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“Sustainability needs to remain firmly in everyone’s sights, too”

BBC Studios’ Rikesh Desai talks how the business has coped through lockdown and highlights how the industry needs to think about a sustainable future.

From switching licensee presentations and workshops to Zoom, through to creating special content featuring their characters to help parents suddenly needing to home-school as well as work, licensors and IP owners have stepped up during the crisis.

Today, Source chats to Rikesh Desai, licensing director for merchandise and gaming at BBC Studios, about how the company has still been able to press ahead with new ventures, what the industry needs to consider going forward and why the issue of sustainability and climate change isn’t going away.

“On the whole, we’ve been able to continue with almost all of our long-term planning for this autumn and next spring, with the exception of a few summer initiatives which have either been cancelled, or postponed.

However, we’ve have been able to press ahead with exciting new ventures, like our new multi-platform story for Doctor Who, Time Lord Victorious. We have a host of brilliant partners involved, spanning novels, audio drama, comics, live events, gaming and merchandise. Our gaming team also announced Doctor Who: Edge of Time. We’ve expanded our existing deal with our Hey Duggee soft lines partner Aykroyd & Sons and TDP to include daywear, in addition to nightwear rights. We’ve also signed Amscan International to create dress-up and partyware for Hey Duggee.

As the road to revenue recovery starts, the industry needs to think about how we navigate a number of major consumer shifts. These include customer’s reducing their spend and focusing more on value, with discretionary products and services being the most affected. With product demand and revenue outlook appearing uncertain, we will need to stimulate recovery through targeted offers, flexible deal terms and marketing spend optimisation.

Lockdown has nudged the world even more toward the digital space and we’ve seen some of our brands reap rewards from this. For example, Hey Duggee’s digital presence rocketed during lockdown. On YouTube, monthly views for the official Hey Duggee channel grew by over 40% compared to the average. Meanwhile, we’ve also seen pre-orders of the Singing Sticky Stick Soft Toy, manufactured by our Hey Duggee toy licensee Golden Bear, doing really well on Amazon.

Sustainability needs to remain firmly in everyone’s sights too as climate change isn’t going away.

This is a priority for me personally, as well as BBC Studios. As a business we’ve worked with a number of licensees to successfully launch eco-friendly lines. For instance, our BBC Earth licensee Posh Paws recently launched a new range of soft baby animals that are filled with 100% recycled post-consumer waste PET plastic (plastic bottles) to demonstrate a commitment to the environment, along with packaging made from 100% recycled FSC certified craft paper and soy-based inks.

I believe the licensing industry needs to adopt a deliberate and ambitious approach toward forging a sustainable future for our consumers, by coming together to share best practice and collaborate on solutions that can help bring more sustainable products to market.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2020 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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