“The role of the influencer is more important than ever”

Source talks to Venetia Davie, vp consumer products UK & Ireland, ViacomCBS, and Danny Spronz, md EMEA, Pocket.watch about the fast growing Ryan’s World brand and why influencers are more important than ever.

Firstly, can you run through how ViacomCBS became involved with Ryan’s World?

Venetia Davie: ViacomCBS was first introduced to Ryan’s World through our strategic partnership with pocket.watch, the digital-first kids content studio responsible for helping grow the YouTube sensation, Ryan Toys Review into the global franchise, Ryan’s World. As part of the brand extensions for Ryan, pocket.watch also created an original show called Ryan’s Mystery Playdate which they brought to us for Nick Jr.

We saw the size and power of Ryan’s growing audience and wanted to bring that audience to Nickelodeon. Since its launch in April 2019, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate has reached over 33 million total viewers across Nickelodeon and the Nick Jr. channel. The series has been the #1 television show on all of television for pre-schoolers in the U.S. and ranks No. 1 in its time slot on Treehouse in Canada, across all 11 Canadian kids’ networks measured.

The show saw a +45% audience increase in April 2020 and has also been nominated for an Emmy award in the US for Outstanding Preschool Children’s Series. ViacomCBS also represents consumer product licensing for Ryan’s World in key international markets.

Ryan's presence has expanded beyond YouTube and across multiple touchpoints.
Ryan's presence has expanded beyond YouTube and across multiple touchpoints.

Away from the YouTube channel, how has the company looked to expand Ryan and build on the brand?

Venetia Davie: ViacomCBS and Pocket.Watch have successfully expanded Ryan’s presence beyond YouTube to engage with Ryan’s fans across multiple consumer touchpoints including broadcast, publishing, gaming and consumer products.

The Nick Jr. TV series Ryan’s Mystery Playdate is now in its second series and has been renewed for a third series, scheduled for release in the UK in August 2020. Additionally, the show continues to expand its reach as Playdate is now available on Channel 5 and VOD affiliate platforms; Sky, Virgin and BT.

The Race with Ryan video game launched in multiple UK retail outlets, which was then followed by the Tag with Ryan game app, which has 12 million downloads globally. Ryan’s gaming presence will soon reach exciting new realms through a partnership with Roblox, one of the largest multi-player kids gaming platforms which boasts +115M active players. Ryan’s Mystery Playdate’s also has its first mobile game, Blast, launching this summer.

The Ryan’s World Magazine continues to strengthen its position in the UK market and is currently #8 in the preschool charts with an average sale of 33K per issue and it has officially entered the top 20 magazine titles out of 184 titles.

On the retail side, Ryan is a multi-million-dollar force to be reckoned with. Ryan’s World was named the number one ‘new property’ in the UK toy market for 2019. When looking at May 2020 data it’s clear that Ryan is continuing to grow, month on month: sales are up 27% and YOY sales up a staggering 271%.

What are some of the new products coming up?

Venetia Davie: A new line of Ryan’s Mystery Playdate toys launched in spring 2020 from Just Play, distributed by Flair. The range of toys includes exciting products such as the Ryan’s Mystery Playdate Splasher, Popping Playdate, Surprise Door and more.

Spring 2020 also saw expanded categories for Ryan’s World; which included fun apparel items, listed in both Primark and George. Additional products for both Ryan’s World and Ryan’s Mystery Playdate are also in the works. This will include a focus on FMCG for Ryan’s World, while for Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, the focus will be on expanding into secondary toy, party and more.

In 2021 we will also launch products and retail activations around Ryan’s World Tour.

Ryan has been involved with Sky's Learning Hub during lockdown in the UK.
Ryan has been involved with Sky's Learning Hub during lockdown in the UK.

What is Ryan’s appeal do you think?

Danny Spronz: Ryan’s appeal is universal as his genuine love of play and authenticity transcends the screen and resonates with his audience, thus capturing a gender neutral global fan base. Key surprise and delight attributes keep Ryan’s fans engaged and wanting more and like Ryan, his fans are always ready to play! Ryan’s fans think of him as a friend and want to do and be everywhere he is. Likewise, fans of Ryan are  growing up as he himself grows up, which is reflected in the diversified Consumer Products offering which includes, among other elements, a greater presence in the gaming space.

The pandemic has obviously meant that children have been inside their homes for 3+ months now – what are some of the initiatives Ryan – and his ‘brand’ – have become involved in during lockdown?

Danny Spronz: Like kids all over the globe, Ryan has been at home during the pandemic, using his creativity to keep himself and his fans entertained and educated. He has continued to share his love of play through his Ryan’s World channel, but he has also used the platform to educate kids about hand washing and staying safe. His hand washing videos have reached over 16M views.

Venetia Davie: In the UK, Ryan has been involved in Sky’s Learning Hub – Sky has made educational collections available on Sky Kids to help families at home during lockdown whilst schools are closed. The learning from home curriculum is split into three stages and Ryan’s Mystery Playdate episodes are included in the first category ‘Foundation: Early Years – under 5s’ alongside content focusing on numeracy and educational songs.

Ryan's first mobile game will launch later this summer.
Ryan's first mobile game will launch later this summer.

How much has ViacomCBS’ approach needed to change during lockdown?

Venetia Davie: During lockdown we saw increased viewing figures across our platforms for our shows from YouTube to Nick Jr. to Milkshake and beyond. In April and for the 5th consecutive year, the Nickelodeon network was the #1 UK kids’ network across both free to air and commercial channels. NickToons was the Number 1 Kids commercial channel with ratings growth of over 200% yoy.

We also saw that both parents and kids were looking for reassurance and support. We launched our #KidsTogether initiative and amplified this across all platforms; from enhanced interactive and digital content to increased VOD distribution to fun branded colouring sheets and activities delivered to UK retailers. Additionally, our other social media star, Baby Shark, taught preschoolers the importance of good hygiene through the ‘Wash Your Hands’ YouTube video, which had over 6M views in one week alone.

How do you think the role of the influencer themselves when it comes to licensing has changed during the lockdown period?

Danny Spronz: The role of the influencer is more important than ever, as kids and families are safely staying at home and consuming digital video at record levels. Like kids all over the world, these influencers are kids at home too. They are relying on their imaginations in the confines of their bedrooms and gardens and coming up with amazing things to do. Kids like Ryan share those imaginative experiments and activities online, entertaining and inspiring kids at home to do the same.

I’ve seen questions asked by online commentators as to whether the pandemic has spelt the end for adult influencers, as the world has moved on from simply buying products they are promoting – do you think the opposite is actually true and the influencers for the younger demographic have actually seen their stock rise, becoming more important?

Danny Spronz: It’s safe to say that the younger demographic put a lot of trust in influencers, at the moment they’ve become almost their play mate; and we’re seeing that in toy sales – it’s not always about owning something that has an influencer’s face emblazoned on it however; it’s about playing with toys you know they’re interested in or have had a part to play in creating.

A new line of Ryan's Mystery Playdate toys launched in spring 2020 from Just Play.
A new line of Ryan's Mystery Playdate toys launched in spring 2020 from Just Play.

What’s next for the Ryan brand throughout the remainder of 2020?

Venetia Davie: As mentioned, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate Season 3 will be launching from August 2020, so we’ll continue to see these episodes rolled-out across Nick Jr. into Q3 and Q4. From a retail standpoint, both Ryan’s World and Ryan’s Mystery Playdate will be included in some exciting solus and multi-property executions later this year alongside the likes of PAW Patrol and Baby Shark.

Danny Spronz: Ryan’s Mystery Playdate seasons 1 and 2 will be available for the first time in Germany from July 2020 in English and August 2020 in German on the Amazon FreeTime Unlimited streaming services, with Season 3 becoming available in October 2020. Ryan’s Mystery Playdate’s first mobile game, Blast, launches later this summer.

And who’s the next influencer we should be keeping our eye on for 2021?

Danny Spronz: You should be on the lookout for the new brand, Love, Diana, based on the #3 YouTube channel in the world, Kids Diana Show. With 123M subscribers and 4.4B view in April 2020, we believe Love, Diana will be the next massive global franchise for girls.

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