Playing a blinder: Endemol Shine on bringing brands and gaming together

Licensing.biz sits down with Endemol Shine's group director of brand licensing and gaming, Jane Smith to get the latest.
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PEAKY BLINDERS - UK - S04

In addition to her brand licensing responsibilities, Endemol Shine's Jane Smith has recently been tasked with overseeing the company's growing gaming and gambling divisions.

The reason, she tells Licensing.biz, is to allow the firm to "leverage  more multi-territory and global opportunities across both commercial divisions and drive cross-category brand growth."

What this means for those operating outside of the corporate speak is that we can expect to see a lot more licensing opportunities arising for the likes of MasterChef, Peaky Blinders, Simon's Cat and a whole host of some of Endemol Shine's best-loved IP.

Licensing.biz sits down with Endemol Shine's group director of brand licensing and gaming to discover more... 

Jane Smith

What does the broader role of group director of licensing and gaming entail now for you and Endemol Shine?

We have such a broad portfolio of brands at different stages of their commercial development in each division and given a successful brand can originate from anywhere, having our commercial teams further aligned allows us to more quickly spot success and focus on extending these brands. 

We may have a brand that has been particularly successful in one division such as gaming, which we can further develop into consumer products for example. 

We can draw on the complementary skills and expertise from across the whole commercial division. This also means we can extend our relationships with our commercial partners by delivering a broader rights offering to them.

Why is now the right time for Endemol Shine to be taking this strategy, what does the restructure enable you and Endemol Shine to achieve? 

Under the leadership of Yannick Ferrero, the restructure of the commercial teams means that we also sit alongside our digital business which greatly enhances our ability to cross pollinate commercial opportunities. 

By having these three divisions aligned we are able to deliver a 360 approach to our brands and leverage their extended digital footprints globally. We can incorporate our social and online video strategies into our consumer marketing activations, giving our brands high engagement and a greater chance of success. 

Simon’s Cat is a good example of this, where our gaming content, product launches and social strategies are all connected. 

Another example of success is how the digital teams have driven the extraordinary growth of Mr Bean on Facebook and YouTube, allowing the licensing teams to leverage this to increase our commercial business in key markets such as the U.S., China and SE Asia.

Our brands and commercial partners will benefit from joined up approach. This goes for our established brands such as MasterChef, to new and emerging properties like Peaky Blinders, where we can be aligned from the outset.

By creating greater cohesion for our commercial business within Endemol Shine Group, we are also better placed to collaborate and work more closely with our local OpCos to leverage our global presence across these areas and build on the deep on air success that our production teams around the world deliver.

MC

Would you like to talk us through the portfolio of properties you guys have under licensing and gaming? 

From Entertainment and Scripted through to Animation and Game Shows, we have an incredibly diverse portfolio which offers a wide range of commercial opportunities across a broad number of categories.

Our scripted IP is a particular growth area for us as we bring to market critically acclaimed dramas Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror. For all our scripted brands, immersive experiential and gaming are real areas of focus, as we look to offer consumers an authentic experience that is true to the brand and that will match their expectations.

In our entertainment portfolio, we of course have MasterChef, which is the most successful cookery television format in the world - now produced in 55 markets. 

The brand already extends into a range of successful commercial activities across multiple platforms including publishing, consumer products, live events, gaming and global travel experiences. We continue to build on this success with a particular focus on the experiential category. 

We are opening our first MasterChef restaurant in Dubai which is set to debut in the forthcoming Wyndham West Bay Dubai Marina Hotel. Giving MasterChef fans an opportunity to engage with the brand in a fun and interactive way in multiple destinations is a real goal for us.

In animation, Simon’s Cat is at a really exciting point, celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, marking a decade since its launch on YouTube. There is a significant focus on the development of the brand internationally, demonstrated by recent appointment of agents in China and South Korea and activity in partnership with Endemol Shine Brazil and North America. 

Gaming, apparel and further content development are all going to play a key part in the future of this wonderfully charming brand. The fanbase is extremely engaged and we are seeing significant e-commerce success with the personalisation range through Star Editions.

We have an incredibly robust licensed gaming business with titles like Simon’s Cat, Big Brother, Deal or No Deal and Tenable to name a few. Our experience and reputation in the land based, lottery and social gaming space, notably the global programme for Deal or No Deal, is a key commercial driver for our brands. 

Under our new structure we are perfectly placed to build on these successes and expand our IP offering.

Simon's Cat

How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the last few years and what opportunities does this now present to you now?

We are incredibly fortunate to work with best in class properties such as the BAFTA-winning epic gangster drama Peaky Blinders and the Emmy-Award winning, critically acclaimed Netflix original show Black Mirror. Scripted brands such as these offer a range of new opportunities across consumer products and gaming and this is a genre which we are really focussed on.

With scripted brands, people really expect an experience. Audiences have such an immersive experience whilst watching them, and they anticipate a high level of engagement or affinity to any product, based on their viewing.

The incredible Peaky Blinders, from award-winning show creator Steven Knight and producers Caryn Mandabach Productions and Tiger Aspect Productions, already has a huge, committed fanbase. 

Produced for the BBC in the UK, with its success driving a move to BBC One for the 5 series next year, the series is also sold globally across 182 countries, including airing on Netflix. Our initial focus is to deliver products that the fans are demanding – we will be launching a range of apparel, grooming and stationary this year with deeper ranges in development for 2019. 

We are also looking at a number of live event opportunities which give audiences a Peaky Blinders experience that is truly authentic.

Mind-bending Netflix anthology series Black Mirror is another of our outstanding scripted properties which this week picked up a further three Creative Emmy Awards for the latest series. 

Created and written by Charlie Brooker, and executive produced by Brooker and Annabel Jones, it is a totally unique brand that requires a completely different approach. It isn’t about continuing characters and a continuing location, but a consistent overarching feel of ‘Black Mirror’ which can be reflected in unique products that connect with consumers. 

All the Black Mirror films are so different which allows us to give fans a deeper experience with the opportunity to engage with specific titles through creative product development work. Films such as Nosedive, Hang the DJ and USS Callister all have incredibly engaged fans and allow us to develop creative assets and products to reflect the experiences of the films.

What does Endemol Shine bring to this space in terms of the heritage of its brands?

Take something like Mr Bean - globally loved, in continual distribution on TV for nearly 30 years, and also one of the biggest digital brands in the world with nearly 80million fans on Facebook alone. 

The live-action and animated content is truly evergreen and continues to resonate with audiences around the world. For Brand Licensing and Gaming, it is great to be able to tap into these huge audiences and maximise the brand’s potential.

The phenomenal success of the brand on digital as really pushed Mr Bean back into the CP world. This year’s Funko figures sold 160k units and Mr Bean lends itself incredibly well to the mobile games market. 

ESG’s games developer and publisher Good Catch have released a number of incredible successful titles, from Mr Bean Around the World which alone has been downloaded over 20 million times, to the recent one-tap games like Mr Bean Sandwich Stack. Coming from them before the end of the year is a really fun new mobile game Mr Bean Racing.

We have recently appointed new agents for Mr Bean in key territories like China, SE Asia and Australia in addition to the existing activity in the U.S. and Benelux. And we are adopting a new design led, creative approach to help us achieve this potential, tapping in to the visual humour of the brand.

Where do you see the next big area of growth for your IP portfolio coming from in terms of consumer trends - are things like live experiences on the radar for Endemol Shine's portfolio?

Experiential is a hugely important category for us, across a number of our brands, as we strive to give consumers a better experience. From travel and dining to malls and theme parks, this is a really important growth area for our Brand Licensing business.

E-commerce is also another key theme that we are exploring and implementing for our core IPs as we aim to bring together the incredible ranges of products in a consumer friendly environment. 

Having seen e-commerce success with brands such as Simon’s Cat, we are keen to scale up and we have some exciting plans in place for this space which will come to market before the end of the year. Our ability to deliver digital support and expertise in this key growth area is an important factor here.

Mr Bean ANI

How big a role do you think technology will have to play in shaping the face of licensing for the future - what areas are you currently exploring?

Endemol Shine Group are at the forefront of innovation and we strive to bring the latest tech advances into the heart of what we do, from our global production business through to brand licensing and gaming. Consumers continue to respond to new technology which gives us great new areas to take our brands into.

For the gaming division in particular, emerging technologies will have a big part to play in their future. We already work with the latest tech innovations for brands such as Deal or No Deal in the live casino arena and we are testing a number of our brands in the VR and AR space, working with creative and tech innovators.

Outside of gaming, there are some fantastic tech innovations that could revolutionise our approach to brand licensing. 

If you look at MasterChef, emerging tech in smart kitchens opens up completely new opportunities for the brand with the development of smart fridges and appliances, tools, cookware and food wastage. 

We will go wherever the opportunities lie as long as the brand can be authentically applied and remains core to its DNA. 

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