After taking the summer to get settled into his new gig as SVP of international distribution and development at Hasbro Studios, Finn Arnesen will be hitting the ground running in Cannes next month as he officially kick-starts the company’s business outside the US. Charged by Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner and Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios, at the outset to ‘come in and roll out our international business,’ Arnesen has winnowed the broad remit down somewhat. He’s making sure the studio’s development slate will travel well outside the American market and is busily lining up Euro broadcast homes for said content.
As he moves over to distribution, coming off his 17 years on the broadcast programming and commissioning side of the equation at Turner International, Arensen’s looking forward to pitching prospective partners. ‘In all my years as a commissioner and a producer, I was still a salesperson,’ he says. ‘You have to work to get the right creatives to make a show with you, so you’re selling yourself in a way.’
While he’s set his sights on lining up broadcast homes in the big-five Euro territories (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) for Hasbro Studios’ first slate, Arnesen is on the lookout for a top-notch sales director to oversee the burgeoning business. (He’ll also bring in some technical rights management support once things really get rolling.) And he’s not necessarily limiting his search to the usual suspects, either. ‘I don’t want traditional sales people,’ he says. ‘I’m looking to bring in individuals who have complementary, but not necessarily direct, skill sets.’ The plan is then to tackle sales in secondary markets Turkey, Russia and Poland and subsequently move into Latin America and Asia.
As for the content, Arnesen has a seat at what Davis calls the A-team table. The team, explains Davis, is the internal development structure set up to shepherd the studio’s lineup and includes reps from the toyco’s brand and IP teams, showrunners, and individual development execs from Hasbro Studios and JV network The Hub. ‘Finn is the ideal kind of executive to lead our international operations,’ says Davis. ‘He can speak the language of the broadcasters and development and creative teams…And we wanted to be sure our shows are equally informed by what the international market is looking for.’
With an eye to the global market, both Davis and Arnesen say they’ll be entertaining working with co-production partners, where it makes sense, and fielding pitches on wholly original concepts from individual creators over the next two years or so. Currently, however, the A-team is evaluating what Hasbro brands might be pulled out of the vault currently housing 1,500 IPs and then developed for content treatment in 2011/2012. In the meantime, the team is overseeing the production of Hasbro Studios’ first 350 half hours that will make up roughly 25% of The Hub’s schedule when it launches in the US on October 10.
The key Hasbro Studios series – Tranformers Prime, G.I. Joe Renegade, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, Pound Puppies and Chuck – also comprise the bulk of the international distribution op’s focus right now. The series are all based on pre-existing Hasbro brands and Arnesen is well-aware he might have to contend with the less-than-savory label of toy TV as he heads to market. ‘I can only assure everyone that these shows are good and stand on their own,’ he says. ‘I wouldn’t be doing this job if they weren’t.’ Similarly, Davis admits that kids might tune into the series for the first time because they’re aware of the brands the content is based on. ‘But,’ he contends, ‘if the shows aren’t good, kids won’t come back again.’