If there is anyone still questioning whether production studios are eager to nurture relationships with partners in allied industries, they need only have attended Saban Entertainment’s recent day-long presentation of its plans for 1997 to put any lingering doubt to rest.
Appropriately titled ‘Power Partnerships,’ the self-described Saban Summit touched upon the interdependency of the studio, content distributor, licensee and retailer time and again.
Whether deliberately in the way that the event was structured and in the broad spectrum of invitees or spontaneously through the frequent and recurring invitations to make the day ‘a true give and take’ the message came through loud and clear. All stakeholders in the entertainment product acknowledge that they need each other more than ever before, and that they must work together to succeed in today’s wildly competitive marketplace.
And the studio is candid about this changing relationship in the most unabashed way.
In presenting next fall’s The All New Captain Kangaroo, for instance, Saban’s senior vice president of development, J’el Andryc, took great pains to underscore the fact that the project is heading into production in early 1997, and that the studio is inviting any suggestions on how to tweak the show or characters to suit individual business needs.
Stand-up comic Louie Anderson, the co-creator and warmly funny inspiration behind Saban’s animated show Life with Louie, delighted the summit audience with his comedy routine, and then with the same ingenuous, deadpan delivery that marks his comic style, he turned to the group and offered to participate in any local promotion or mall appearance that might help support the show or ancillary product sales. ‘You have a huge commitment from me,’ he said, for the particular benefit of retailers and licensees.
True, at the heart of all this, it is still the show that drives audience and mass appeal. But while it continues to be the central figure, it is sharing more of its stage with supporting players. Power Rangers’ master toy licensee, Bandai America, surely had a lot to say in the new incarnation of Saban’s franchise TV series, which is morphing into infinitely more boy-friendly toys called Turbo Power Rangers.
And Saban’s principal content distributor, Fox Kids Network, is much more than a conventional broadcaster. Some 30 million kids watch the network each month. There are also 5.3 million members in the Fox Kids Club. More than 14 million kid/parent readers pick up the Fox Kids Magazine. The Fox Kids Countdown radio show clears 89 percent of the U.S., and there are 500,000 hits per day on the Fox Kids Web site.
Watching the day unfold, including smaller afternoon break-out sessions that got down to such brass tacks details as discussions over how to synchronize the planning cycles of the studio and retailers, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. The cross-pollination of interests that I was witnessing in action was a mirror performance of the business plan we had sketched out for KidScreen a year and a half ago.
We explained in our first issue, published exactly one year ago, that: ‘Rather than reporting on an industry along traditionally defined vertical boundaries, KidScreen is tracking its coverage along a horizontal axis gathering information relevant to business people working in a number of industries.’
Witnessing this played out at the Saban Summit, not to mention of course the exceptional response from readers and advertisers this past year, has been more than gratifying.
In fact, reaction to KidScreen has been so favorable that we have accelerated our plans for opening our first U.S. office. Beginning this month, KidScreen will have a full-time sales and editorial presence in Los Angeles.
Opening a Los Angeles office reflects our longer-term plan of building on the current foundation of KidScreen, and of growing with the industries we are covering.