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Click to download: The growth of digital licensing

How Netflix and YouTube are making brand owners think differently.

Back in 2013, the final episode of Breaking Bad was watched by over ten million people in the US. In the same year, Guinness World Records named it the highest rated TV series of all time.

But while US viewers were watching on the AMC network, over in the UK, we were watching on Netflix, with the service offering subscribers exclusive access to the episodes as soon as they were screened in the US.

Indeed, Netflix has been widely credited with helping Breaking Bad reach such heights of popularity in the UK, but it has also opened up a new business model for the licensing industry, too.

Rocket Licensing has a healthy programme of 24 licensees for the property, and also handles the spin-off, Better Call Saul.

“The interesting thing is that the show finished two years ago, but merchandise is still out there and we have a really extensive range,” says Rob Wijeratna, Rocket’s joint MD. “For us, it has been amazing. The old licensing format very much works in the window of broadcast, but this is a different model as new people are coming to the show still. That means the momentum carries on and that window is still open effectively.”

Recent research carried out by Netflix apparently found that two thirds of parents now claim to also be turning to the service for family viewing.

FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment has chosen to screen the Classic Danger Mouse and the new reboot on Netflix to reach audiences in the US. Joss Duffield, vice president of distribution and sales, says: “Netflix is hugely committed to commissioning and acquiring children’s content globally. The SVOD platforms, with Netflix leading the way, are currently experiencing an explosion in their subscriber numbers.

“Danger Mouse is a bold new series and Netflix also has a fantastic ability to create a huge amount of buzz around its shows, so it felt like a natural fit. The broadcast world is changing radically and children are at the forefront of these changes.”

YouTube app

This brings us nicely on to YouTube, which launched its kids app earlier this year, with the aim of making it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore. Channels and playlists are separated into four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore.

A story on The Guardian earlier this year cited Ofcom research suggesting that more than half of eight to 11 year olds and three quarters of 12 to 15 year olds watch YouTube. A growing proportion even say that they prefer YouTube to traditional TV.

Little Baby Bum is the fourth largest YouTube channel in the UK, and the team behind it is actively pushing for the number one or two spot. It is also making its first foray into the physical space, having secured an agent in the form of Surge Licensing and a deal with Commonwealth Toys.

“As far as we’re aware, this is the first time a children’s YouTube channel is moving into consumer products,” says Derek Holder, co-founder of Little Baby Bum. “I think we will see others make the move. YouTube had a large booth at Licensing Expo with a number of channels, but I guess it’s a question of whether it’s brandable from a licensing point of view. We have a very clearly defined audience. There will be a lot of eyes on our deal.”

However, there’s still life in the digital TV market, too. Tiny Pop, for example, launched in the UK in 2003 and has gone from strength to strength, with channel manager Claudia Dalley citing its ‘great performance and loveable brand identity’ as reasons for it thriving.

Now also available on Freeview (as well as Sky, Freesat and Virgin), it is this strong growth that has attracted a number of big name shows, including Studio 100’s Maya the Bee which is one of the main properties on the channel.

“We are planning to sustain brand awareness and celebrate the launch of Maya the Bee the film through a campaign featuring an interactive competition linking on air to online, with great prizes for the winners,” says Claudia.

The trick for brands of course is to make sure that they are wherever their audience is. And with children now having more choice than ever, this means that licensed properties do, too.

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