The Asian Licensing Conference (ALC) opened Monday (11 January) with a series of presentations on licensing opportunities in Asia. Flying the flag for Britain, BBC Worldwide’s Henrietta Hurford-Jones joined speakers from Michelin, Sesame Workshop and government agencies in Japan.
Director of Children’s Content at BBCWW, Hurford-Jones offered up an overview of CBeebies, from its 2002 launch through to research data showing that 98% of Britain is aware of the brand. That’s an impressive number, more so when one considers the fragmentation in the TV market in the 14 years since CBeebies arrived. Hurford-Jones also shared clips of recently-launched shows including Go Jetters and Hey Duggee and sat down with SCREENZ following her presentation.
Also in Hong Kong for BBCWW was Singapore-based Commercial Director Brands Asia, Julia Nocciolino. BBCWW was also an exhibitor at the trade fair accompanying ALC, the Hong Kong International Licensing Show (HKILS). The day Hurford-Jones was presenting in Hong Kong, MediaWorks announced a raft of programming for 2016 including seven-part David Attenborough-narrated The Hunt from BBCWW. MediaWorks noted it had “decided not to renew” rights to Top Gear, which BBCWW was also promoting at HKILS.
Hurford-Jones’ beat is to deliver profit to the BBC coffers to help keep more content coming down the pipeline. ALC and HKILS are very much about doing licensing and merchandising deals around original IP and not necessarily for the IP itself. Hurford-Jones stressed that programme IP always drives BBCWW’s licensing activity.
As ALC organisers observed at the opening event, it’s a good time for brands targeting very young consumers to be doing business in Asia. China’s recent decision to put an end to its decades-long single child policy as of 1 January this year will create plenty of opportunities to supply all manner of branded goods and services to mainland Chinese children.
Getting its shows into other markets, whether on BBC-owned and -branded channels (such as those BBCWW operates in Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asia-Pacific countries) or via branded blocks on other broadcasters’ channels (as happens in China, India, Japan and Korea), remains a primary route to market together with sales to other global broadcasters. In 2014/15, BBCWW’s overall business made sales worth over £1 billion and put over £225 million into the BBC’s coffers.
Hurford-Jones explained that BBCWW is working to help other activities, including licensing, contribute a larger proportion of the income BBCWW derives from childrens’ content.
While Hurford-Jones was presenting in Hong Kong, BBC production Wolf Hall was collecting the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries in Los Angeles. Accepting the award, Wolf Hall EP Sir Colin Callender used the opportunity to call on David Cameron to protect the BBC from further cuts.
While Hurford-Jones didn’t need to get political in Hong Kong, she did note the importance of the organisation’s traditional brand values to viewers overseas as well as in Britain. Internationally, the BBC’s reputation and credibility as a public service broadcaster resonate strongly with viewers, including the parents whose children BBCWW seeks to inspire and entertain.
Aspirational parents in developing Asian consumer markets, of which China is a prime example, are strongly attracted to Western brands with reputations for being trustworthy. Whatever W1A’s take on the corporation’s corporate culture might be at home, the real BBC is considered very trustworthy by viewers in many Asian markets.
The BBC’s animated or character-based programming travels well, not least because it can be dubbed into other languages without too much concern about lip-syncing – a point Australian kids’ TV brand The Wiggles illustrated in a separate ALC session with a clip of character Dorothy the Dinosaur speaking a dozen languages. Currently, shows including Sarah & Duck, Hey Duggee and Go Jetters are selling extremely well for BBCWW.
Moving beyond broadcast, Hurford-Jones noted the importance of establishing other forms of connection with kids. “Physical product is absolutely crucial to extending the life and reach of a brand.”
Young kids, especially, want every possible form of connection they can get with programming they enjoy, Hurford-Jones observed. “They want to sleep on it, and in it.”
CBeebies and BBCWW launched Go Jetters at MIPCOM last year. At the time, Hurford-Jones said the show had “great potential to be a global, multi-format hit”.
Revisiting her earlier point about programme IP driving licensing activity, Hurford-Jones explained that Fisher-Price, who’ll begin to roll out Go Jetters toys this Autumn, came on board the show once it had been developed but before it entered production. BBCWW consider Fisher-Price’s desire to partner at that early stage an enormous vote of confidence in the material.
Early indications suggest the comedy adventure elements and putting the disco in discovery will bear fruit for the geography-focused show.
The increase in digital delivery has created both opportunities and challenges. Monetising content online remains a big challenge and, as many a content creator will attest, controlling what ends up online is a huge challenge.
The flip side is that the digital world, and the rapidly increasing quantity and quality of internet connections in many Asian markets, also deliver opportunities to reach and connect with new and larger audiences.
The largest of those audiences in Asia, and the world, is China. BBCWW currently has a couple of local format projects in development with Chinese broadcasters, although Hurford-Jones wasn’t able to say more about them until they’re announced formally.