The signing of Net entrepreneur Robert Heyman to California-based MSH Entertainment marks the entry of the five-year-old children’s animation, film and TV production company into the digital scene. In addition to co-authoring Net Results: Web Marketing That Works, Heyman was founder of Cybernautics, an Internet and design marketing firm that counted promo work for Paramount’s Star Trek property and game design for MicroProse among its projects. Heyman became a free agent about a year ago when Cybernautics was folded into U.S. Web in a lucrative US$8.5-million merger.
MSH plans to create a big splash on the Net in the first quarter of 1999 when it debuts a cluster of ad-supported Web sites for children and families that will center around an e-commerce hub supporting MSH projects. ‘We’re interested in building some sites from scratch and acquiring others that appeal to kid niche interests and get a tremendous amount of visitation,’ says Heyman.
MSH also plans to deliver cartoons on-line by tapping into its 150-hour stable of existing kids properties, a collection that was bolstered significantly in April when MSH acquired Abrams-Gentile Entertainment, an indie kids production house with a thriving built-in toy and merchandising arm. The list of animated family fare under AGE’s belt is extensive: Bucky O’Hare, Sky Dancers, Dragon Flyz, Happy Ness Secret of the Loch and Van-Pires (a sci-fi 3-D/live-action series for boys ages six to 14 that cleared 90% of the U.S. market when it premiered in syndication last fall on WB, UPN and Fox).
Van-Pires was created using JETHRO, MSH-developed software that helps overcome the time constraints of animating TV series. JETHRO cuts the average delivery time of a 22-minute episode by a third (from three months to under one), and brings the cost down from US$400,000 to US$260,000. The series, which features vehicles that transform into monsters that guzzle gas from other cars in their quest for global domination, has been repeated through the 1999 season in many of the top 50 U.S. markets.
Along with the upcoming Internet initiative, MSH is also eager to expand into licensed merchandise. AGE adds a solid toy portfolio to the arsenal; Sky Dancers, a 1995 flying doll for girls, sold 15 million units, grossing US$300 million worldwide, and in 1988 AGE developed the Power Glove, a control unit for Nintendo’s vid game system that performed to the tune of US$80 million gross profit. MSH plans to cultivate toy deals along with all its future production developments, and expects these deals to bleed over into the Internet project.