Dear Tim . . . We're living in the 'golden age of content' with the new shows being produced and ...
Hi Tim, we're living in the 'golden age of content' with all the new shows being produced and consumer at a rapid rate. How would you determine the licenses to go after in this rapidly shifting landscape? (Nick Metzler)
Hi Nick. Spot on observation about how quickly new kid-targeted content is multiplying. And it’s not just the content, it’s the platforms that are quickly expanding too. Twenty years ago, we were contending with a well-developed cable TV universe that even then was stuffed with more choices than your child could shake a remote at. Now? YouTube channels, video game ecosystems, streaming services…is it possible Disney+ is only 16 months old? And should we count unboxing videos, influencers on TikTok, podcasts for cryin’ out loud? What a wild and bewildering content landscape it is.
Isn’t it awesome?
If storytelling is what helps children gain context for play, then there has never been a time like this. Content truly has been democratized – and the days of assuming that only a full-length feature film or 26 half-hours on Nick will drive sales are behind us.
So how does a toy marketer decide what’s going to break through and make for a successful product line?
Well, getting the eyeballs to the content still matters, of course. Streaming services are rapidly building scale…but it’s not yet clear if the marketing dollars to drive viewers will follow. And the jury is still decidedly out on whether a steady stream of new weekly or daily episodes is preferable to a full-season ‘dump’ on a single day. (I’m still a fan of the ‘daily drip’ – the opportunity to build a routine of familiarity and engagement with a set of characters, but then I’m old school, as you know.)
But the most important attribute – and the easiest one to miss – is whether the content you’re considering actually delivers on a true play pattern for children. I agonized a few times in my career over The Smurfs – those blasted blue blobs certainly weren’t aspirational, so…how exactly would a child play with them? Then there’s WB’s upcoming BatWheels TV series. Haven’t seen a lick of it yet. I am SURE it will sell toys. There are thousands of great stories out there – but not all of them will translate to play. (I have a long and preposterous story to share about Kung Fu Panda, but it will wait for another day. When it hurts less to recall it.)
So, Nick: ask yourself first about that play pattern. Then ask the content creator about their distribution plans. And then ask about their marketing plans. And then realize that, if you’re missing the first one, the second two don’t matter.
Finally, a few words about those forces of nature that defy explanation. I’m talking, of course, about Cocomelon. Your adult self will tell you it’s low-grade animation. That they’re just recycled kids’ songs. That someone needs to please turn it off now. And ten gazillion views later, a phenomenon is born.
When that happens, just go with it. The kids know something you don’t.
Isn’t that awesome?