Striker Entertainment, the pop culture licensing specialists behind the upcoming Five Nights at Freddy’s feature film is ready to put out a clear message: that the next generation of pop culture fans won’t care about owning products.
Instead, suggests the firm, led by the comic-book loving, movie buffs, Russell Binder and Marc Mostman, the next iterations of pop culturist will be more interested in sharing experiences with their favourite IP.
This could be part of the reason as to why in recent years and months, Striker Entertainment has been paying far greater attention to its film and TV production abilities, as well as its grasp on successfully building location-based experiences around pop culture IP like The Walking Dead.
The Stiker Entertainment currently sits at the centre of what has been described as a global pop culture explosion.
What JK Rowling arguably managed to usher in back in the 90s with the rise in popularity of the now goliath Harry Potter franchise - namely, the rise and acceptance of the kidult market, has become big money making business.
However, so vibrant is the space now today with kids and adults enjoying IP that only yesteryear had a much more reserved, underground following, that half of the problem, says Striker Entertainment’s co-founders Russell Binder and Marc Mostman, is that there is such an ‘abundance of captivating pop culture IP, the trick is in figuring out the ones to back.’
On top of this, suggests the pair, the licensing space is evolving as yet another generation of fans move into view, and this one is “far more concerned with sharing their life experiences on social media,’ than they are owning things. And the pair envisage this to filter into the licensing space in the coming years, too.
So, as the mainstream popularity of pop culture continues to surge across retail, entertainment and, of course, the licensing space, Licensing.biz sits down with Striker Entertainment’s founders to talk the evolving business of pop.
You have a fascinating portfolio of brands, how receptive has the licensing space become to pop culture entertainment/brands over the years?
We have seen exceptional growth in pop culture/entertainment brands over our 11 years with Striker. One big reason we have been able to better maximise these types of properties over the course is due to the fact that no one entity or industry is the gatekeeper of content delivery and fan engagement.
Pop culture IP can come from a studio franchise film or impactful independent films, big budget television series or lower budget web series, franchise video games for PC, mobile, console or independently produced games built by small teams and marketing almost entirely by organic word of mouth.
The gift is also the curse… there is an abundance of captivating IP out there… the problem is, there is an abundance of captivating IP out there. Our angle is that we look for certain bankable elements that influence early fan engagement.
Can you talk us through some of top performing licenses at the moment? What are some of your key partnerships?
Our top performing licenses continue to be The Walking Dead, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Fingerlings. We are seeing a lot of traction and interest in Exploding Kittens both domestically and internationally and we have a lot of attention being paid to Universal Cable Productions portfolio of IP including Purge TV, the Umbrella Academy and Deadly Class.
We are also seeing some very impressive interest and sell through on Laika Studios heritage IP with Coraline leading the way servicing a very hungry and engaged fan base. Areas of growth now include digital, gaming, food and beverage, location based and on demand products.
Exploding Kittens is a very popular tabletop card game - what does bringing this into the licensing space say about the global audiences of today?
Exploding Kittens presents a unique opportunity. It is a character infused, highly comedic, heavily social and broadly appealing game. It breaks out of the niche gaming bucket, but maintains an air of independent and super cool. Plus there is always TacoCat…
The same question was asked of Striker when we embarked on the licensing of Angry Birds: “can a mobile game support a merchandise initiative?” and the answer is the same - great IP that builds with fan advocacy and engagement regardless of source can spark a programme. The tougher question is always, ‘what next and how long can it last?’
So, where do you see the next big area of growth from the pop culture scene, in licensing terms? Is it board gaming then?
We’re not sure it is the next big thing in pop culture. We think that horror has matured from a seasonal genre to more of a 24/7/365 thing.
We also think that the ability to self-produce and distribute across a variety of mediums including games (digital or physical), publishing, physical products etc, will create a new wave of fresh voices and creative perspectives that will start niche, but have potential to become franchise IP with the right brand extension and media strategies in place. Actually.. A lot like board gaming.
How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the last few years and how are you adapting to that?
For Striker, our fundamental objective hasn’t changed. It is to differentiate ourselves by mining and representing the most unique and fresh IP that is coming from areas that have dedicated fandoms, but that have the ability to gain traction beyond the core constituency.
Where we have affected our approach in select circumstances is that we are now actively producing film and television with partners that in most cases can leverage Striker’s relationship to the IUP and the licensing space to bring a concerted marketing and consumer products push to any new film or TV series.
The guiding principal we have in place when we produce is that the IP we are working with has to lend itself to meaningful consumer products exploitation. This is our attempt to be involved as early as possible, and to be as vertical as possible across the spectrum of franchise building.
We are doing this with the Five Nights at Freddy’s feature film that Striker has set up at Blumhouse, Creepshow at Shudder, Dead by Daylight to be announced shortly and others in various stages of deal making.
The Five Nights at Freddy’s film is in active development with Chris Columbus (Harry Potter) on board as writer and director. This film will help broaden the Five Nights At Freddy’s brand beyond the world of digital games and YouTube videos and support new extensions of merchandise.
How safeguarded from the struggles at retail is the pop culture scene?
Retail is tough, and for independent rights holders, getting even tougher. That is more true at the larger mass accounts, but even some of the tried and true mall specialty trend retailers are being affected by studio franchise domination and the lack of unique products that distinguish one retailer from the other.
Experiential is certainly more popular, but what we are finding is that it can be executed exceptionally well, or just terribly… and in the case of the latter, it can be worse for the brand than not having something in the market at all.
At the end of the day, the next generation of pop culture enthusiasts are much less concerned about owning things and much more ambitious in experiencing things and socialising them through Snapchat, Instagram etc. In the past, and to some extent today, it’s what you own… but more and more it’s about what you are doing and the ability to share that with your peer group.
It is a real active shift in social currency. But we believe that certain core categories will always find a home.
How do you know when an IP is right for the Striker Entertainment portfolio?
First and foremost, it has to excite us as fans. We are mainstream geek as a company which means w have to love what we are working on in order to advocate on its behalf, and we have to believe that there is a business beyond the core introduction of the IP regardless of source.
We are gamers, comic book readers, action figure collectors, art lovers, movie buffs, book enthusiasts and a team of folks who just have a knack for paying attention.