A week after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Kodak’s Head of Business Development and Brand Licensing, Jon Hall, was in Hong Kong, on an Asian Licensing Conference (ALC) panel Australian Paul Field, MD of The Wiggles (pictured, top).
Field and Hall both took time to talk with SCREENZ, and shared their views on the changing world, the ups and downs of digital.
In Las Vegas, Kodak had made an announcement about revitalising the film business with Kodak’s first Super8 camera in several decades. Field was in Hong Kong looking for opportunities to connect with potential broadcast partners in the region.
The arrival of the digital world has been a challenge for both companies, but not one that’s without opportunity.
Digital caused a major shift in Kodak’s operations, taking it from a company that made billions of dollars in profits from film stock to bankruptcy. Not quite in the billionaire bracket, but comfortably successful, The Wiggles have seen the video market all but disappear.
Both companies have adapted and are moving forward. Kodak has its champions among Hollywood’s elite – JJ Abrams, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino to name a few. They’ve supported Kodak’s return to film camera manufacture and see a future for film.
The Wiggles continue to do what they’ve always done, grow the business off touring and, increasingly, TV shows. While film is a volume business, something Hall acknowledged particularly in reference to the challenges of processing, The Wiggles have made a deliberate choice to stay as a single entity, at least for their live shows.
Fellow Australian pre-school entertainers Hi-5 took the franchise route, expanded into Asia and have different troupes of performers in different countries. The Wiggles have decided to stay as one group. Changing out three of the original four personnel recently has slowed their expansion into overseas territories as potential partners took a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Change has brought opportunity, however. Field noted that one – completely unintended – opportunity was reunion gigs, where the four original Wiggles come together to play for adult audiences, in pubs. Drinking and driving the Big Red Car is a winner, it seems, as those who grew up enjoying the Wiggles are now grown up themselves.
Nostalgia might be driving some of the warm fuzzies around Kodak’s new camera, too, although Hall noted that the company did intend the cameras, film and processing to return profit and not simply be promotional tools.
In Asia, neither the Wiggles nor Kodak are as strong as they are in other parts of the world. The history which fuels nostalgia doesn’t exist so much, so the region offers the opportunity to get a ‘cold’ response to the products they’re offering – to see how they stack up against whatever competition there is on their merits rather than reputation.
Hall and Field were both excited by those opportunities, and taking plenty of meetings in Hong Kong.
The Asian Licensing Conference ran 11 – 12 January. The accompanying Hong Kong International Licensing Show ran 11 – 13 January, alongside Asia’s largest Toy & Games Fair. The combined events boasted over 2,900 exhibitors and over 100,000 buyers in January 2015.