Firstly, can you give me some brief background to Studio100.
Studio100 was founded in 1996 by Gert Verhulst and Hans Bourlon in Belgium and has grown into a unique international family entertainment company with a sound reputation. Studio100 has built up a truly 360º approach to family entertainment with five global brands at its heart: Maya the Bee, which broadcasts in 134 countries and has over 300 licensees; Vic the Viking, which will air in over 46 countries, House of Anubis, Hotel 13, and Heidi, which is currently in production with a new CGI series; as well as numerous entertainment properties aimed at local markets.
Its mission is to provide a truly integrated media business to ensure multiple consumer touch points, which derive directly from its TV content. These drivers include publishing, home entertainment, movies, theme parks and live entertainment, in addition to merchandising, licensing and distribution. The breadth and variety of licensees, supported by rich TV content, is core to the success of Studio100 in EMEA, and underpin the current international growth the company is seeing.
Since 2008, Maya the Bee, Vic the Viking and Heidi have been part of the company’s rich portfolio and Studio100 Animation, the French animation studio, is now re-mastering the three classics into brand new CGI animated series.
International licensing expansion has now started with Maya the Bee. Product launches are planned for Spring and autumn 2013 in most of our key territories.
How was 2012 for the firm? Better than expected/about the same?
2012 was a very interesting year for Studio100, especially for our hit property Maya the Bee, which totaled 250 licensees last year. 2012 was also the year of Studio100’s buy-out for France, of Planeta’s rights over the old EM Entertainment catalogue, including many brands among them classics such as Maya the Bee, Vic the Viking and Heidi. Studio 100 France became sole owner of all TV and licensing rights in France, while Planeta Junior continues to manage the rights in Southern Europe, namely in Iberia, Italy and Greece.
Studio 100 International appointed representative agents all over the world to carry Maya’s flag, including Rio Licensing (Russia), Sinerji (Turkey), Joon International (Korea) and EWL (Middle East).
Some key territories launched the new CGI animated Maya the Bee TV series with great success in Q412. In France, the series was launched in September. With transmission of two episodes back to back Monday to Friday (except Wednesday), it gathered a 41.4 % share of 4-10 years old children in March (Source : Eurodata TV Worldwide/Mediametrie).
Meanwhile, in Benelux, on VTM KZoom, 38% of 4-9 kids watch Maya 14 times/week, and up to 54,4% of 3-5 on Z@ppelin (average share is 47.1%).
Since Studio100 International is a newly established division of the company, it is a really exciting time for us, as Maya is our first global brand to launch.
Can you run through your key brands and the most recent licensing activity for each?
We have three main focuses in our division: Maya the Bee, our flagship property for three to six year olds, Vic the Viking, a positive, playful property for four to eight year old boys, and the beloved Heidi for four to eight year old girls. All three properties are classic brands which are being refreshed with brand new CGI animation. From a licensing perspective, Maya the Bee is now up and running and we are currently looking for partners on Vic the Viking and Heidi.
Maya the Bee:
The buzz around Maya the Bee is getting louder thanks to the 300 licensees that have now joined the hive. The breathtaking CGI series, sold in 125 countries, is due to be broadcast worldwide in 2013.
The core licensing categories are covered: Publishing (Studio100, Panini, Egmont, De Agostini, Hemma to name a few), Toys (Studio100, IMC, Smoby, Clementoni, Androni, Educa Borras, Lansay), Electronic Toys (Vtech, Clementoni), Infant and Pre-school Toys (Baobab), Footwear (Leomil).
Key food companies are also on board: Nestlé in Italy, Ferrero in Germany, Bauer in Germany, Dairy4Fun in Central Eastern Europe and Chupa Chups in Russia. 2013 will definitely be the BEE YEAR with the launch of our worldwide licensing plan.
Vic the Viking:
Based on a Runner Jonsson book that won the German Youth literature prize in 1965, Vic the Viking became a classic TV series in the 1970’s. Particularly famous in Germany and Austria, the little wonder boy also inspired musicals and movies for a European audience.
Vic is the hero with surprising and clever solutions. He represents inspiring ideas which are stronger than pure physical strength. Fearful and sensitive, he does not equate to the image of a typical Viking. He has long since grown into a powerful brand, with an extremely positive image. He holds timeless values, such as cleverness, family and team spirit which even nowadays generations rely on.
The new Vic the Viking series in CGI hopes to relay those values and does not promote any violence nor competition – differentiating it from other series aimed at boys aged four to eight years. The (78x13’) co-production by Studio100 and Avrill is broadcast by ZDF (Germany), TF1 (France), Channel 10 and ABC (Australia) is to be released in 2014. The all-new, fun adventures of this surprising boy - more brainy than brawny - have already attracted 46 broadcasters ready to sail with Vic.
Licensees are also already on the deck: Simba Dickie is as our master toy in GAS, and Spain and Portugal are developing a full line of play-sets, vehicles, figurines. Among others are Hemma, Panini, De Agostini and Planeta for publishing. We truly believe the exciting and universal themes in Vic will inspire more licensees in toys and games, apparel, footwear, homeware, BTS and stationery, outdoor categories and beyond.
Based on Johanna Spyri book published in 1880 (50 million books sold and translated into more than 50 languages), the adventures of Heidi are very aspirational. The Japanese 2D series adapted from the book was a great success, sold in more than 90 countries and still performing on air. Heidi is now being recreated by Studio 100 Animation in CGI. The series is currently at an early production stage and will be ready mid 2015.
While waiting for the new CGI series release, and also because we truly believe in Heidi’s potential and appeal for young girls and women, we will reinvigorate the beloved and famous character thanks to a new vintage twist treatment. Full of timeless values, we believe our cute girl will be in perfect sync with our target audience.
We are currently developing a retro collection mood board, which capitalises on present brand assets for apparel, accessories, stationary and bags for teenagers and young adult women.
Do you have any plans to expand your brands into the UK market at all? If so, which ones and which categories?
We already have a partnership in place with Nickelodeon for House of Anubis. Brand awareness of our core properties is not high in the UK and so our goal is to introduce them as new brands. We are currently evaluating the best scenario to enter into the UK market, starting with placement of the television series on the very best broadcast platforms.
How are you looking to expand the Studio 100 business going forward? Would acquisition of other firms/properties be an option?
Since the focus for my business division is the world except France, Benelux, GAS, Australia/New Zealand and Southern Europe, we are aiming to extend our coverage in Asia, North America, UK and Latin America. Business expansion is our goal. We believe in long-term properties and for that reason Studio 100 invests heavily in its IP. Maya will feature in a 3D movie to be released in the end of 2014/15, which will help us maintain the momentum.
Do you think you are missing any particular type of brands from your portfolio (targeting a particular demographic/age etc)?
Our focus as a company is very much centred around family and children’s entertainment with a very positive message and we cover that target demographic very well with our current brands and those in development.
What's your view on the licensing market in general currently? What do you see as the main differences across the territories that you work in?
As a European citizen, I can see a huge difference between Europe and the international markets I deal with. Some markets are emerging like CEE, Russia, India, China and licensing is not yet very organised, although the market demand is there. Asia and Latin America are also extremely dynamic, but mainly covered by the US majors or very local properties. There is a lot of untapped potential for us to explore. Dynamism, flexibility and ability to react quickly are key in this kind of environment.
What were your main aims at Licensing Expo this year?
Our goals were to:
• Coordinate a well planned launch for Maya on our territories;
• Pitch our new property Vic the Viking and find licensing partners;
• Introduce Heidi Classic/Vintage
What would you most like to have achieved by the end of 2013?
A successful Maya launch.
And, slightly longer term, where would you like to see Studio 100 in five years' time?
• Be counted amongst the top ten of pre-school companies;
• Strong representative agents in key markets;
• Develop the distribution of our own Studio 100 products globally