Looking to apply the same 360-degree brand management approach it takes in the U.S. to its business in Europe, Viz Media has entered into a joint-venture with Brit agency Copyright Promotions Licensing Group. Viz Media B.V. opens shop this month in Amsterdam, with Viz Media and CPLG each controlling a 50% share in the company.
B.V.’s new managing director, Daniel Marks, says Viz’s old MO of using agents in Euro territories meant that licensing and promo efforts for its manga and anime properties were often uncoordinated and under-developed. Moving forward, B.V. will be able to bring all rights to the table during negotiations (broadcast, merch and promotional) and work through CPLG’s seven offices throughout western Europe to launch comprehensive programs for its properties.
But Marks knows there’s a lot of work to do vis à vis cultivating demand for Viz properties in Europe. While Germany, Italy, Spain and France have embraced the Japanese art forms, manga and anime sales in the largest merch market in the region are virtually non-existent. ‘We launched our first four manga titles in the U.K. in August…but there is no official market,’ says Marks. So educating the country’s retailers and consumers will be one of B.V.’s first orders of business.
The company has tapped Deko Boko Friends and new boys actioners Mär and Bleach to lead the charge. Right now, Deko’s cute characters only star in 30-second interstitials, but Marks is looking for the right TV partner to make a longer-format series. First, however, he’ll be scouting for publishing partners at this month’s Frankfurt Book Fair to get a program up and running for fall 2006. Marks is also considering an exclusive territory launch for Deko Boko, but has yet to zero in on one country.
TV broadcast will drive Mär, which already exists as a series aimed at the more traditional anime target of boys seven to 11. This good vs. evil toon, which debuted in Japan this April, is about a boy who ends up inhabiting his fantasy world and defeating baddies with accessories that turn into weapons.
And lastly, Marks expects to launch Bleach with manga, followed by an anime series. (At press time, the company was still trying to corral all the rights for this property, so plans are still very preliminary.)
As for staffing up, Marks wants to land a TV sales exec, a publishing manager and a brand manager for the Amsterdam office in the next few months. Meanwhile, CPLG will leverage its licensing and promo expertise to help get the properties off the ground and take care of administrative duties such as royalty reporting.
It’s been a busy time for the European licensing powerhouse. In addition to the Viz partnership, CPLG just announced a management-led buyout of minority-share partner Beringea. Chief executive Kirk Bloomgarden says CPLG experienced two consecutive years of double-digit sales growth, which helped to finance the buyout and the deal with Viz.