THE BIG INTERVIEW: Simon Flamank, President/CEO, TV-Loonland - Licensing.biz

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Simon Flamank, President/CEO, TV-Loonland

After a pretty bumpy couple of years, TV-Loonland has turned a corner and is now in the process of building on the success it has achieved with Little Princess, adding several more brands to its portfolio. Samantha Loveday talks to CEO Simon Flamank about coming back from the brink...
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It’s pretty safe to say that the past three years have been something of a rollercoaster for TV-Loonland. You could even have been thinking that following its well-publicised financial issues, the company wouldn’t even be around this far down the line.

But around it is. And in some considerable health, with some big plans for the coming years, according to president and CEO Simon Flamank.

“During the past three years, we have managed to achieve three key things,” he tells Licensing.biz. “Reposition TV-Loonland’s business from a production model to a brand management model. This means our core business is clearly exploiting brands on all potential platforms and media on a worldwide basis and, therefore, source the best possible content whether home grown or co-produced with a third party. This has also meant developing our L&M activity and this is reflected in the fact that we now have dedicated L&M teams in the three key European territories (UK, Germany and France) and have a head of L&M appointing and managing agents worldwide.”

The change in the structure was helped by the fact that TV-L was able to negotiate a write-off with its bankers for a significant portion of its debt, while fresh capital was made available to invest in a number of new properties.

“We were able to achieve what we have as a result of having a really strong and talented team of people in the company,” says Flamank. “My focus was for the company to become a centre of creative excellence and for it to start to attract new projects and producers. We have been able to do that by being very open and straightforward in the way that we work with the creative community and in Olivier Dumont I could not ask for a better judge of creative talent.

“Allied to this we were able to resolve all of the well-publicised financial issues by getting our banks to agree to a debt restructuring and write off, which was supported wholeheartedly by our previously maligned major shareholder who has supported us throughout.”

Along with its balance sheet looking healthier, TV-L has also been focusing on fewer, but higher quality “far reaching” properties, Flamank says. Little Princess is probably the one that consumers and the trade are most familiar with: the pre-school show airs on Five’s Milkshake and over 165 countries worldwide. Highlights over the past year have included the launch of the first ever range of toys from master toy licensee Martin Yaffe, plus the opening of an online store. TV-L has also now completed two 22-minute seasonal specials based around autumn and winter: the autumn special has already aired on Five, while the winter programme is scheduled in for a Boxing Day broadcast.

Away from Little Princess, TV-L is also beginning to enjoy success with The Owl, which currently airs in the UK and Ireland on CBBC in key slots on both the flagship kids’ block on BBC2 and The CBBC Channel. The silent short-form animation has been sold to over 190 territories and a plush line has been launched by Vivid Imaginations in the UK and France, with Italy and Spain to follow in 2009.

CGI animation Pat & Stan is also attracting some solid interest from digital platforms considering the 350 available shorts, while licensing deals are currently being negotiated in a wide variety of categories such as toys, mobile telephony accessories, apparel and video games.

On top of all this, TV-L unveiled its new property, Leon, at Mipcom Junior in October, with it turning out to be the third most watched programme (out of over 1,100 available) at the market, just behind the latest Disney and Aardman offerings.

And the company isn’t planning to rest there either. Flamank continues: “We will be moving into the tween and teen sectors in 2009 with the launch of a brand new animated series at MIPTV and we also have a variety of new properties in development for pre-schoolers and six to nine year olds.”

It’s clear that having come out the other side of its troubles, the feeling at TV-L is one of confidence, and it is aiming to take what it has learnt from the experience (“who really is on your team and who isn’t!” jokes Flamank) and turn it to its advantage in the future.

Flamank is under no illusions, however, about the challenges not just TV-L, but the whole of the business, faces going forward. “As the number of brands and target groups grows, what licensors have got to do is emphasise the uniqueness of the brand, whether it’s heritage or the idea and maximise all cross promotional opportunities. We all operate in a very competitive market space and it’s important to remain innovative and flexible.”

However, Flamank is equally clear about where he believes TV-L will be in five year’s time. “I see us stronger, larger and fitter,” he enthuses. “A brand management company with a reputation for being innovative both on a brand and corporate level.”

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