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“We want to be the leading content, digital and CP company”

Source chats to Steve Manners about his new role as vp business development for WildBrain CPLG & WildBrain Spark.

Firstly, can you outline what your new role will involve?

Primarily, I will be focusing on assisting licensors and content creators to maximise and leverage their IP through digital platforms with WildBrain Spark, which will then create increased consumer products opportunities with WildBrain CPLG. I will also be working with WildBrain Spark on new IP content creation that may lead to consumer products opportunities.

Why has WildBrain decided to implement this role? How will it maximise the synergies between its businesses?

We have seen increasing interest from WildBrain CPLG’s licensors on the potential of working with WildBrain Spark, which intensified following our company-wide rebrand, BLE and MIPCOM in autumn 2019.

WildBrain’s new CEO, Eric Ellenbogen, realised very quickly that we had a unique offering, and by bringing CPLG and WildBrain Spark closer together, we could greatly expand the service we were able to offer our mutual clients. In order to do so, we needed to put resource and experience in place, which is where I come in!

What benefits will it bring to WildBrain – both the CPLG and Spark sides? And what benefits will it bring to brands?

Both the licensing and broadcast industries are changing at a rapid pace. The tipping point has been reached where kids watch more content on YouTube than they do on linear TV. For CPLG’s entertainment licensors, the ability to maintain eyeballs on content and have year-round availability is incredibly attractive.

The WildBrain Spark network now averages approximately four billion views per month on YouTube alone and is also active on other platforms such as Amazon Direct Video, Apple TV and Roku. As a company, we have the unique ability to offer a holistic solution to maximise content exposure on digital platforms and engage consumers that will help drive sales of consumer products.

With their unique proposition – content and channel management, production, paid media and ad sales and, importantly, data and insights – WildBrain Spark is able to maximise IP and content, with an ‘always on’ approach that delivers to an audience where and when they want. From a consumer products point of view, that is invaluable as it creates greater engagement and affinity with favourite characters.  Not only that, the data WildBrain Spark has access to gives us incredible insights into viewing preferences, reaction to characters and scenarios that really help shape the direction of consumer products – it’s a level of understanding we’ve never been able to gain from linear broadcast.

How will your previous experience in the licensing business help in this new role?

Well, I have over 30 years’ experience in licensing, so it’s definitely an industry I know well! During the past nine years at CPLG I’ve been responsible for business development, working closely with licensors and ensuring we have strong and mutually productive relationships, which will also benefit WildBrain Spark. I have extensive contacts in the industry and can help WildBrain Spark navigate through the complexities of many companies, having worked with Hollywood studios, smaller entertainment companies and brands.

In addition, I’ve been very closely involved with the changes we’ve made over the past few years at CPLG to ensure we remain at the forefront of the licensing community, and I believe that experience – the desire and determination to try new ideas, challenge the “norm”, think creatively – fits perfectly with WildBrain Spark’s ethos.

Can you tell us anything about the brands/IP owners you are currently working with?

WildBrain CPLG and WildBrain Spark are already working together with several brand owners on major content and consumer products releases and, at the other end of the scale, with IP owners looking to move from the content space into a licensing consumer products business for the first time. We’ll be announcing new partnerships shortly, so watch this space.

What would you most like to achieve in the new role by the end of 2020?

We are already in discussion with several companies about how WildBrain can really amplify both their content and consumer products. Over the next year, we should be able to demonstrate the real capacity and strength of our unique capabilities.

And what’s the longer term aim (say for five years’ time)?

We want to be the leading content, digital and consumer products company – visionary, adaptable, energetic and creative. The rapid pace of change is not going to slow down, and we want to stay at the forefront of these developments as we continue to build outstanding consumer products programmes for our licensors, whilst maximising their digital content strategy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s hugely exciting to have the opportunity to work with the dynamic and creative team at WildBrain Spark and seek ways to use the digital space – and the consumer engagement and insights generated from it – to benefit consumer products. Being able to continue to work with the amazing team at WildBrain CPLG, while expanding my experience and finding ways to bring benefit to both companies, and WildBrain as a whole, is a real gift.

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