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How Boat Rocker Rights is making its mark

We chat to the company’s Jon Rutherford and Caroline High about its ambitious plans.

Of course, the UK licensing industry will be more than familiar with FremantleMedia’s brands and programming with 45+ brands consisting of over 150 series and 1,600 half hours of programming for children from preschool to tweens/teens including favourites such as Danger Mouse. However, the industry may be slightly less familiar with the name of Boat Rocker which has since the acquisition integrated FremantleMedia’s current Kids & Family Entertainment division into Boat Rocker Media’s global distribution arm.

Boat Rocker Media was born from Temple Street Productions, a globally recognised independent production company best known for international successes Orphan Black, X Company, The Next Step and Killjoys. In the summer of 2015, Fairfax Financial Holdings purchased a majority stake in Temple Street, and as a result co-presidents David Fortier and Ivan Schneeberg along with md John Young, transformed Temple Street into Boat Rocker Media – an integrated international production and distribution company covering every aspect of content creation and exploitation including live action, scripted, factual and animation.

“Boat Rocker Media and its various divisions are renowned within the content world as an award-winning company with a strong reputation borne out of the quality and diversity of the programming it produces,” outlines president Jon Rutherford.

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Prior to the acquisition of FremantleMedia’s Kids & Family division, Boat Rocker’s licensing programme was represented through agents such as Striker Entertainment, Segal Licensing and Brands With Influence, with a heavy focus on its two most globally recongnised brands – Orphan Black and The Next Step.

However, the acquisition represents a seismic shift for the company, as Jon explains: “With robust production and distribution capabilities already in place, the next logical step for Boat Rocker Media was for further vertical integration. The acquisition of FMK gave us the ability to fully exploit the ancillary potential of our content, primarily for our kids and family content but also for other genres.”

Jon continues: “FMK has provided us with over 800 hours of active programming and several new brands which helped to expand our presence globally, with new offices in London and Hong Kong and an increased presence in New York. It has also brought in additional expertise in brand management, licensing, strategic global partnerships and creative development and production.”

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While it may seem an integration on this scale may take some time to bed in, Caroline High, director of licensing, reveals that the integration has “gone well and is now fully implemented”.

“Boat Rocker now has two new fully functioning offices in London and Hong Kong,” she comments. “The acquisition allows us to build a greater presence in Europe and Asia and grow our consumer products arm. The Fremantle Kids catalogue complements our existing portfolio and provides us with a strong development slate. It also enhances our relationship with broadcasters such as the BBC who we already know well from The Next Step, by adding Bitz & Bob and Danger Mouse to our portfolio.”

In the UK, The Next Step is a huge ratings driver for CBBC. The sixth season launched on the channel in July of this year to great success. “With Boat Rocker Rights UK now managing the licensing programme, we are actively talking to prospective partners across apparel, accessories, personal care and publishing,” Caroline reveals.

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For Bitz & Bob, the company is actively seeking partners across a range of categories including toy, arts and crafts and steam related products. As for Danger Mouse, new episodes launched in September and the show has now been sold to 100+ territories worldwide. “We continue to develop exciting partnerships and brand extensions including: promotions with Tesco Opticians on branded eyewear, family dining with Wimpy, and the critically acclaimed Danger Games has just launched on Nintendo Switch,” says Caroline.

In addition, The Who Was? Show has recently launched globally on Netflix to critical acclaim. Based on the successful publishing franchise, the live-action comedy sketch show brings famous names from history to life.

In addition to the FMK and BRR brands, the London office is also taking on a select number of third party representations to look after their UK licensing and continues to manage a range of Nelvana brands in the UK including Mysticons, Ranger Rob, Soft’n Slo Squishies and Max & Ruby.

While the brand and licensing team is currently placing a heavy emphasis on kids’ properties, the company’s strong production track record across multiple genres means that there are potential consumer products opportunities to expand into other areas and categories.

The stratospheric growth of the company means that even for those in the maelstrom of it all it is difficult to predict the future trajectory. “The company has grown so rapidly in the last two years – who knows where we will be in five?” laughs Caroline. “But I would like to say that in five years we will have established several leading global brands across a number of different genres. I also think that we will have further expanded our international footprint and become the go-to licensor.”

Boat Rocker Media: Need to know

Boat Rocker Media is the umbrella company for several divisions including Boat Rocker Studios, Boat Rocker Rights and Boat Rocker Ventures.

Boat Rocker Media employs 650+ people.

Production companies under the Boat Rocker Studios division include Temple Street, Crooked Horse Productions, Industrial Brothers, Jam Filled Entertainment, Proper Television and Insight Productions.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book.

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