eOne’s Andrew Carley talks early PJ Masks success and and why the toy line is destined for big things

How has 2016 been for the PJ Masks property?

It’s almost taken us by surprise how quickly PJ Masks has gathered momentum with the TV audience.

Disney brought the broadcast date forward to the end of 2015 in the US, and the speed at which the ratings have risen has taken us all by surprise.

We have had to bring forward our roll out plan to deal with that, which is a great place to be in and puts us in a strong position for 2016 moving into 2017, on the back of some great results for Peppa Pig in the US.

Peppa is really growing momentum. We have the potential to build on this property and we are launching PJ Masks at the end of the year, which is looking exceptionally strong. So, 2016 is a good one.

What are the biggest areas of growth you have seen for PJ Masks?

The TV ratings have been staggering, so good that I think they have taken Disney by surprise. The show is competing with some firmly established properties that are already out there and on the map.

The other area of growth is of course in the toy sector. Signing Just Play as the brand’s global master toy partner was our first major appointment and we have been working exceptionally hard with Just Play to bring that range to fruition.

It’s not quite in retail yet, but it will be soon and the speed in which we have turned that around is staggering and testament to Just Play and everyone here at eOne.

What brand extension have you secured for PJ Masks on a global level?

In the US we have about 20 to 25 licensees in place for PJ Masks now. Most of those are launching product in early 2017 with some of the core categories like clothing, publishing, accessories and back to school launching earlier.

It is fair to say that there is a full programme in place ready for 2017 in the US. Looking beyond the US, a similar process is in place in most other territories around the world.

With Disney as the broadcast platform, we have insight into the territories where PJ Masks is performing the strongest. In these territories we will be mirroring what we do in the US. So, we are looking at a full roll-out across Australia, most of Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Do you think the UK market can mirror the success you have in the US for PJ Masks?

Looking at the ratings we are seeing on Disney Junior in the UK, we certainly think so. The only caveat that everyone is mindful of is that the platform of Disney Junior in the UK isn’t quite the same in the UK as it is in the US.

That said, the trade and licensees all feel that PJ Masks has got the ability to drive forward and generate momentum.

I think the days of ‘a show has to be on a traditional platform or it doesn’t work’ are fading away. That doesn’t mean we won’t look for free-to-air partners, and we’re in discussion with a few partners that could air the show after the exclusivity period on Disney Junior.

However, we don’t necessarily have to have that partner in order to launch the licensing programme.

What has early response been like to both the show and its initial toy line?

It has been huge and the anticipation is incredible.

In one sense, a problem we have got is in trying to manage the anticipation, therefore, manage the resultant demand and expectation from everybody.

We are going as quickly as we can, it’s going to be an exciting 18 months.

Where has that demand come from and why does the brand lend itself so well to the toy sector?

It’s one of those things that seems so obvious; to have a show that is about superheroes aimed at preschoolers seems a logical thing, but it hasn’t been done. Plenty of shows have superheroes, but while they are attracting preschool viewers, they are not designed specifically for them.

So it’s a sure fire winner to look at.

The quality of the animation and the storytelling is very good. The subject matter is that every child wants to be a superhero. They are children by day, heroes by night and preschoolers can relate to the kids in the show and then reenact their superheroes themselves.

The preschool sector is booming and you have had major success with the likes of Peppa Pig, but how challenging is it launching a new property into that space?

We have seen this with Peppa PIg. It has become a much, much more competitive landscape.

This is a good thing as there was a concern that the preschool sector was getting stale. It needed something new and we were very mindful that this was a highly competitive space. We judge very carefully how much product to introduce and when to launch it based on what we feel is the demand from the marketplace. We try to match those up.

So, are you expecting a busy BLE period?

We are expecting an exceptionally busy BLE. Las Vegas Licensing Expo was a very busy show for us when we launched PJ Masks to the trade in the US.

We expect BLE to be equally as busy for us when we launch to the trade in Europe.

We have now started to see initial sales reports on early lines from the US and they are very strong. By the time we get to BLE we will have a physical toy line as opposed to concept. We also announced the second series recently, so there is a lot for people to sink their teeth in to.

One aspect of brand extension that seems to be popular is live shows and events, is that something in the pipeline for PJ Masks?

It’s an area we are very familiar with, having run live shows for Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. We are well versed with understanding what they can bring in terms of that consumer touch point.

It is very much on our radar for PJ Masks and something we’re currently exploring.

We recognise the importance of it both as a commercial opportunity and as a marketing opportunity.

Do you think PJ Masks has the potential to become a classic property in the future?

This question makes me smile. I think to call it a classic at this stage is too early.

It has all the hallmarks: great storytelling, children engage with it, kids love to reenact what they see on screen.

I think to a certain extent, whether it becomes a classic or not, that ball is in our court. In terms of how we manage the next couple of years, don’t push it too hard, keep additional content coming through, make sure the licensing programme connects with kids and carries the brand value.

If it is all handled right, then potentially yes. But again, that is in our court. I will let you know in five years time.

Are there any new territories on the horizon that you’re taking the property to?

The Middle East is a new market for us. We haven’t been able to launch Peppa there because the character is a pig.

In most other territories we have experience launching a preschool property through Peppa. So we will take that learning and apply that to PJ Masks.

We do of course recognise there is difference between the two shows, but in terms of roll out, we have learnt a great deal from Peppa that we can apply to the international market.

It must be exciting for you guys then that this property opens up those new markets to you?

When we first saw PJ Masks , we thought it’s a boys’ show. But the feedback we got from consumers, social media and the trade as a whole, showed that it is also very much a girls’ offering or needs to be a girls’ offering as well.

The viewing habits suggest that there is a strong girls’ audience and we will cater to that. How big that becomes remains to be seen, but from day one there will be an offering for both boys and girls.

Do you have any promotional or special marketing activity planned for 2016/2017?

It is all about getting people to know and understand PJ Masks.

We had a great event at ComicCon in California with a limited edition figurine pack, with a gold character. They disappeared before our very eyes, so went exceptionally well.

We have an online presence, there are games, a website and apps all still in development. The focus is on building the brand in the eyes of the consumer and then off the back of that we roll out with the merchandise.

What would you like to achieve with the brand this year and for next year?

We would like to capitalise on the success of the ratings and make sure the success is measured.

This time next year, we would like to see a broad range in multiple territories with the US leading the charge and moving into ancillary products you wouldn’t see at launch.

At the same time, Peppa Pig continues to be our evergreen.. We continue to invest in new programing. Internationally we continue to build with new opportunities and we will keep Peppa Pig front of mind in the UK, which is where the heartland is.

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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