Licensing has entered what many may call ‘the third phase.’
In a broad brush, I like to think of the industry as having a third phase of evolution with what you might call blanket media expansion.
For a long time, entertainment properties were either a movie or a TV programme on BBC One or BBC Two here in the UK, or for the international audience, TF1 in France or the leading broadcasters in Germany.
This was the state of the licensing in its first 15 to 20 years.
Then the disruptors moved in. We got satellite TV and with it the launch of Sky and platforms such as MTV as the platform for listening to music on. Suddenly, it wasn’t Radio One anymore, it was MTV.
We also had the advent of children’s dedicated satellite TV channels, such as CBeebies and Disney Channel etc.
The next step of evolution for media occurs in what we call Phase Three and the introduction of SVOD platforms, with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, along with YouTube becoming a platform that if you are not a broadcaster today, you could easily be a broadcaster by tomorrow. All you need to do today is create some content and place it on YouTube and suddenly you are on the same kind of playing field as these broadcaster of days gone by.
The people taking advantage of this are doing so for all contrasting reasons. You see companies like Rovio with successful licenses like Angry Birds. They created their own online channel for animation, but actually and eventually decided it was better placed on YouTube, so they made the move from their own channel to where the audiences already are.
Likewise, you have toy companies that have decided that they themselves will become the content creators, launching long and short form content to go on YouTube in their own right.
This is all, of course, alongside this wacky and wonderful world of YouTube influencers, who have become huge among the toy industry. Now the question for many toy firms is ‘how do we talk to them?’ ‘How do we get our brands in the hands of these influencers?’ and ‘how do we do it without it being obviously commercial?’
Then Phase Three goes deeper still, and actually these influencers – the likes of Jojo Siwa – are moving into licensing through traditional routes, themselves.
It never gets any easier for the agents to decide what properties they pick up and run with and it never gets any easier for licensees to do the same.
To a certain extent, your skill set expands with the decade in which you were born. I am happy with the stuff happening around us today, many of us are. Many are still learning, but kids – the kids born today, with all of this stuff around them from the moment they enter this universe – this is all second nature to them. Now this is what will fuel and allow the next extension of licensing.
We rightfully think of licensing as a big business, but if you go through all the databases, in the UK there are about 700 manufacturing businesses listed as regular licence buyers. Now, there are certainly more than 700 consumer products businesses in the UK. There’s certainly more than 7,000, so we really are only scratching the surface of what licensing can achieve.
However, as things evolve, there are still brands out there who remain terrified of what licensing is. They think it is the Wild West, and, with such diversification as to what licensing really is today, who can really blame them?
However, it is LIMA’s mission to convince them that licensing is actually very easy to understand and very easy to enter. We are here to guide them through all aspects of the industry, from the traditional avenues to the new routes. It’s all exciting and should all be embraced.