Last Word: A Chat with Maker

Multi-channel network Maker Studios is quickly making a name for itself. Now as it further aligns with Disney and has named a dedicated head of licensing, even bigger things are on the horizon.

April 6, 2018

Last Word: A Chat with Maker

Multi-channel network Maker Studios is quickly making a name for itself. Now as it further aligns with Disney and has named a dedicated head of licensing, even bigger things are on the horizon.

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Anoulay Tsai director, licensing and partnerships, Maker Studios

What makes your new position with Maker Studios so exciting?

Promoting digital content-based brands is fundamentally different than film and TV properties. Our storytellers are ordinary people and, as such, their audiences find them authentic and relatable. We believe that our brands can present lucrative licensing opportunities as there are millions of fans clamoring for product based on their favorite creators. I'm learning how to effectively navigate our new and complex business matrix to set up an infrastructure for this very new licensing model. In time, we think even the most risk-adverse partners will see the viability in our brands.

What are the greatest opportunities that will drive growth in licensing and brand extensions for Maker?

Many licensee and retail partners are unaware of the impact that our brands can have on the marketplace. The digital era has revolutionized communication, commerce and content distribution–there's no reason why it wouldn't impact the licensing industry

too. With our insight and expertise, we can educate partners to contribute toward the evolution of our industry.

How does Maker's vast talent pool lend itself to brand extensions?

We represent some of the most popular creators from gamers and comedians to mommy vloggers and lifestyle tastemakers–we've got quite an assortment of talent whose brands may translate to other mediums including consumer products. Where it makes sense, we're grooming our key talent to think outside the virtual box when it comes to brand extensions. Our creators are exploring opportunities to branch out into other arenas, which was unfathomable until only recently. They are now taken seriously and commanding the attention of major business partners–a testament to their influence power and marketability. We have developed holistic plans for key brands that include content strategy, brand partnerships, increasing audience reach and extending into additional platforms that will contribute to their growth and sustainability.

How active a role does Maker talent have in shaping their own personal brands?

It really depends on the talent. Many of them possess a business sensibility and vision on how to shape their brands, but they will seek our input to guide them on developing a longer term strategy. Some are extremely opinionated, while others are reliant on our expertise, but we ultimately want them to have the final say. They are essentially in total control because, let's face it, without them there would be no brand to shape.

Where do you see the most synergy with parent company The Walt Disney Company and how will that be leveraged for the Maker strategy?

Being afforded the opportunity to partner with The Walt Disney Company is invaluable as we're connected to divisions from the studio to consumer products, as well as sister companies like Lucasfilm and Marvel. It has allowed us to tap into a vast global network that can exponentially increase visibility for our brands and open up doors that may not have otherwise been accessible to us. We can integrate and may also be integrated into the strategy of other TWDC lines of businesses to accelerate achieving our mutual goals.

What are the key characteristics that differentiate Maker in the marketplace?

We have a direct connection to our audience via our network of nearly 60,000 creators. Our diverse global audience has a profound affinity for our brands. It's irrefutable that our talent will emerge in the mainstream as content consumption behavior shifts. We will be at the forefront by bringing them out to market with compelling product and partnerships.

What are your top priorities for 2016?

Our No. 1 priority is to service our talent by creating brand-aligned licensing opportunities that will resonate. We're implementing a strategy to poise them for success in carefully curated retail programs and can harness the power of TWDC. I am confident that we're on the verge of shaking up the industry with a refreshing new take on entertainment licensing.

No. 2: Retailers want a point of differentiation in a very competitive landscape and are seeking innovative ways to win over marketshare. We want to collaborate with retailers who want to push the envelope and break the mold of traditional licensing.

No. 3: I've become an evangelist for our brands and believe its imperative to educate our industry on the impending success.

Tsai heads development and leads licensing initiatives and business plans for talent and programming brands at Maker Studios.

Prior to joining Maker, Tsai was a sales director on the consumer products team at AwesomenessTV, where she was responsible for retail development, focusing on specialty accounts. In that role, Tsai established herself as an expert on crafting partnership opportunities for digital content-based brands including high-profile YouTube content creators.

Within Tsai's portfolio, she's developed meaningful consumer product partnerships for film and TV properties at The Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, Fox Studios and DreamWorks Animation, and spearheaded innovative programs for retailers including Walmart, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Hot Topic, Forever 21, Costco and more.

Tsai heads development and leads licensing initiatives and business plans for talent and programming brands at Maker Studios. Prior to joining Maker, Tsai was a sales director on the consumer products team at AwesomenessTV, where she was responsible for retail development, focusing on specialty accounts. In that role, Tsai established herself as expert on crafting partnership opportunities for digital content-based brands including high-profile YouTube content creators. Within Tsai’s portfolio, she’s developed meaningful consumer products partnerships for film and TV properties at The Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, Fox Studios and DreamWorks Animation, and spearheaded innovative programs for retailers including Walmart, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Hot Topic, Forever 21, Costco and more.

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