Larkshead Media’s Tim Patterson on how Brexit could affect the changing media landscape.
Uncertainty is never good for business. And Brexit promises a lot of uncertainty for UK-based media services such as licensing and merchandising, both before and after it actually happens.
There are many Brexit-related factors at play: price increases, so far largely borne by manufacturers, the uncertain position of EU talent employed in the UK by media groups (in particular animators), the potential withdrawal of European investment from sources such as the EIB, Horizon 2020, COSME and others, and, probably most of all, the possibility that insecurity itself may breed lack of confidence and even inertia.
At the same time, there has been a lot of creativity and innovation around developing licensed product ranges over the last few years. It would be a real pity if Brexit had a negative impact in this area – just through uncertainty.
But I remain optimistic. I consider myself a solutions-focused person and Larkshead Media, through all its disciplines, is solutions focused. And we certainly have no shortage of disciplines. Our services include development, strategy, investment, licensing and merchandising, and distribution, with a strong emphasis on kids’ programming – particularly, but not exclusively, animation – and related IP.
In addition, while Larkshead is a fairly new company, it was founded by very experienced personnel, including our head of licensing and merchandising, Clare Piggott. Between us we have already spent many years dealing with the challenges of an industry that never stands still. Brexit or no Brexit, media is a constantly changing, converging landscape.
Thus Brexit, while not a situation we take lightly, is nevertheless something Larkshead Media feels equipped to deal with. Yes, Brexit will probably mean a different way of working, but in terms of our particular skillset offer, our size, the fact that we’re flexible, and the fact that, as a group, we have a lot of experience, I am optimistic.
Of course I have given a lot of thought to Brexit as it affects each of the company’s disciplines. For instance, strategically, I would suggest that it will not be that impactful; Brexit is just another area to be aware of and to apply to any strategy we deliver, pitch on or manage.
Similarly, development is very much cross-border; this area of our services won’t really change. And distribution is a global relationship; this too, I would suggest, will be business as usual.
Investment, however, is less certain. Will European investment sources be withdrawn? Will the UK government step in if they are? My view is that investment packaging specifically will be very much in the same vein as it has long been: exploring as many investment routes as possible and making sure everyone talks to each other in order to actually find a means to a specific end.
However, it just might be a different set of investment opportunities presented to us, post-Brexit. However, a positive outlook is not, in itself, a guarantee that a UK-based company will successfully navigate the choppy waters of Brexit. That is why Larkshead Media Ireland – a partner office in Dublin – has recently been set up.
Larkshead Media was born out of the desire and ability to offer a certain skillset to content creators and IP owners. We are hungry, ambitious, and looking to grow and build relationships, not just in the UK but in Europe. Larkshead Media Ireland, and the flexibility it brings, is a key component for us. It’s a post-Brexit solution, and not just for IP or content management. Larkshead Media Ireland will be focused on co-production and investment packaging.
This will give us the opportunity to go down the road of co-production and also focus on finance packaging relationships as well. Ireland is a perfect starting point for both — not just because of the tax and investment opportunities there, but also because Ireland has a huge and very successful animation studio resource with a lot of talent.
The new office will also, of course, offer a foothold in a country that’s going to stay European, but it will still be under the Larkshead Media umbrella and be part of its overall offering. That is the USP of why I set up Larkshead in the first place: it was very important to have those skill bases – licensing and merchandising, development, investment, distribution and brand management – together as one package.
You might ask: does that work with our customers? Well, a lot of people we’re speaking with love the fact that we cover off disciplines that they might not have in-house — and that we have them together in a single entity. But is this enough in uncertain times? I won’t deny there is insecurity. But I’ve set up the company to work with any challenges that present themselves and find solutions — including solutions for companies that might not have the capability to cope with change.
And who knows? Brexit might even offer opportunities as well as uncertainty for a flexible and multi-skilled media services company like Larkshead — although that remains to be seen. But one thing is certain. There will always be viewers and consumers looking to be entertained by great stories. And that means there’s always going to be a requirement for IP and content.
Tim Patterson is ceo of media services company Larkshead Media.