Adapting Intellectual Properties for the theme park industry is nothing new. From the first themed attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, to Universal’s “Transformers” ride, IPs remain a lucrative aspect of our Industry.
Key factors have driven the evolution of IPs over the years. As entertainment widens both globally and with new applications, opportunities for successful IP adaptations go beyond the traditional attraction rides. Non traditional IP applications, such as resorts, live events and shows, mixed-use entertainment, immersive retail and seasonal guest engagement, have come to the forefront as a newly envisioned driving force in today’s themed and leisure entertainment markets. Additionally, there are more sources for quality IPs beyond blockbuster films and children’s properties.
How people consume media has changed dramatically in the past several years. As a result, how the industry views content and how consumers use content, worldwide, is evolving to meet demand. Guests, and their expectations, have become more sophisticated. Today’s guest cares more about story and content. “The biggest evolution in the way we approach Licensed IP is a deep focus on integrating the IP seamlessly into the attraction,” says Greg Lombardo, VP Global Live and Location-Based Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. “We pay a lot of attention to storytelling that expands and supports the worlds of our franchises.”
Brands with true staying power over time are the most successful. “Consumers truly engage with characters they know and love, and want an experience that re-engages them with that emotion,” says Senior Vice President Global Consumer Products, Sony Pictures Consumer Marketing, Greg Economos.
The growth of immersive and interactive retail, such as American Girl and Crayola, has fueled new opinions on how IP’s can be applied by developers. “The key or absolute critical factor to developing a brand is one that delivers on the promise of the brand,” says George Wade, President Bay Laurel Advisers, and former SVP for MGM Studios. “Consumers are looking for richer and more immersive experiences relating to the brands.” Dan Wilson, VP of Global Retail at Saban Brands, licensor of iconic IP brands, such as Power Rangers and Paul Frank, adds, “Consumers want and expect extended brand experiences. We are always identifying ways in which to deliver on
this and stay ahead of the trend.”
Positive results from non-traditional resort-based IP applications and branded guest engagements and seasonal programs, such as Cartoon Networks’ Seasonal Guest Engagement at Atlantis Resort and Water Park, are a growth area for IP’s as well. At WyldBlue we were recently engaged by a developer to explore the opportunities for applying licensed IP’s to a 1,500 unit lateral hotel, a premium resort development that offers a combination of hotel, condo, townhouses and private home vacation rental accommodations with amenities and mixed-use entertainment. This family-focused, non-traditional format is a natural fit for an IP Master License. For the private equity client, this was not merely a marketing-driven consideration, but a profit-plus economic driver. New trends like these continue to change the landscape and expand the use of Intellectual Properties.
Touring exhibits and live stage shows also have seen explosive growth in the IP world. “Immersive experiences are the future of touring exhibitions with emphasis on universal brands or ideas,” says Heidi Pinchal, Principal of Brand Image Group. “Guests want to be part of the IP, to experience it, not to just interact with it. Theme parks have known this for years.”
Understanding the business aspects of the IP licensing process, players and personalities have evolved, as well. Studios, networks and brands look at licensing IPs far more strategically than in the past. Commenting on Sony Pictures’ future vision, Greg Economos says, “Global expansion is our big push. We recently announced a deal in Dubai and will be expanding our footprint with several of our IPs throughout the world.”
Discovering which IP is a good fit for each project is only the beginning of the process. Licensors are vastly different, each with their own internal brand strategies and business styles. Understanding how licensed IPs work and the nuances of legalities, clearing and third party fees, makes all the difference in structuring quality IP licenses. Striking a balance between the cost, consumer awareness, value and profitability is the primary concern. A poorly structured deal can result in unexpected costs to the licensee that will negatively affect the cost to gain ratio. The devil is in the details when it comes to licensing any IP.
“Those who do not consider IPs in today’s market are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” says Paul Nunes, Esq., Intellectual Property Attorney, Partner, and Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Underberg & Kessler. “If you are not at least keeping pace with what others are doing, if not surpassing them, you are not in the game.” • • •
Jim King and Jan Shaw, Principals of WyldBlue Entertainment, veteran Master Planners, Creatives, Project Managers and Problem Solvers for the Entertainment industry, specialize in IP Adaptation.
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