy characters to do it for them, but they all work and have fun together.”

And because the characters embody teamwork and resilience, so do the products, notes Esnaashari-Charmatz. “The extension of the merchandise and toy world really just allows the kids to be part of this imaginary world in real life, and act out and play as those characters would,” she says.

Genius Brands’ Newman believes girls will also identify with the personalities of the heroes in Rainbow Rangers. Mattel’s Fisher-Price has signed on as the property’s worldwide master toy partner, and Newman says the toys based on each character will showcase their unique personality and strengths. He believes the consumer products program will inspire girls to identify with superheroes in the same way traditional action figures have for boys.

“Female empowerment is not new,” Newman says. “But when we started putting this show together, we saw this void in the marketplace for an action-based adventure series for little girls. We wanted to start that conversation and positive messaging with girls at a younger age.”

In contrast, Tori Cook, Senior Vice President (SVP) of Global Retail Business Development at Saban Brands, believes marketing and advertising specifically to boys or girls will soon be a thing of the past. Saban, she notes, has featured female characters in action-hero roles since its flagship Power Rangers brand debuted in 1993.

“I think there’s a movement towards just creating great products and not saying they’re for girls or they’re for boys, and just letting the kids naturally choose which toys and products appeal to them the most,” says Cook. “Aisles can act as walls or barriers to following through with a strong message about gender-inclusiveness and how kids play together. I do see positive changes in the ways that merchandising is being approached.”

In its merchandising and advertising with Target this year, Saban featured boys and girls playing with products associated with each Ranger, from red to blue to pink.

Insight Strategy’s Chumsky agrees that including boys and girls in advertising and packaging is the simplest solution, as it immediately invites every kid to see themselves as belonging to the world the characters inhabit.

Because the message of empowerment that sits at the heart of shows like Nella the Princess Knight, Shimmer and Shine and Rainbow Rangers extends into those properties’ consumer products programs, it means kids are engaging with these themes in different ways throughout their day. And this makes it even more imperative that the message be clear, Chumsky says.

“One thing that I think about in terms of this ‘girl power media’ is that when those messages are really overt, what you’re subconsciously teaching kids is that people think girls are inferior and need extra encouragement in order to be equal. I’m disappointed by how didactic these things can be,” she says.

“Just showing girls doing it, just showing girls and boys on equal footing, showing girls being leaders, showing girls sometimes being villains and sometimes being heroes—that is a more productive way to implicitly teach girls and boys they can do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be.”

Gary Pope, director of London-based research and marketing agency Kids Industries, agrees that giving girl characters traditionally masculine traits is a “simplistic” approach to empowerment. He also sees the trend of female superheroes as misguided, as it’s portraying empowerment as attached to fantastic physical ability.

“That’s a bit crap, really, because kids can’t do that,” he says of saving the world through the use of superpowers. Pope would rather focus on traits with which all kids can identify.

“If we’re talking about preschoolers, we’re looking at Peppa Pig,” he says of Entertainment One’s billion-dollar preschool brand. “There are just as many boys as girls who engage with Peppa. Why is that? She’s incredibly straightforward, and that’s not really a feminine or masculine trait, that’s just childlike. And that works really well. Strong female characters are great for a brand’s PR, and I worry sometimes that they might be more about lip service,” says Pope.

Breaking free and looking forward

The focus should be on good stories with complex characters, Pope contends. But he admits that the reality of the industry—and society at large—means that special attention needs to be paid to creating characters that help children understand themselves and how they should maneuver through the world.

“You’ve got to see it to be it, as a child,” he says. “If you want to grow from your engagement with entertainment and your understanding of the characters, then there have to be patterns within that character’s development and their own narrative which are reflective of you or that you can aspire to in some way.”

Jakks’s Hefter agrees that the recent wave of strong female leads is heavy on the heroes, but because the genre has been so defined by male characters in the past, she thinks it is a step in the right direction.

“We’re seeing strength,” Hefter says. “Not only physical strength, but also strength expressed through things like determination and independence. We’re seeing girl characters who are courageous and creative. It’s important because this is what young girls are seeing, and it does define their world.”

Hefter stresses it also defines the world of boys. “I think that boys seeing these strong characters might be more important than girls seeing them. I think a big piece of this is having boys embrace and accept girls as equals,” she posits. “Boys responding to these empowered female leads could be more of a game-changer than the girls reacting to them, because I don’t think young girls are limiting themselves. Little girls are limited by society.”

Boys and girls engaging with these characters through entertainment and consumer products will help them shape their identities and the way they see each other, Hefter adds. If the trend continues, she believes the road to gender revolution could be, in part, paved with toys.

New Nickelodeon character Sunny is a 10-year-old leader and entrepreneur

Sunny Day takes up the empowerment torch

Like Shimmer and Shine and Nella the Princess Knight before it, Nickelodeon’s upcoming animated preschool series Sunny Day is all about empowerment. The show follows 10-year-old hairstylist and entrepreneur Sunny as she solves problems in her seaside town Friendly Falls with creativity and determination. The show’s social-emotional curriculum highlights leadership skills and teamwork, while the characters were designed to celebrate individuality and self-expression. The 20 x 22-minute series is produced by Silvergate Media (Peter Rabbit) and will debut in the US in August. Consumer products inspired by the show will begin rolling out in 2018.

Also, from

LICENSING EXPO 2017: Mondo TV on the power of Heidi, YooHoo & Friends and more

Valentina La Macchia, Director of Mondo tells why a trip to the firm's stand this year is well worth it.

What are you showcasing at this year’s Licensing Expo in Las Vegas?

We have a number of important properties to highlight. Notable among them is Heidi, Bienvenida a Casa, Mondo’s first live action show, produced by Mondo TV Iberoamerica and Alianzas Producciones. Heidi, Bienvenida a Casa follows the adventures of a country girl in the city, bringing together comedy, humour and music in a moving and charming update of the classic novel. We also have a summit on the day before the Expo starts to discuss licensing and broadcasting plans for the show.

YooHoo & Friends is a new series, in which five cute friends help endangered animals. The show is based on the globally successful line of Aurora World YooHoo & Friends plush toys, more than 80 million of which have been sold since the worldwide launch of the line in 2007. We see this as a very strong licensing prospect.

This is also the case for Invention Story, a 3D and HD animated comedy and action series for 5 -9-year-olds that will offer a marvellous combination of fun and learning through the story of an intelligent, thoughtful and creative fox who, in each episode, comes up with a new invention that amazes and delights every member of the rabbit population in Carrot Town, his adopted home. Everyone, that is, except the jealous mayor. This has enormous potential across both play and learning-related licensed product.

We also have exciting news about Robot Trains, an animated action adventure show for 4-7-year-olds produced by South Korean content and marketing company CJ E&M. We act as TV distributor and licensing agent in a number of territories for the series, which has already secured a number of licenses. Robot Trains is set in Train World, where all the citizens are trains. However, among the residents there are special trains that can transform into robots! Series one is coming soon, series two is already planned and we have exciting news about our growing role supporting this production.

Why is 2017 a big year for you?

A number of major new productions, such as YooHoo & Friends and Invention Story, which entered production this year. Such is the enormous potential of Invention Story across both licensing and broadcasting that Henan York Animation and Mondo TV have already committed to five series.

This year also sees further consolidation of the success of Sissi the Young Empress, the adventures of a free-spirited empress who resists etiquette and the duties of the court to follow her heart. It’s a big hit with its target audience of young girls, has sold into more than 35 countries, and a second series is being launched this year.

Heidi, Bienvenida a Casa is already making an impact in the Latin American market, where it was launched on Nickelodeon in March — and there is also a strong licensing interest. Exim Colombia will manage the property licensing rights in Colombia, Ecuador and Central America, while Exim Brazil will take care of the Brazilian market. Smilehood will manage the licensing rights in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia and Agosin in Chile and Perú. The US market will be managed by Surge Licensing.

Regarding Mexico Mondo TV, has secured an agreement with TV Atzeca.

The show is expected to attract strong broadcast interest in other regions in the coming months — and more series are already planned.

What demand have you seen for Mondo TV?

Many production houses have approached us for co-productions because they have seen the quality of our work — and its diversity. Our portfolio makes it clear that we can meet licensee needs among a number of different target age groups. Our experience, our skill and our adaptability are, I believe, the reason that we can attract production partners for projects as different as an animated historical drama, a live action show and even a science-based comedy adventure set in a town run by rabbits!

Mondo TV also has a strong presence in the Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American territories through Mondo TV Iberoamerica, which distributes Mondo TV’s animated catalogue in the region and was involved in the making of Heidi. With our co-production of the series Heidi, Bienvenida a Casa we began a new era, confirming plans for expansion and growth with the creation of a new production studio: Mondo TV Producciones Canarias. Based in Tenerife, the new studio will act as a producer of animation series and eventually, live action. All of these developments are driven by growing demand for our work.

What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s show?

We’re obviously putting a lot of promotional effort behind Heidi, which we see as having enormous international potential — hence the licensing summit. Our initial goals for Heidi are the international development of Heidi's licensing and merchandising programme, starting with Latin America and Brazil, where many strategic territories now have licensing representation.

We also want to consolidate the licensing programme for YooHoo & Friends — a number of licenses have already been awarded — and hope to be able to announce both a master toy and a master publishing deal for Invention Story.

Last but not least, we plan to build on growing licensee interest in Robot Trains, which is already attracting licensees in many categories. The aim here will be to extend a licensing programme that, in the Italian market, has already signed Preziosi Food for a variety of food items, including Easter eggs, surprise eggs and spreadable cream, Grani & Partners Preziosi Group for collectible Robot Trains products, and Ravensburger for puzzles and memory games.

I’ve already mentioned inventions Story as both a play and learning property. We expect to be discussing key licenses such as toys and publishing as we establish a framework for a strong licensing programme.

What can we expect to see from you this year and beyond?

The consolidation of our partnerships with licensors — Aurora for YooHoo, CJ for Robot Trains, York for Invention Story and Alianzas Producciones for Heidi — and the continuing development of successful licensing and broadcasting programmes through these partnerships. We’re also looking forward to future alliances with new partners as we plan for 2020 and 2021.

Considering that Mondo TV is active internationally how does it work in the market?

We have a number of offices and sister companies — like Mondo TV Iberoamerica — around the world. In cases where we are not physically present on the ground we have agency agreements; as I mentioned, a number of these are supporting Heidi Bienvenida a Casa across Latin America, Brazil and the US.


Also, from TVKIDS:

Special Report: Buzzy Brands

Ahead of Licensing Expo, TV Kids investigates L&M trends and strategies in today’s competitive marketplace.

Toy sales in the U.S. bumped up 5 percent last year, to $20.4 billion, according to The NPD Group. Among the growth drivers for the industry were collectibles—which was a top contributor—followed by outdoor and sports toys and the games/puzzles category. A number of brands helped strengthen the segment, with Pokémon being the number one growth property of 2016 in toys, coinciding with the release of the explosively popular Pokémon GO augmented-reality game that saw players wandering the streets trying to “catch ’em all.”

The fact that Pokémon, which has been around for two decades, was the year’s leading growth property in toys is representative of the ongoing trend that retailers oftentimes still prefer to stock their shelves with established brands.

“It’s very hard, sometimes, to launch new brands and original ideas, because [retailers] are looking for sustainable business with many well-known key brands,” says Hans Ulrich Stoef, who heads up m4e and Studio 100 Media. “But luckily enough, after Studio 100 bought the majority of m4e, we also have classic [properties] in our portfolio, like Maya the Bee or Vic the Viking, for example, which makes it a little easier because the products already have shelf space.” Newer key properties for licensing and merchandising (L&M) in the combined m4e/Studio 100 portfolio include Mia and me and Wissper, as well as the in-development The Beatrix Girls, which will be more of a focus next year.

According to Alexandra Algard-Mikanowski, the international licensing and marketing director at Cyber Group Studios, retailers “want to take the least risk possible and to secure a level of turnover, so it’s very difficult to reach their expectations. And you need to have very good TV programming with good channels and come with a whole category of product in order to be successful.” The company’s L&M highlights include such established brands as Zou and Zorro the Chronicles, as well as the upcoming Gigantosaurus, an animated show slated for broadcast on France Télévisions, Germany’s Super RTL and Disney Junior channels around the globe.

“Retailers are looking for brands and products that resonate with consumers both through brand recognition and also—more than ever, especially as it relates to kids—the message the brand delivers to its audience,” says Frederic Soulié, the executive VP of global distribution and consumer products at Saban Brands. “Power Rangers’ core messages of teamwork, diversity and fun are a great example of this, which has helped the brand stand the test of time and continue to be a staple among retailers for nearly 25 years.”

Mondo TV is taking advantage of retailers’ desire for known brands with its first live-action series, Heidi, Bienvenida a Casa, which was inspired by Johanna Spyri’s classic children’s novel from the late 1800s. “It’s going to be a long-term project based on a total of 180×45-minute episodes,” says Valentina La Macchia, the company’s director of consumer products. “This is very important because we are able to secure a long-lasting program based on the merchandising.” Mondo TV’s L&M slate also includes the animated properties YooHoo & Friends, Invention Story and Robot Trains, the latter of which is a collaboration with CJ E&M.


4K Media, a subsidiary of Konami Digital Entertainment, has been enjoying success with the long-running Japanese property Yu-Gi-Oh!, for which it manages the licensing and marketing outside of Asia. According to Jennifer Coleman, the company’s VP of licensing and marketing, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been a hit in the L&M arena due to “the timeless appeal of anime and boys’ action/hero adventure.” 4K Media also represents the girl-skewing brand Rebecca Bonbon.

Another company with anime is Toei Animation, whose L&M catalog includes Sailor Moon, the Digimon franchise, One Piece and Dragon Ball. “These properties are well known by many anime fans and most of our properties were first broadcast in the late ’90s and early 2000s in the U.S.,” says Jennifer Yang, Toei’s senior licensing manager. “Kids who grew up watching this anime are now young adults, and they are the main target for Japanese anime in L&M nowadays.”

The Dragon Ball franchise celebrated its 30th anniversary last year in Japan. “Our Dragon Ball Z merchandising efforts are still very strong among teens and young adults after so many years, but we are hoping to gain more interest in children’s categories for Dragon Ball Super,” notes Lisa Yamatoya, Toei’s senior manager of film and merchandising.

There is also anime and manga specialist VIZ Media, which is owned by Shueisha and Shogakukan. At this year’s Licensing Expo, the company’s central focus is the older-skewing Death Note, with additional highlights including One-Punch Man, Naruto, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Bleach. “Our audience is what I like to consider the next generation of fanboys,” says Brad Woods, the chief marketing officer at VIZ Media. “You’ve got guys like myself, who grew up with the world of DC and Marvel and what have you—still very valid and amazing properties—but then you’ve got this whole new generation and this groundswell of kids that started out between 8 and 12 a few years back, who have grown up into the teen and young-adult space and are all about anime. And so anime has kind of taken over that next generation of fandom.”


There is really no definitive answer as to when is the best time for companies to begin thinking about licensing and merchandising. Some like to start right away, while others wait until a brand has reached a certain level of maturity in the marketplace.

“It depends on the property,” says Cyber Group’s Algard-Mikanowski. “When you have a good broadcasting [reach] with huge TV channels, it’s better to start directly—that’s the case with Gigantosaurus. And for some other properties, it would be best to wait a little bit because if you have [a smaller] channel, it is better to have some ratings on television before launching a licensing program.”

“Whenever we produce a new show, of course the content comes first,” says m4e and Studio 100’s Stoef. “The entertainment values of a concept come first. So we are not really in the arena of just producing a commercial for the toy only.”

Soulié notes that Saban Brands approaches every property “with a 360-degree lens and a vision of both what the show and L&M possibilities can be.” The company is executing this strategy with the new animated Netflix series Cirque du Soleil Junior—Luna Petunia.

“We usually start thinking about licensing and merchandising right away because we are a production studio, so we are always involved in the co-production of the TV show,” adds Mondo TV’s La Macchia. “We don’t wait until the property has reached a certain level in the market because then it will be too late for us to develop a long-term licensing program. We always start at least a year and a half before the time to market, especially when we have to place the master toy deal. We know that the licensee needs the right time to develop the products.”


As in any business, the ability to keep up with competitors in the L&M industry is crucial in order for a brand to stay alive. Survival of the fittest is a phrase that applies to more than just the natural world.

Regarding challenges that are currently facing the segment, 4K Media’s Coleman says, “Well, one of them starts with a D and ends with a Y. So there’s that factor. And then there’s still that retail consolidation.”

“I think the most important [challenge] is the number of properties already on the market and launched by big companies, like Disney for example,” says Cyber Group’s Algard-Mikanowski. “It’s always very difficult to compete with this kind of a big company. You need to spend a lot of money on marketing and [put in] a lot of effort with retailers.”

m4e and Studio 100’s Stoef agrees that it is very hard for independents to compete with the majors these days, although it does help raise the bar on quality. “Creativity does come from the one who is having to pick his pocket; that encourages us to come up with new content and deliver more creativity. The biggest challenge is, how can you produce a sustainable business when you have to invest millions and millions of euros into a new production? And how can you make sure that you reach enough kids, and what can you do to convince retailers to put your product on shelves? It requires really big funds to do so. And not all companies are able to deliver that.”

Saban’s Soulié adds: “Innovation is key in an extremely competitive market, and retailers are evolving to speak to the current consumer, which means brands need to continue to innovate and evolve as well.”

Much like piracy is a major headache for the television, film and music industries, bootlegging is among the issues that L&M players continue to contend with. “We are facing a lot of bootleg items and/or ridiculously cheap parallel items imported unofficially to our territories,” says Toei’s Yang. “These affect a lot of our official products. I’m sure this is a problem for everybody in this industry.”

4K Media is trying to reduce the amount of unlicensed Yu-Gi-Oh! consumer goods on the market by launching an online shop that sells official branded merchandise. “We’re hopeful that with that happening, with our ability to provide this product for our customers, they won’t necessarily be making their own T-shirts and putting them up on [an online marketplace like] Redbubble,” says Coleman. “Obviously that’s going to benefit us because we’ll be getting the royalty payment, but it’s also going to hopefully strengthen [our licensees’] resolve in the brand and help show them that it still has legs and is still a money-maker.”

A challenge for VIZ Media is “weighing the appropriate size of the opportunity, and making sure that we’re working with our retailers to create clean programs,” says Woods. “Often you find our licensing and retail partners trying to create too big of a program, or create a bigger statement than it really merits or than the market will support. That, to me, is how you kill a trend. It’s one of these things where our content’s certainly on fire, but it’s still very niche in its appeal. And so I want to make sure that we’re meeting the customer demand, but also leaving those retailers with a clean shelf at the end of the day so that they come back and do it again.”

One way that 4K Media stays relevant in today’s extremely competitive L&M environment is with experiential offerings. “We’re trying to take more advantage of some experiential marketing to really touch and feel our consumers and help engage them in the brand,” says Coleman. “And we’re looking to expand that even more with some of the live events that we do.”


Over at Cyber Group, Algard-Mikanowski says the strategy is to use “a global approach” for some products, while it is better “to deal territory by territory,” with others. “As we are a licensor, it’s possible to mix between global and local.”

La Macchia notes that Mondo TV always aims to work on a long-term basis. “Long-term is a must nowadays to compete in the market. It’s very important to grant to the licensees at least 52×26-minutes of a TV show because a license agreement is usually based on a two-year-term period, so we cannot work with very short TV series. We have to be able to assure from the beginning that we will help our licensees to grow their business and together increase the awareness of the property in the market.”

For Saban, maintaining the “core brand DNA” in both series content and L&M is key. “For example with Power Rangers, knowing its wide, global audience spanning kids to adults, we look to provide experiences that directly speak to them,” says Soulié.

As the world becomes more and more computerized, digital opportunities are increasingly important in the L&M arena.

“We are investing a lot to grow our digital business,” says Mondo TV’s La Macchia. “We are now working to develop a new application based on our characters. So we have big plans to grow the digital business here. And we do believe it’s really the main segment emerging so far.”

m4e and Studio 100’s Stoef notes that digital is a good way to test out new properties with small budgets on viral platforms. “You can pre-approve certain concepts via the internet, social media and AVOD platforms, and then spend money later on in a deeper way.”

“I think the opportunities lie in how you can disperse the brand appeal and the information in a more concise, bite-sized way,” says VIZ Media’s Woods. “Brands are coming out of the woodwork having been built on nothing but that. You look at the AwesomenessTVs of the world and a lot of the web-space influencers—these are people who built their entire awareness on 10-minute, 5-minute shorts. So for us, if we don’t stay abreast of that and shift our marketing in that direction, [we could] get lost and left behind pretty easily.”

Adapting to change has always been an essential business mantra, and as the way children consume content continues to evolve, it is one that companies should keep top of mind to stay ahead in the L&M game.


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