Can you give me a history of ITV and its approach to licensing?
ITV is the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster and our Global Entertainment team includes a full service licensing agency that represents ITV’s own brands in addition to third party properties. Our approach to licensing is to seek and build iconic brands over the long term and to work with partners that reflect our dedication to driving innovation, not only in terms of product development but also creative, marketing, progressive retailer relationships and the comprehensive level of cross divisional support that we can provide across all areas of the ITV business.
What are ITVS GE’s major properties for 2014 and what activity can we expect around them?
Our property portfolio has doubled in the last 12 months alone and the next two years are on track to be some of the busiest and most exciting in the history of the business. Our slate is led by Thunderbirds with 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of this classic brand, leading us up to the highly anticipated launch of the new boys’ action adventure television series Thunderbirds Are Go! in spring 2015. The show, which has been produced in partnership with Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop, represents a multi-million pound investment for ITV and an exciting new chapter in the history of this iconic brand that has been a rite of passage for generations of children. The third party side of our business has also grown exponentially with the line up now including breakthrough boys’ brand Matt Hatter Chronicles, classic toy property Playmobil, the new kids’ TV series Super 4, the mobile game sensation Cut the Rope, boys’ action brand Digimon and the 1970s brand Village People. We’re making major investment across the whole portfolio and all properties will be supported on a trade level at Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe and MIP through to consumer marketing and PR and retail promotions – ITVS GE properties will be inescapable.
How does ITVS GE pick its licensees?
We very consciously seek out partners that take a long-term view to business, licensees that reflect our dedication to sensitively developing brands and building equity over time. It’s crucial that our licensing partners share our belief in driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of creativity across all points in the process from product development through to marketing and retail support. We also work in close collaboration with the ITV Acquisitions team to ascertain the licensing potential of properties in advance of acquiring them to ensure that all brands within our portfolio complement each other and that the brands will resonate with licensees and that the merchandise will appeal to retailers and consumers.
When dealing with its own original properties, how does ITV select what brands/shows to build a licensing programme around?
When looking within the ITV portfolio we definitely focus on properties with heritage and broad demographic appeal, Thunderbirds for example and our TV Format Brands like Coronation Street and Come Dine With Me. These brands have established themselves over time and boast an enthusiastic and existing fan base who are often looking for ways in which to extend their experience of the brand, well thought out consumer products are a perfect vehicle to drive this interaction.
How many licensees do you currently have, and in which categories?
Our portfolio currently boasts over 100 licensees and this number is rising all the time. We are present in all product categories with the maturity of the licensing programme dependant on a number of factors including the lifecycle of the brand and how long we have worked with the property. Thunderbirds classic for example lends itself to high end and high value adult collectibles, from pinball machines to licensed legal currency in New Zealand, and also traditional categories like apparel that is a category that has thrived in response to the current retro trend. Other brands like Thunderbirds Are Go! Matt Hatter Chronicles and Digimon are undeniably mass market with kids firmly set in its sights and therefore we look to form partnerships with best in class toy partners like Vivid, Simba Dickie and Bandai, companies with retail form and that inspire confidence and encourage other licensees to get on-board the licensing programme.
What are the most recognisable touch points for the brand? When people think about ITV what comes to mind?
I think the ITV brand is synonymous with being at the forefront of great quality broadcast and producing some of the best, must watch shows on television. In licensing terms I would like to think that the industry recognises us for really caring about what we do and investing in the brands that we represent. I really believe that our attention to planning, detail and the energy that lies within the ITVS GE team is second to none and this is translated across our own properties and the third party brands that we represent. We are dedicated to maintaining and further building upon our reputation of being a great channel, with great shows, that’s all supported by a great and highly dynamic consumer products team.
Can you talk us through the team structure at ITVS GE now?
I am responsible for leading the merchandise strategy for ITVS GE. Maggy Harris has just been promoted to VP of International, UK and Children’s Publishing and our marketing department is now headed up by Sarah Baines our new VP of Franchise Marketing and Consumer Products who is responsible for overseeing brand marketing and creative across all of the ITV franchises supported by two dedicated brand managers who work across the portfolio. Newly promoted Natalie Harvey, VP of European Retail, Promotions and Digital heads up European retail in addition to promotions and digital categories.
How has the structure of the business itself changed – for example you also have a thriving third party licensing business now as well as your own properties.
Yes, in addition to maintaining our reputation as experts in building our own evergreen franchises like Thunderbirds, we’re emerging as a major player in third party representation with a portfolio of six brands for which we are effectively the agent for. We stand out as one of the few licensors that can offer a strong broadcast platform, in addition to content production, consumer products development, brand support and distribution – a fully integrated service that’s engaging brand owners and licensees alike.
When looking at a third party licence, what kind of qualities should it have? Does it need to complement your own brands?
We look specifically for iconic and innovative brands to represent. The rise in digital technology and social media means that the consumer interacts with brands differently and the way in which we purchase products has changed. We need to move with the times and work with partners to give the consumers what they want, when they want it rather than working to traditional licensing formulas that have become so ubiquitous. So how are we doing this in practice? Saban’s Digimon is an interesting case in point. A hit since 1999, we’re working with the brand owner to develop digital assets including online games so we can ensure a presence not just on TV but in all the other areas that today’s tech savvy kids are hanging out. Similarly these assets are being made available to retailers for use on its web sites encouraging kids to spend more time in a commercial environment interacting and engaging with the brand and hopefully inspiring purchase intent.
You have quite an eclectic mix of brands now – from Thunderbirds to Cut the Rope to the Village People. Is there anything you think is missing from your portfolio?
We have an incredibly exciting and varied selection of brands in our portfolio that tap into leading sectors ranging from retro classics, action adventure brands and digital properties. We are now keen to extend our expertise into the preschool market and proactively seeking brands in this space.
What would you most like to have achieved by the end of 2014?
It’s difficult to know where to start there’s so much! Firstly, we have our sights set on a successful Licensing Expo, Las Vegas where we will launch our portfolio on the global stage with a strong focus on Thunderbirds and the new series Thunderbirds Are Go! Our objective is to grow the international profile of the brand and generate interest amongst US broadcasters and international licensees in addition to UK partners. 2014 will also see us preview the first full episode of Thunderbirds Are Go! that we hope will accelerate interest in the licensing programme buoyed by this being the 50th anniversary year. We would like to be celebrating the successful launch of the L+M programme for Matt Hatter Chronicles and see the brand breakthrough in the competitive boys’ sector whilst driving the expansion of the consumer products programmes for Digimon and Cut the Rope. Overall, we intend to capitalise on the incredible momentum that our licensing portfolio has achieved in the last 12 months and continue on with our mission to nurture our licensee base for all our brands with the right partners.
For licensing opportunities, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7157 6163.