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“If we can get through this year, we can pretty much get through anything”

Source chats to Venetia Davie, vp UK & Ireland at ViacomCBS Consumer Products, about the opportunities in the preschool sector going forward.

Firstly, which preschool brands are you currently focusing on? Can you run through how the licensing programmes for each are shaping up?

PAW Patrol is the back-bone of our preschool business and a brand that commands a lot of focus across all areas of our business from channel, live events, to social and consumer products.

This year we’ve signed and launched new partners such as Seabrooks and 8th Wonder and PAW remains top dog as the number one preschool property. This autumn we launched our latest theme Dino Rescue, and for the premiere episode, the show was far and away the number one kids programme in its slot with 165k kids tuning in. Next year will also be big year for the pups with the new thematic PAW Patrol: Moto Pups and the release of the greatly anticipated PAW Patrol the Movie which will be distributed globally by Paramount movies.

Another key priority for us will be the launch of consumer products to support Blue’s Clues & You. We’ve seen great success both on air and across product categories in the US. Based on the show’s initial ratings across Nick Jr and our digital and SVOD platforms, we have no doubt that our US success can be replicated in the UK next Christmas.

Finally, we look forward to expanding the world of Baby Shark. Following the announcement that the animated series Baby Shark’s Big Show will launch next year on Nick Jr we’re working closely with Pinkfong to extend the world of Baby Shark with many new partners already in place.

PAW Patrol remains the backbone of ViacomCBS' preschool business.
PAW Patrol remains the backbone of ViacomCBS' preschool business.

Have you seen any major trends emerging over the course of 2020 in the preschool space?

Influencers have been a big thing for us on the preschool front and Ryan’s World has been one of our strongest properties throughout 2020. We have the Nick Jr. show Ryan’s Mystery Playdate. Series three launched in August this year and series 4 has already been greenlit. On the consumer products side, Ryan is a best-selling hit with toys, a video game as well as apps and a magazine which have all proven immensely popular amongst pre-schoolers who identify with Ryan. Next year’s focus for Ryan’s World will include new partners in the FMCG space and a fantastic retail activation around his World Tour theme.

Also, within the preschool space we launched a range of CKN apparel lines exclusively at Character.com to support our latest influencer preschool show Calvin & Kaisons Play Power. The boys will be promoting the apparel line on their YouTube platform which receives well over 27 million UK views per month, up over 58% since the show started airing in the UK.

Outside of the preschool space, we have recently announced a brand-new partnership with social media star and hip-hop artist with ‘That Girl Lay Lay’ to develop original multiplatform programming, music and more. We’re thrilled to be launching her in the UK in 2021.

Blue's Clues & You has enjoyed strong success in the US already.
Blue's Clues & You has enjoyed strong success in the US already.

How healthy do you think the preschool licensed sector is in general? What are some of the key challenges that you think the sector is facing going forward (retail recovery from COVID-19, lack of shelf space, risk averse retail, etc)?

2020 has been a mixed year with clear winners and losers. We’ve seen the toy market strengthen with some significant upsides in licensed sales and categories such as outdoor toys, puzzles and games and building sets but we’ve also seen softening in lower price impulse products and categories such as daywear and accessories. In publishing our licensed workbooks and magazine sales have held up incredibly well given the closure of some non-essential stores.

In terms of recovery I think we’re all hoping those risks taken on inventory for key promoted toy lines pay off. It’s great to see apparel sales start to re-build and this category especially is seeing a nice up-tick in last minute orders and retailers really partnering to maximise open to buy.

Most of all I think we’re looking forward to 2021, while the C word may move back to the B word, I think we all feel, if we can get through this year, we can pretty much get through anything. Let’s see what the next round of Brexit negotiations deliver.

Calvin and Kaison are the latest influencers in the preschool space.
Calvin and Kaison are the latest influencers in the preschool space.

How easy is it for new brands to break through at the moment?

Most of our properties are well known among parents and preschoolers and nostalgia properties are definitely a big part of what we offer, but we do have a few newcomers for 2021 which I believe will make a strong debut.

We’re getting ready to launch Baby Shark products following the launch of Bay Shark’s Big Show on Nickelodeon and I have no doubt that it will be a hit for preschoolers.

Kids and parents have so much choice nowadays especially with the number of platforms available to them to watch content, but through our campaigns and our work with our partners we manage to reach them and introduce them to new characters which they grow attached to. It’s more challenging than with established properties but still possible.

What would you most like to achieve for your preschool brands from the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

A top ten Christmas toy, lots of happy faces on unwrapping presents, continued ratings growth across all our channels, a blockbuster summer movie moving into 2021 and a Blue’s Clues takeover at retail next year.

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