Halifax, Canada-based DHX Media is rebranding to WildBrain and reorganizing its management and business structure.
The rebrand includes a new logo and website, while the company’s YouTube business—formerly known as WildBrain—was renamed WildBrain Spark. The company’s shareholders will be asked to approve a special resolution to change DHX’s corporate name to WildBrain at the annual shareholders’ meeting (expected to take place in December).
“There’s no question that our WildBrain business has been at the forefront of digital distribution, specifically on the YouTube platform, but for us the name is synonymous with creativity, imagination and innovation. It’s not a highlight of an increase in digital, but rather signalling our emphasis on these areas,” WildBrain president Josh Scherba tells Kidscreen.
“Historically, DHX was a company built through acquisitions and some of those acquisitions were kind of superglued on. There wasn’t necessarily a lot of integration, and over the last year we’ve been working to integrate these pieces of the business as much as we can. Rebranding under WildBrain is a signal externally—and more importantly, internally—that we’re really going to focus on collaboration and our ability to work together.”
This shift comes hot on the heels of significant staffing changes for DHX. In May, Michael Donovan announced he would once again step down from the role of CEO and into a more strategic position with the company. Last month, DHX named former Marvel Enterprises president and CEO Eric Ellenbogen as its new CEO, tasked with growing IP assets, expanding its presence in international markets and positioning it for future growth.
More changes are coming, as the newly minted WildBrain announced that a reorganization of management will coincide with its rebranding. COO Aaron Ames was appointed CFO, succeeding Doug Lamb, effective immediately. Lamb stepped down from the role but will stay with the company in an advisory role until October 31. The COO position will not be replaced. During a conference call, Ellenbogen said WildBrain is actively searching for a brand director to launch new IPs, manage existing brands and acquire under-loved properties.
Scherba says the company’s brand catalogue (including the likes Peanuts, Teletubbies, Strawberry Shortcake, Caillou and Inspector Gadget) will be a focus moving forward.
“Our own stable of brands puts us in a unique position in the industry and we want to make sure we are consistently reimagining them so that they can continue to resonate with kid audiences around the world,” he says. “It’s also really important for us to always be looking for the next thing and we will be increasing resources for talent and creator deals.”
Following news of the rebrand, WildBrain also reported its financial performance for the fourth quarter and full fiscal year. The company’s revenue increased 12% to US$82 million in Q4 2019. Revenue for fiscal 2019 stayed relatively steady at US$331.5 million (compared to US$327.4 million the year before).
Revenue for WildBrain Spark, meanwhile, grew 25% to US$13.5 million in the fourth quarter and increased 20% to US$52 million for the full fiscal year. WildBrain Spark also reported growth in Q1 (up 49% to US$12.2 million), Q2 (up 13% to US$15 million) and Q3 (up 4% to US$11.23 million).
Distribution revenue (excluding WildBrain Spark) increased 46% to US$12.5 million in the fourth quarter, but fell 10% for the full fiscal year to the tune of US$45 million. Revenue related to consumer products grew for both Q4 (up 22% to US$29 million) and fiscal 2019 (up 11% to US$120.8 million), driven largely by the Peanuts brand. Production is underway on Snoopy in Space, the first new original Peanuts show for Apple’s upcoming streaming service.
Last year, the company closed the sale of a minority stake (39%) in the Peanuts brand to Sony Music Entertainment Japan for US$179 million in cash, helping WildBrain (then DHX) reduce its debt.
All of these changes come after DHX initiated a year-long strategic review in the fall of 2017 to examine a number of different moves, including selling the business or a merger with another company. The review was concluded in September 2018, with DHX opting to refocus its content strategy and consolidate multiple business units.