Andrew Carley: Going from Nickelodeon to Zodiak, you’ve crossed the threshold from broadcaster to producer. How have you found the transition?
Jennifer Lawlor: The Nickelodeon machine offers such a great formula – working on mega-hit properties around the world, as part of a truly global business and within a fantastic broadcast vehicle. Giving that up is never an easy decision. However, one of the things I loved at Nick was looking at the new properties being shown to us by various producers and I realised that the new Zodiak properties I was seeing had so much potential. The opportunity to move this side was too great to miss out on, so from that point of view it’s been relatively easy and exciting. You’re something of a king in the pre-school category.
Why do you think Peppa Pig has proven so successful in the UK?
AC: A whole host of reasons, however key is the ability of the programming to connect with both children and adults. While we understand that children drive licensed product purchases, if the parents enjoy the programming it’s a far more enjoyable experience for everyone. In addition, we have a very close relationship with the studio – Astley Baker Davies – which enables us to inject that unique piece of Peppa DNA into product development which makes it stand out. The steady growth of the licensing programme has enabled it to build a very strong foundation in terms of both consumers and retailers.
And, let’s be honest, a degree of luck.
JL: Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over with Peppa?
AC: Our international roll out was flawed in the early days. On the back of the UK success there was a misguided view that we could replicate this in international markets regardless of the broadcast and without the resources we have in the UK. Over the past two years we have been able to pull back, regroup and take a far more focused and considered approach.
Zodiak has recently added Little Princess to its pre-school roster. How are you planning to relaunch it?
JL: Little Princess comes to us with a strong heritage in key markets, great TV exposure and a high level of awareness and acceptance among kids and parents. In Germany we’ve inherited an existing CP business built upon solid TV. Milkshake in the UK offers a great platform, but here with a market overrun with pre-school properties trying to break into the mass market, we have seen an opportunity to develop Little Princess as the ‘alternative’ princess. We’re delivering a quality product range at mid-tier, along with strong digital product.
AC: And what plans are there for Waybuloo, given that it’s probably reaching the next phase of its lifecycle?
JL: One of my biggest learnings at Nick was patience and so, while we’ve seen Waybuloo achieve great things in the UK to date, the international roll out has been a little slower than anticipated. However, we’re starting to see traction in European markets and in Australia and we’re confident the property has huge unrealised potential. While for the UK the next phase is all about diversifying and refreshing the product offering and deepening the consumer engagement through live events, in addition to the TV.
Would you consider looking beyond pre-school?
AC: Most definitely. A number of new shows are currently under consideration that will take us into the older girls and boys market. In addition we are integrating licensing with our film distribution and prime time TV distribution divisions. Given that you have worked on both sides of the industry, how do you see TV developing as a vehicle for driving children’s entertainment given the huge growth of online/digital?
JL: TV as a traditional medium continues to deliver real and measurable viewership and cannot be ignored. However, kids are consuming content from so many sources we have to both deliver content across these varied sources and also be aware of the potential for properties developed outside the traditional TV model.
What’s your view?
AC: I think one of the most interesting and exciting developments must be the change in the way in which everyone, including children, watch programming. The next three years will be very interesting particularly in terms of how broadcasters adapt to the technology and how they create a robust financial model. Given children’s licensing is intrinsically linked to traditional broadcast, it is fair to assume there will be changes.
JL: Are digital apps a pre-school marketing exercise or real revenue generators?
AC: Digital is a very interesting arena. A couple of years ago there were very clear distinctions between publishing, gaming, online, etc. In many cases the lines of distinction are becoming increasingly blurred. Three years ago it was difficult to see how a pre-schooler could easily interact in the digital arena; the iPad has changed all of that and there are now very real opportunities. While apps on their own may be a marketing exercise, the overall digital offering is very much a revenue generator.
Slightly lighter hearted, you appear to have managed to effectively combine business with pleasure – cruising around the Hamptons while in New York. Do you expect Zodiak to subsidise this hobby?
JL: And if Licensing Show moved back to NYC I’d have even more time to cruise! All I have to say is that Zodiak seems to understand and is supplementing my addiction… treating me to five days in Cannes on a super yacht, with some work meetings thrown in. Anyway, sailing is your thing isn’t it? Is that what you’d do if you weren’t in licensing?
AC: My real passion is sailing, yes, but it doesn’t pay very well – I don’t think the family would be that happy. Maybe wine buying… coupled with cheese…