“SEE ALL OF that there, it looks really natural together doesn’t it?” Paul Dempsey, MD of BBC Worldwide asks me as he points to a wide range of product across key categories for several of the organisation’s major brands.
Dempsey’s question is his way of leading into the explanation of what’s been happening at BBC Worldwide Consumer Products (as it’s currently called) over the last few months.
“We are effectively collapsing what might have been individual format businesses – so like the video business or the consumer products business – into one overall organisation which looks at everything,” he says. “And the reason we are doing that is because, increasingly, we think the consumer is going to want to think about the way they want to extend their enjoyment of our shows, not along traditional format boundaries.
“In order to get people thinking like that, we’ve had to organise everybody and effectively make format a secondary consideration, which I think makes sense.
“Whilst we’re all in the BBC, without having the close proximity of people working every day together, then it’s difficult to have that ‘one BBC’ approach,” Dempsey adds. “We brought everybody together, physically, in the Foley Street office last May, but we still pretty much had different teams, so the close proximity on its own wasn’t enough.”
Coincidentally, says Dempsey, two of the key people from the licensing team have now left the business – Neil Ross Russell, who was MD of children’s global brands and licensed consumer products, and Frances Adams who was the head of creative, although Ross Russell is continuing to consult for the firm in the short-term via his new venture.
Head of UK licensing, Richard Hollis, and his team now report to Fiona Eastwood, who is heading up the new Product Development division, which covers licensing, video and all other formats, while David Wilson Nunn has taken on the creative director role.
Dempsey agrees that the consumer products business has been moved around a lot – “it had been quite nomadic, every year or two it moved into another division” – but he is now confident that it is in the right place.
He also has a clear set of aims for 2012. “Getting to know much more about our consumers,” he begins. “You might think that’s obvious but if you don’t understand what the consumers want from you, you’re scuppered. We’d also like a more direct relationship with our consumers. We’ve also done a lot of talking about how a new breed of hybrid products might emerge, and this year is about actually doing them and working with people who are going to help us with that. And there will be some products that we will have made ourselves.
“Like everyone else we are also working hard to drive greater distribution of our products, to get them in front of a wider range of consumers. And, finally, thinking about digital and really pushing both the product format and getting real innovation into it, but also trying to drive iTunes as much as we can, but at the same time hopefully bring in other players who will support us.”
And Dempsey already has his eye on the next big challenge. “Around the world we are still relatively small and we are reliant on our big brands getting a foothold in other territories, such as selling programmes to third party broadcasters or by establishing channels ourselves. If you have things like global iPlayer launching, it’s easier to get into environments and create fans. Our long-term goal is how do you get to fans all around the world with this product.”
BBC brand highlights
Baby Jake – massive on Cbeebies and the line from master toy partner Vivid is getting a good reaction from retail.
Deadly 60 – Steve Backshall was a key draw on the Character Options stand during London Toy Fair, and the brand is set to be a major focus for the BBC throughout 2012.
Something Special – while no announcements have been made beyond the licensing rights at this stage, expect some big news soon.
The Adventures of Abney & Teal – Rainbow Designs is planning to roll out products including Abney and Teal rag dolls, bean toys, a 24-piece puzzles and mix and match number and picture cards. Other deals are due to be announced shortly.
The FA – partners including Danilo, Forever Collectibles and Pattni Imaginations showcased ranges at Spring Fair in February.
MasterChef – the UK’s most successful and prolific TV cookery brand, an initial product launch was a success last year in John Lewis and the BBC is now looking to build on this.
Kirstie Allsop – exclusive in Marks & Spencer for Q4 last year, wider distribution is planned for 2012.