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NBA, NBPA Partner with NetMarble for Gaming Experience

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Netmarble U.S.,, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have announced that they have partnered to create an all-new original mobile game featuring star NBA athletes.

“We could not be more thrilled to partner with such esteemed organizations as the NBA and NBPA for our first Western-developed game,” says Simon Sim, president, Netmarble U.S. “While we worked with our team at headquarters on many games, this has been a major company goal for us from the start. The NBA has a tremendous legacy and legion of fans, and we’re excited to take the court with them to create a game that will be fun for NBA fans and gamers alike.”

Netmarble U.S. is teaming up with the independent video game developer Kung Fu Factory on the upcoming title, which is currently in active development. As the Western-based subsidiary of the global mobile game company Netmarble Corp., the game will be the first publishing project for Netmarble U.S., where development, marketing and publishing are all being handled entirely within Western regions. 

More details on the partnership and the upcoming video game release will be revealed at a later date.

Spielwarenmesse 2021 Dates Announced

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The summer edition of Spielwarenmesse is now scheduled to open its doors at the Exhibition Centre in Nuremberg on July 20-24, 2021. In the face of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, organizer Spielwarenmesse was forced to postpone the event for the first time in its history from January until the summer. The announcement comes as preparations for the Spielwarenmesse 2021 Summer Edition get underway.

“My team and I are delighted to be organising a live event again, something the market is clearly longing for,” says Ernst Kick, chief executive officer, Spielwarenmesse. “In light of the new dates, the concept will differ from the winter event and will be tailored to the needs of both exhibitors and visitors.”

Spielwarenmesse will announce further details of the new concept over the coming months.

Gigglebug Entertainment Strengthens Team

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Leading Nordic animation IP studio Gigglebug Entertainment has announced two key new appointments of Lucy Pryke and Jarkko Nordlund, as creative producer and board member/special advisor, respectively. The appointments come after a period of rapid growth, which has seen two new shows with major broadcasters starting production and represents a strengthening of the team as Gigglebug’s international expansion plans continue apace.

Lucy Pryke, who joins Gigglebug as a creative producer, has a wealth of experience in developing and producing children’s animation, including more than three years as a senior manager in animation at Disney EMEA – where she worked on Sadie Sparks and with Gigglebug on 101 Dalmatian Street. Prior to that she spent seven years at the BBC as a development producer for CBBC, where her credits include “Shaun the Sheep,” “Scream Street” and “Zig and Zag.” Most recently she worked at King Bert Productions with a focus on developing ideas for children’s animation.

Jarkko Nordlund joins Gigglebug as a board member and special advisor to assist the flourishing company with growth management. A prominent figure in Nordic media for more than 20 years, his vast experience includes stints as chief executive officer for MTV Oy and as MD for Universal Music Finland & Baltics, Viasat and Canal+. A seasoned board professional, he has brought his expertise to several leading firms in the region over recent years to support their development, including TV3 Media, Kaleva Media and Oomi Energia.

“A huge welcome to the brilliant Lucy and Jarkko!” says Anttu Harlin, co-founder, Gigglebug. “They are wonderful additions to the super talents and world-class creativity here at Gigglebug. It’s an exciting time for us and their vast experience and knowhow will play a key part in our ambitious plans for international growth and our aim of becoming a leading European animation studio that spreads joy around the world.”

Sesame Workshop Names New CEO and President

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In response to the planned retirement of current president and chief executive officer, Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop has announced its plans for a leadership transition to begin on Jan. 1, 2021.             

Dunn will take on the new position of executive chairman of Sesame Workshop. The Board has further elected Steve Youngwood as the sixth chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop and ex officio member of the Board of Trustees. In addition, Sherrie Westin has been elected as president of Sesame Workshop.

Dunn, who has served as chief executive officer since 2014, will advise Youngwood, Westin and the Board of Trustees during a six-month transition. Dunn will retire from Sesame Workshop at the end of its current fiscal year, on June 30, 2021.

"Jeff has been an extraordinary CEO and an incredible leader at a critical moment for Sesame Workshop and the world," says Jane D. Hartley, chairman of the board, Sesame Workshop. "Under his watch, the organization has grown tremendously, expanding its reach and delivering on its mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger and kinder. I want to thank Jeff and my fellow board members for their guidance in this transition. We are so fortunate to have Steve Youngwood and Sherrie Westin as the perfect leaders to continue this important work. I am excited for the future and know Sesame is in good hands."

Under Dunn's leadership, Sesame Workshop has formed groundbreaking new partnerships which grew the Workshop's reach and revenues. Accolades under his watch include 38 Emmy awards, a George Foster Peabody Award for Institutional Excellence and a Kennedy Center Honors Award, considered the nation's highest artistic achievement, for “Sesame Street's” lifetime contributions to American culture.

Youngwood currently serves as Sesame Workshop's chief operating officer and president of its Media and Education Division. Since 2015, he has led an expansion of the Workshop's media business from being a single show producer to a broad-based production company. Through partnerships with PBS, HBO MAX, Apple, CNN, YouTube and others, the Workshop currently has its largest and most diverse portfolio of content in its 50-year history. Youngwood spearheaded the Workshop's expansion into schools with McGraw Hill and its digital learning efforts through the recently announced partnership with Homer.  He has also led the growth of the Workshop's global footprint, themed entertainment experiences, brand partnerships and product licensing.  His work has allowed the organization to continue delivering on its mission and keep its brand relevant in an increasingly fragmented media universe, as well as providing a strong financial foundation for Sesame's social impact work around the world.

Westin currently serves as the president of Sesame's Social Impact and Philanthropy Division. Over the past six years, she has delivered more than $300 million in grants and donations to serve the most vulnerable children around the world. She spearheaded a partnership with the IRC to launch the largest Early Childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response, leading the Workshop's efforts to win the MacArthur's 100&Change competition. In 2017, Westin launched “Sesame Street in Communities,” the Workshop's signature domestic initiative, designed to give children tools to overcome traumatic experiences. Westin also oversaw development of “See Amazing in All Children” and its creation of “Sesame Street's” first autistic Muppet, Julia, to help address the stigma of autism. Under Westin's leadership, Sesame Workshop is now recognized for its humanitarian work around the globe.

"Jeff Dunn has been an exceptional leader of Sesame Workshop, leading us through challenging times and leaving us stronger than we've ever been," says Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder and lifetime honorary trustee, Sesame Workshop. "I am confident that Steve and Sherrie are the right team to carry us into the future and continue to deliver on our mission."

Chupa Chups, Heelys Roll into Partnership

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Chupa Chups’ licensing agency in North America, Lisa Marks Associates, has announced that the lollipop giant has partnered with Heelys, the original shoe with wheels, which is owned by Sequential Brands Group, to create a Chupa Chups-inspired line for Holiday 2020. The collection will be available throughout Europe.

“Chupa Chups x Heelys make a terrific, dynamic pair,”  says Lisa Marks, president, Lisa Marks Associates. “Consumers will be excited by the combination of these two colorful and spirited brands and the fun styles are sure to be loved by Chupa Chups and Heelys fans around the globe!”

Combining Chupa Chups x Heelys, the two came together to create trendy design details such as prints and graphics, glitter effects and even lighted technology.

“This is such a fun brand collaboration for the holiday season,” says Arta Isovski, senior vice president, lifestyle division, Sequential Brands Group. “The Chupa Chups brand is well known to our core demographic which makes this partnership such a natural fit. We love collaborating with terrific brands such as Chupa Chups – it’s a great way to keep the Heelys brand fresh and is always a hit with our customers.”

Dr. Seuss, American Eagle Team for ‘The Grinch’ Holiday Collection

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Dr. Seuss Enterprises, a leading global children’s entertainment company, and American Eagle are teaming up this holiday season for a special Grinch-themed holiday line. The collection will include a range of men’s and women’s loungewear and accessories inspired by the beloved Dr. Seuss character.

“The Grinch is a fun character that has truly become part of the pop culture zeitgeist,” says Susan Brandt, president, Dr. Seuss Enterprises. “We are sure that this new line with American Eagle will delight many young adults who love the Grinch, his snark and wit.”

Debuting just in time to celebrate the holidays, the American Eagle line will consist of two different cozy collections of pajamas, socks and hats for men and women. The collections feature loungewear and accessories with Grinch-inspired holiday designs and taglines, such as “Naughty or Nice,” “Resting Grinch Face” and “Merry Grinchmas,” with items debuting in holiday colors ranging from red and green to navy blue.

The Grinch-themed line is now available online at AE.com and will be available in American Eagle stores Nov. 1.

Critical Role Launches Game Publishing Company

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Critical Role is embarking on its latest adventure by officially launching its new tabletop game publishing company Darrington Press.

Darrington Press will feature games in and outside of Exandria, the world created by Matthew Mercer, creative advisor, Darrington Press and chief creative officer and game master, Critical Role.

Leading this new business venture is Ivan Van Norman, head, Darrington Press. He has been producing tabletop games and media content for more than 10 years as a co-owner of Hunters Entertainment (“Alice is Missing,” “Altered Carbon,” “Outbreak: Undead”), as well as consultant to many other companies, including Wizards of the Coast and Hersch Games (“Taboo”). Van Norman has danced the line between media and design, working as a producer of board and RPG content for several digital media projects as well as a game producer on Will Wheaton's “TableTop.” In addition, he served as executive producer of International Tabletop Day.

Darrington Press currently has four games set to be released in 2021, with their very first game, “Uk’otoa,” set for a Q1 2021 release date. This tactical game of semi-cooperative card play will be available in the Critical Role online shops in the U.S., U.K., and AU, as well as hobby stores in the U.S. Additional games include “Critical Role Adventures,” “Syndicult” and “Guardians of Matrimonia.”

Netflix, Ubisoft Team for ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Show

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Netflix has announced it has entered into an agreement with Ubisoft to develop content based on the international best-selling video game franchise “Assassin’s Creed.”

Under the agreement, Netflix and Ubisoft will tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live-action, animated and anime series. 

“For more than 10 years, millions of fans around the world have helped shape the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ brand into an iconic franchise,” says Jason Altman, head, film and television, Los Angeles, Ubisoft. “We’re thrilled to create an ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series with Netflix and we look forward to developing the next saga in the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ universe.”

The first series in development is slated to be a genre-bending live-action adaptation. A search is currently underway for a showrunner. Ubisoft Film and Television’s Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik will serve as executive producers. 

“We’re excited to partner with Ubisoft and bring to life the rich, multilayered storytelling that ‘Assassin’s Creed’ is beloved for,” says Peter Friedlander, vice president, original series, Netflix. “From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy.”

Jazwares Named Global Master Toy Partner for ‘The Smurfs’

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“The Smurfs” are heading back to the village. International Merchandising Promotions and Services (IMPS) has partnered with Jazwares to develop an all-new toy line inspired by the classic Belgian franchise.

“‘The Smurfs’ is an evergreen franchise with a rich history and timeless values that has ignited children’s curiosity and creativity for decades,” says Laura Zebersky, chief commercial officer, Jazwares. “We are looking forward to working with IMPS to create a toy line that appeals to today’s kids while also capturing the nostalgia that other generations feel for the brand.”

As the global master toy manufacturer for “The Smurfs,” Jazwares will create a toy line reviving the franchise for today’s generation of children. “The Smurfs” toy line is set to hit retail in 2022. 

Created by Pierre Culliford, “The Smurfs” first appeared in 1958 as a comic strip running in the Belgian magazine, Spirou. The brand quickly became a runaway success, and in the decades since, “The Smurfs” have permeated every aspect of pop culture, evolving into one of the world’s most beloved family brands. Jazwares’ Smurfs toy line will include plush, figures and playsets featuring the little blue imps and their mushroom village that fans of the franchise will immediately recognize. 

“I am extremely proud of this beautiful partnership with Jazwares,” says Véronique Culliford, president and founder, IMPS/Lafig and daughter of Pierre Culliford. “It is a family company like ours that advocates for the same human values. I’m sure that with their legendary creativity, many beautiful toys will invade the world to the joy of young and old children.”

Part 2: 10 Minutes with Steve Manners, WildBrain CPLG

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As Festival of Licensing wraps up, speakers and exhibitors are reflecting on what they gained from the biggest licensing event of the year.

Steve Manners, vice president, business development, WildBrain CPLG and WildBrain Spark, is speaking at Licensing Leadership Summit, the only virtual global conference bringing together C-level executives from the world’s largest players across manufacturing, retail and brands to discuss, debate and collaborate on the future of brand licensing.

Taking place Oct. 28-29, execs like Manners will share secrets to making it in the licensing industry. License Global had a chat with Manners ahead of his session to discuss all things WildBrain CPLG and how it fits into the licensing industry and its progression into a more digital format.

In one sentence, what does WildBrain CPLG do? 

WildBrain CPLG is one of the world’s leading entertainment, sport and brand licensing agencies, and we have offices in the U.K., Benelux, Nordics, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Greece & Turkey, Russia, the Middle East, and the U.S. With more than 45 years of experience in the licensing industry, we are committed to providing each of our clients with dedicated licensing and marketing industry professionals, alongside a fully integrated product development, legal and accounting service.

And WildBrain Spark? 

WildBrain Spark is the award-winning digital media company, and one of the largest premium kids and family content networks on AVOD platforms such as YouTube, YouTube Kids, Amazon and ROKU.

How do the two feed into each other? 

WildBrain CPLG is now working more closely with all of WildBrain’s business units, particularly on a combined service offering with WildBrain Spark. WildBrain CPLG’s clients are looking at ways to use digital platforms to engage with the target consumers and, as one of the only licensing agencies with additional digital capability, we are able to offer a complete solution and offer licensors a deep understanding of the YouTube and AVOD opportunity.  Similarly, with the increasing success of content on platforms such as YouTube, kids and families are engaging with digital first properties on the WildBrain Spark network, leading to demand for consumer products which WildBrain CPLG can facilitate and support.

How can YouTube and other digital platforms be used for launching, supporting or reinvigorating IP?

For launching new brands, we use WildBrain Spark’s hub channels to attract and grow audiences, which leads to demand for stand-alone channels once a solid fan base has been established. Across our strategies for all brands, we take an “always on” approach that allows audiences to engage with their favourite properties whenever and wherever they like. This, in turn, supports linear and theatrical releases through additional content, compilations, listicles, engaging short form content that builds a “home” for the brand in the digital space.

Where is the licensing industry on its journey with digital? 

It’s still relatively early days – influencer IPs such as Ryan’s World, JoJo Siwa started their journey on YouTube, but really began to resonate in consumer products once they appeared on more traditional broadcast platforms. However, increasingly, with properties such as Vlad & Niki – which WildBrain CPLG represents across EMEA and Russia - consumer products is being driven solely by their digital presence. In addition, more traditional content is often being led by a digital-first approach.

What data insights can be achieved by using digital platforms in this way? 

WildBrain CPLG and WildBrain Spark work in close collaboration to capture and analyse as much data and insights as possible ­ this can be COPPA-compliant YouTube data, social data, free accessible retail data and specific data provided by licensors or retailers. We then use this in our conversations with our licensees and retailers to support a decision on an activation and with our licensors to advise where investment is needed in order to improve the brand’s footprint.

Insights also allow us to understand the audience journey – what characters, situations and story lines viewers respond to – and use those insights to both guide development of future content, but also create consumer products that respond to audience reaction and engagement. We’ve never previously been able to gain such valuable and effective insights.

And how do they drive and influence retail rollout strategies?

These insights help guide the product creation, design and also find the appropriate retail home. We can also support retailers’ own digital strategies and amplify their product offering through advertising on YouTube, and also create unique and targeted ways to effectively reach their target audience.

 

Registration is available here.