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‘We are going from strength to strength with all our brands’

We chat to Silvergate Media’s Lisa Macdonald about its ‘Tale to TV to Toy box’ ethos.

Lisa Macdonald joined Silvergate Media in January 2017 as vp consumer products and TV sales, EMEA, with the task of driving growth for the EMEA region and building momentum across its wider business.

We catch up with Lisa to find out how the company’s year has been so far and find out what they have planned for Peter Rabbit, Octonauts and the new brands coming through.

How have you been using your previous experience in your new role at Silvergate?

My previous roles have given me valuable experience of the UK market and an international perspective. At Sanrio we established a strong programme of promotions for Mr Men with partners like Evian, TFL and Heathrow. With the exception of the Japanese market, relationships like this are largely unexplored here so there is a huge opportunity, particularly with a brand of the calibre of Peter Rabbit.

How is the team structured?

Our global commercial team, which manages licensing, TV and digital sales, is based in London. Our TV and creative teams are based in New York. For our size we like to think we punch above our weight! As a small team we work closely with partners and rely on them to activate our strategy – we have a brilliant network of agencies, licensees and broadcasters who contribute to our success, daily.

How has business been over the past 12 months?

Very busy! We are going from strength to strength with all our brands. This summer Nickelodeon launched Sunny Day, a TV series that was developed and produced by Silvergate Media.

Octonauts season four is airing with new broadcasters around the world and China is a key focus for the brand this year and beyond. Octonauts has exploded in China with audience figures and retail sales exceeding all expectations, so we’re building on the momentum in that market. We are in production with three new properties with partners such as Disney, Nickelodeon and Netflix and our development slate continues to grow.

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What is Silvergate’s licensing and consumer products strategy?

Licensing is integral to our mission to develop world-class children’s brands. Our philosophy is: ‘Tale to TV to Toy box’. With each brand we play to its individual strengths, think creatively and apply a local strategy layer for each market. For example in Korea, one of the leading international markets for Octonauts, we launched a local language Korean YouTube channel in February this year to extend brand engagement. Viewing figures for Q2 2017 rose 188% compared to the prior quarter.

How do licensing and consumer products complement the TV arm of Silvergate’s business?

Consumer product success unlocks the investment we need to continue producing content for existing properties such as Octonauts, and to develop new properties, such as Hilda. It’s a vital component to the creation of the TV shows and something we consider very early on when developing TV shows.

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Talk me through the recent updates for Peter Rabbit in the UK?

We are seeing growth for both our Peter Rabbit licensing programmes at the moment – for the Peter Rabbit TV series and for Classic Peter too. The new film from Sony Pictures opens in February 2018 in the US and March 2018 in the UK and is helping to maintain interest across the board.

For TV Peter Rabbit, which we co-own with Penguin Random House, the focus is to capitalise on its ongoing success on CBeebies, Sky Kids and YouTube. The ratings on CBeebies are exceptionally strong and Peter Rabbit frequently ranks as a top ten preschool show across all channels, with excess of 200k viewers per episodes. Rainbow Designs launched a fantastic range of TV plush earlier this year and it went on to win listings at Argos and Sainsbury’s among others – outperforming its sales forecast three-fold. New partners include Aykroyds TDP and Smiffys and at BLE this year we hope to extend the consumer products programme into more categories.

To bring to life the show’s core values of discovery, exploration and outdoor adventure, we’ve just launched a Peter Rabbit Adventure experience at Flamingo Land, the biggest family attraction in the North East with 1.5 million annual visitors.

For classic Peter Rabbit, we are the global licensing agent on behalf of Penguin. Many of the 150th anniversary partnerships forged in 2016 are extending well into next year – with Mothercare, for example, and with the Royal Mint. A particular highlight in the Classic campaign has been the triple digit growth in apparel sales with Paul Dennicci over the last year and, testament to this success, their wonderful range for Mothercare has just been named Best Licensed Preschool Apparel Range at The Licensing Awards 2017. There is growth in all other leading categories for Classic, too and new categories launching in 2018 include jewellery and dress-up.

The retailer JoJo Maman Bebe came on board in 2017 and we will launch with more retail partners in 2018.

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What updates can you share for Octonauts in the UK?

We are now into series four of this lovely show and the mature phase of the brand rollout in the UK, where it has a very dedicated fan base. Octonauts is integral to CBeebies offering, both on linear broadcast and iPlayer where there are over 50 episodes available at any given time. Octonauts is also part of CBeebies wider offering, such as an Octonauts ride at Cbeebies Land and an Octonauts rooms at CBeebies Land Hotel.

Octonauts is aimed at children 2-6 with real science, conservation and teamwork at its heart. We hit a staggering 1 billion YouTube views earlier this year and series five launches on air in 2018, featuring new characters and vehicles which will be translated to product by master global toy partner, Fisher-Price. Immediate Media’s standalone monthly magazine is still a top four preschool title for boys and there are live events, at Birmingham’s Seal Life centre, for example, and a recent partnership with the Swimming Teachers Association running in Virgin Active centres nationwide that provide that grass roots fan engagement.

I understand there has been strong international growth for Octonauts – how much of a focus is this for you? How are you looking to build on your existing success?

We’re in a very fortunate position with Octonauts in that the show’s superb storytelling, compelling characters, real science and stunning design means it is capable of crossing cultural divides. Key new growth markets for Octonauts are Southern Europe, Russia and Asia, where the show is proving to be a huge success. We are building in these markets and tailoring local activity for each of them.

We will, of course, be harnessing the brand’s phenomenal popularity in China, too and that’s a key priority for the business. We are co-producing season five of Octonauts with the Chinese national broadcaster CCTV and one of the new episodes will actually include a Giant Salamander adventure based in China. Our partnerships with educational centres and indoor attractions in the region will be expanding over the next couple of years too as our footprint in that market expands.

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What have been some of your biggest recent successes?

Octonauts, which is owned and developed solely by Silvergate, is on course to becoming a ‘Super IP’ in China. We’ve recently hit a phenomenal 10 billion views on Web TV, four million Octonauts books have been sold in just 18 months and our global master toy partner, Mattel, is celebrating triple digit sales growth in the last year. Added to this, in this summer alone we saw a staggering three million children attend Octonauts events across 187 Wanda shopping malls.

The second season of Octonauts also aired in Russia this summer achieving a record audience share reach of 47% on Karusel. The broadcast is widely supported by an extensive VOD presence, including a local language YouTube channel that achieves up to 10 million views every month. Mattel introduced its toy range into Russia at the end of 2016 and secondary categories will roll-out from this autumn/winter. We are now building upon this success and have a number of exciting retail activations in the pipeline including with Detsky Mir and Korablik, among others.

For Peter Rabbit we are really proud of the way our Classic and TV licensing programmes complement each other and licensing revenues are growing for each strand of the brand. Recent deals of note include the 150th anniversary range at Mothercare, one of their most successful licensed programmes of the last decade. The spectacular festival of light at Longleat last year, enjoyed by 250,000 visitors and a hugely successful licensed range programme with the Royal Mint, which took everyone by surprise. The Limited Edition coins sold out in days and made £6m at retail. For TV Peter, the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground at Willows Activity Farm in Hertfordshire continues to be highly successful too. These great successes will extend and continue into next year.


In terms of new brands, what do you have coming up?

We are very excited about Hilda, the animated series based on Luke Pearson’s graphic novels, which premieres on Netflix next summer. We will be managing the global consumer products programme which will be aimed at girls aged 6-11. There is a second series of Sunny Day in the pipeline too and we are in pre-production on brand new properties that we can’t talk about yet, but watch this space.

What would you most like to have achieved by the end of the year at Silvergate?

We will be pleased to have launched Octonauts on their next exciting mission and to continue our adventure with Peter Rabbit and his friends through the Great British countryside.

And longer term, say in five years’ time? How would you like Silvergate to be seen by the wider licensing industry?

On a global level we feel the best is yet to come from our existing brands and we also have exciting new things in the pipeline. I’m very glad to be working with such strong kids’ brands at Silvergate.

The time is right for each one of them and I’m looking forward to seeing them flourish and grow.

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