Robert, you’ve spoken about a ‘fewer and bigger’ approach to licensing at MGM – what does that mean to you?
It's about focusing in on scale. We have over 4,000 films in the library and some 17,000 television episodes, but from a consumer products perspective we’re focusing on 007, Pink Panther, Robocop, Addams Family, Legally Blonde, Rocky, Stargate and Vikings.
Bond is one of the top five franchises of all time, and Addams Family, the tracking for the new film is doing particularly well. That’s a property that we’re taking a seasonal strategy on. Halloween is the second biggest gift-giving season after Christmas, with $10bn in consumer spend, and we want Addams Family to be the perennial seasonal property for October. We’re launching it this year with a feature film, and bring it back again next season, and in the coming year’s you’ll see that we continue to renew that with new content.
What about Rocky? What's special about this property?
Rocky is entering its 45th anniversary in 2021, and that’s a really interesting movie from a licensing perspective. It resonates so well, and given the environment that we’re living in today, there are so many positive aspirational themes it represents, whether that’s determination, courage or positive spirit, and we’re going to exploit those themes and create programmes around them.
And then, on the other side of the coin you have Legally Blonde?
Legally Blonde – it’s funny, I only recently watched this movie and I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised by what a force of nature that character is; she was very ahead of her time. So we’ll be taking a unique approach when the new film comes out.
In many ways, Rocky and Legally Blonde are similar in that the themes they represent will appeal to. Legally is all about toggle two different audiences, its all about education, fashion, determination and strength of positive character. So while the narratives of Rocky and Legally Blonde couldn’t be more opposite on the surface, they both represent lots of different things to different audiences, and it’s a more authentic way to build licensing.
Lots of your recent deals have revolved around experiences as much as consumer product – how significant a role will location-based licensing play in your plans?
The way consumers view content is changing dramatically. It’s not just the traditional film or watching on TV at a set time – and, actually, it’s not even about cord-cutting and streaming on demand anymore.
And so it really led us to say, ‘how can we can continue that 24-hour conversation with the consumer?’ At the end of the day, my job is to deepen that audience connection. First consumers watch it, then hopefully they like it enough that they buy it – which is extremely critical: the t-shirts, the collectables – and then now we’re bringing it to what we see as ‘live it’, and that’s where the experiential comes in.
Is experiential a moneymaker?
There’s revenue adjusted to that – and it's not necessarily about the cash, in the same way new content isn't all about sales anymore, particularly when all these elements come together as part of the same ecosystem. But what’s important is that it isn’t a label slap, and I’ll give you an example. Pink Panther’s hallmarks are sleuthing, investigation and learning. We can certainly apply an edutainment overlay and create kids’ centres that;s all about learning through snooping and figuring things out. Pink Panther and the supporting characters just help tell that story.
One thing you’ve not touched on is brand MGM – the lion, the Hollywood symbol. What are doing around that?
MGM the trademark and the lion lends itself to iconic, classic Hollywood, quality movies and cutting-edge TV. The DNA of MGM can be used to create that appeal to all audiences, because we simply have so many different genres and content. It can be an umbrella for, say, MGM’s horror programme, or MGM’s adventure programme. But it also speaks to movie fans as a symbol of Hollywood. MGM is your Academy Award winner and your popcorn action flick all in one. We have that flexibility.