PJ Masks transformed our business: eOne’s Andrew Carley on a year of successful licensing

How has this year been for eOne within the licensing space? 

It’s been a very successful for year for us. Peppa Pig is now one of the top performing pre-school properties in the world, with $1.2billion in annual worldwide retail sales. It’s broadcast in 180 countries and translated into 40 languages and there are more than 1000 licensees.

We now have a significant business in China where Peppa is a leading preschool property, we have recently launched in Japan, our USA business is exceptionally solid and our experiential business is growing significantly.

The success of PJ Masks has had a transforming effect on the business. Having two global preschool hits has opened up new opportunities with international partners. PJ Masks has enjoyed strong sales for Just Play’s master toy line, which has launched in most territories around the world including N. America, UK, Europe, Lat Am, Asia and Australia, with many stores selling out of lines across the range.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom remains exceptionally popular with audiences around the world too. The UK toy range from Character Options was recently updated and has strong placement in UK retail. In the USA, Jazwares launched into Target this August. So, with Ben and Holly now established in the USA we now have all three of our properties placed in USA retail.

Why is it important for eOne to have a wide reaching portfolio, targeting boys and girls? 

Our principles have always been based on creating high quality content founded on exceptional storytelling and characterisation that engages the fanbase at multiple levels. The success of both Peppa and PJ have given us the necessary tools to understand what it takes to build great content into a long term international brand at every level.

We are now developing content that capitalises on that knowledge enabling us to offer a portfolio of properties that caters for both boy and girl at multiple age groups on a global basis.

The success of PJ Masks has had a transforming effect on the business.

PJ Masks has had a tremendous year, with new series and toys launching. What has this year been like for the property? Can we expect to see more developments this year and next? 

It’s been a very impressive launch and we are all very excited about the future of PJ Masks. It’s now one of the top rating pre-schools shows for its broadcasters Disney Junior and Tiny Pop here in the UK with strong views across the official YouTube channel as well. Series 2 launches on air across the EMEA region from Spring 2018 on the Disney Junior network. The new series will introduce exciting new characters and locations that will give licensees and retailers fresh inspiration for product lines. A third series is in development.

As far as consumer products are concerned the launch has exceeded our expectations by far. Initial reaction to the toy line was very strong, with strong sell through across the EMEA region. PJ Masks has now launched across nearly all of EMEA and CEE. Couple this with a very strong start in USA in October 2016, plus a similarly strong start in Asia and LatAm, and PJ Masks looks set to have a very exciting 2018.

Just Play is the master global toy partner, with Flair distributing here in the UK, and at BLE we will be celebrating the next phase of products launching in the UK market, including publishing, a stand-alone magazine, ELA and puzzles, homeware, partyware and back to school plus new toy lines from Flair Just Play. We were thrilled when the PJ Masks headquarters playset made both the Argos and Tesco Top 10 toys for Christmas because it shows the wide appeal of the brand and the confidence retailers have in it. This was also reflected in the Licensing Award win for Best Toy range. Anchoring all that retail activity we have a packed schedule of promotional partnerships driving fan engagement on the ground. Here in the UK, we’ve partnered with Oxygen trampoline park, the Youth Sport Trust charity and nationwide preschool dance franchise diddi dance, which will all drive interest back into the TV show and consumer products.

Peppa Pig targets preschool girls and PJ Masks is aimed at preschool boys. eOne is now in the process of developing shows that are aimed at boys and girls aged 6-9 years.

Peppa Pig continues to be an evergreen brand for eOne. How do you plan on building the brand in the licensing space?

Peppa will keep building in a number of dimensions. Firstly, we are gearing up for Peppa Pig’s 15th anniversary celebrations in 2019, which will be marked by new episodes, top tier partnerships, retail events and special product lines. Astley Baker Davies is currently in production on series eight of Peppa Pig with 117 new episodes scheduled to launch on air globally from Spring 2019 and throughout 2020 and 2021. This will take the total number of episodes to 381 and ensures a rich vein of new content to inspire its growing licensee base and entertain its huge fan base.

UK toy sales continue to grow in 2017, with a 12 per cent rise in growth year to date. Character Options has reported a month on month rise in sales in 2017 since launching a refreshed core toy range based on iconic and familiar scenes from the TV show. The property now boasts 87 licensees in the UK, with new FMCG partners coming on board. 

Beyond the UK, Peppa continues to be one of the top preschool properties in Southern Europe. The property has gained evergreen status in France, Spain and Italy, where the 100th issue of Fun to Learn Peppa Pig magazine was released this August by Centauria, representing a first for any license in the territory!

Peppa continues to grow in sales and popularity in emerging territories, and was recently named the ‘Best Foreign Animated Series’ at the 2017 National Animation and Licensing Awards at Multimir in Russia, where there are now 40 licensing partners signed across toys, games and confectionery. We recently launched the licensing programme in Japan on the back of Peppa broadcast on TV Tokyo, popularity for Peppa in China is building at a staggering rate, India is progressing and USA continues to build on what is already a very strong business.

Are there any new properties on the way that you can mention? 

eOne’s ultimate goal is to have a portfolio of content that reaches multiple segments of the marketplace. At the moment Peppa Pig targets preschool girls and PJ Masks is aimed at preschool boys. eOne is now in the process of developing shows that are aimed at boys and girls aged 6-9 years.

How do you plan to increase fan engagement? 

Engaging with fans and consumers, even if they are very young, is a defining feature of the market at the moment. With Peppa we have built opportunities to engage through charity partnerships, celebrity tie-ins, events, experiences and a solid social media presence.

We build engagement all the time via these methods and are now working on similar activations for PJ Masks. In the last few months, for example, we have teamed up with diddi dance so that children attending their dance classes can dress up and dance as their favourite PJ hero and raise money for the Youth Sport Trust. These initiatives are fun and not only help to engage fans but also to emphasise the positive messaging of each of our brands. The importance of physical engagement with fans has grown significantly over recent years. The recent creation of an experiential division within eOne Family reflects this growing emphasis.

How important is retail to you guys? What is your relationship like with retailers? 

It has and always will be a key element. Our focus is on building properties around original content that can be nurtured into long-term propositions. Key to this is managing retail expectations and giving properties the time and space to mature in the marketplace.

We have long standing relationships with most retailers and are constantly looking for ways to strengthen our partnerships with them, to deliver specifically to their needs, and to evolve according to current retail trends. For example, with a classic property like Peppa Pig we know that retailers love the brand because it is so well known, so consistent and reliable.

However as a brand owner we recognise that retailers and consumers are faced with a myriad of new shows and content on multiple viewing platforms. Consequently even the most well recognised and established shows can suffer from fatigue from audiences that increasingly expect newness. In order for eOne and our brands are to remain at the forefront of consumer’s minds we are constantly looking for ways to update and innovate product, integrate content themes and story lines into retail marketing and importantly offer retail the opportunity to create environments that help to offer compelling experiences that build on a fans connection with the show.

What are your main focus points for the rest of the year? 

Our key focus remains Peppa. It’s status as a leading long term global preschool property is virtually unsurpassed and it’s essential we ensure it remains this way. New content, significant experiential activity, global partners, significant long term licensing programmes in all the key markets notably UK, EMEA, USA, China and recent launches in Japan and India plus a 15 year anniversary in 2019 all point to a property that deserves long term attention

PJ Masks will naturally attract focus. The product roll out will expand, including the launch of the first PJ Masks DVD in October titled “It’s Time to be a Hero” as we move from Q4 2017 into 2018 supported by the launch of the next series. Series 2 will bring 52 new episodes to air with new characters, new locations and exciting new adventures, supported by a new marketing theme and new product range.

We will also expand the experiential activity for PJ Masks next year, with enhanced character meet and greets, and exciting retail events such as hero training initiatives, where children can learn to be their own hero. There will be new gaming content, and new online and offline activities so that fans can access the brand at multiple levels, appropriate for the 2-5 age group. We will continue work with a broad range of partners across the charity, nursery, schools and retail sector to encourage children to get active. There is plenty to look forward to in 2018 and beyond!

What are your expectations for BLE this year? Why should people visit the eOne stand? 

Our objective is to show that our three brands, each of them at a different stage of development, offer retailers a strong proposition for long term, well supported sales in product lines that parents and children will love. We will be talking about our plans for investment in the brands to ensure constantly evolving marketing and product development to keep them fresh and strong.

BLE is a great way for us to demonstrate our strength and commitment as a brand owner and to make new contacts. Some of our most promising leads in the past have emerged from BLE! 

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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