Firstly can you give me some general background information on Abbey.
Abbey Home Media PLC is the leading British Independent producer and distributor of high quality programmes for children. Trusted for its experience, creativity, dedication and passion, Abbey owns and licences a prestigious catalogue of well known products and character brands.
Ian and Anne Miles established the original Abbey Home Entertainment Company in 1989 primarily to distribute children’s animated properties for producers who lacked their own distribution operation in the UK.
Identifying a significant gap in the market place, Abbey became the pioneer of pre-school programming. Not being able to acquire or licence high quality early learning material Abbey developed and produced its own. Over the next 15 years Abbey created a significant library of produced or co-produced products, which it marketed under its pre-school brand – Tempo.
Throughout its 20 years of trading, Abbey has consistently remained focused on providing superior children’s programming, resulting in over 300 hours of owned Intellectual Property and licensed material. Abbey has unique relationships with producers and rights owners around the world by offering a distinct and expert distribution model.
How have the last 12 months been for the firm?
I’ve only just become involved with the company, but I do know that Horrid Henry has been a resounding success over the last 12 months. Abbey has also been working hard to establish both Sesame Street and Magic Roundabout as successful UK brands on DVD. We’re also having great fun celebrating Paddington’s 50th birthday.
Are you looking to expand your portfolio in the near future - either with your own properties or ones under licence?
Yes, absolutely. Abbey has always had a good balance of its own Intellectual Property and licensed properties for distribution. Our intention is to expand in both areas, selectively. We aren’t in the volume business but we are looking to develop our own IP with strong creative concepts that have real commercial potential.
How many third party brands and licensors do you currently work with?
Our licence partners include Novel for Horrid Henry, Sesame Workshop for Sesame Street, Penguin for Spot, Pathé for The Magic Roundabout, and Cookie Jar for its FilmFair library, which includes Paddington Bear and The Wombles.
Regarding our own brands, we look forward to the reinvention of SuperTed whilst continuing to expand the Baby Bright brand. We are also looking at two other very exciting broadcast projects which we hope to be able to announce at Mipcom this October.
Are there any gaps in your portfolio - are there any particular genres you would like to move into for example?
We are and will continue to be focused on pre-school and children with a greater tendency towards pre-school although Horrid Henry clearly skews a little older. We would be comfortable with moving towards older children within our core but don’t intend to break out of our existing expert niche at this stage.
Since Abbey was established, how would you say the children's entertainment market has changed?
Where to start? In the last five years we have seen enormous changes, making the market tougher for many reasons – broadcasters are more selective, retailers (who have seen tremendous consolidation) are ruthless in their management of stock of properties and the explosive growth of DVD, new media and emerging technologies have resulted in downward price pressure.
It is no longer enough simply to be a DVD distributor – you have to manage the brand across a range of activities. As such, scale and focus is very important to us.
And how has Abbey coped with those changes?
By being a true expert in our market, by knowing our product inside out and by being focused and passionate about our brands. We continue to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to maintain our reputation as an expert producer and distributor of high quality children’s media products.
Are you worried by the arrival of digital downloading and the increasing use of the internet by children and their parents? Do you see it having a major impact on your business in the future, for example?
We see it as a huge opportunity although currently, it is not a significant revenue stream for us. That said, a lot of what we are currently doing focuses on our digital strategy, be it web-TV, streaming, digital downloading. While our pre-school audience is the last to be heavily immersed in the internet, the introduction of new technology and media platform has limitless potential for growth and has to be treated as a large part of our portfolio.
Where do you see the company in five years time?
We will have a greater international presence and be the owner of valuable brands and IP. I see us being an expert distributor on DVD and emerging new media in the UK.