Specialised content has always had great appeal when it comes to licensing and syndication. Tim Hudson, director of international licensing and syndication at Immediate Media, explains the current market trends – and what’s likely to be the next big play around international licensing.
Immediate has long been a major player in the specialised licensing and syndication space. How is the business performing in those areas at the moment?
Overall, the business is doing really well. From an international perspective, what we’ve seen over probably the last 12 months or so is something of a slowdown, from an activity perspective, in the more traditional licensing, but an increase in digital licensing, particularly around Top Gear and similar brands. In addition to that, the syndication business is actually running a record level. That’s been incredibly strong.
That point about licensing no longer being all about print – but also digital – is interesting. Do you see that trend continuing?
I would certainly agree with that. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve signed around five or more big print deals in the last 12 months, so that’s still good and there’s still a major demand. But we’ve probably signed slightly more digital deals than that. And you’re right, it’s not just about print, or even digital, anymore. Events are increasingly interesting and in really interesting areas, too. We now have a very large event in the UAE around food, for example, which is a high profile, prestigious event. So that’s a growth area we are monitoring and seeing some interesting success in.
Does specialised content still hold the cards somewhat when it comes to licensing and syndication? Does that type of content still lend itself really well to that revenue model?
Yes, definitely. I think the international developments around licensing in relation to specialist titles versus other titles mirrors what’s happened in the local market. I think the bigger, more generic lifestyle areas have found things increasingly hard because there are multiple different ways you can get access to that content. With specialised content, it’s probably a little bit harder to access, the consumers tend to be a little bit older, are probably more predisposed towards print still, and are also probably willing to pay a bit extra for it. So just as that has been the basis of a strong business in the UK, that’s also being replicated from an international perspective.
Are certain markets more ripe for licensing and syndication than others, and are you targeting certain regions because of that?
It’s quite difficult to be that binary. At Immediate, we operate a portfolio business. We operate across nine or ten different sectors, so consequently some of those sectors are really quite different from each other. In addition to that, on the global side of things, there are a number of different influencing factors in terms of how a market operates – whether that’s political influences, economic influences, or just where people are in terms of the media cycle. So it’s difficult sometimes to be binary about which markets are doing well and which aren’t. It’s different in different areas. Our crafts business has remained strong across western and northern Europe, for example, but hasn’t really done much in Asia – but that ‘s more of a reflection of consumer habits in those regions than it is performance of the products.
Are there certain trends in terms of which topics and brands will work in certain regions, however – and in the way that you grow those brands from there?
Yes – certainly with specific sectors and specific brands. If you take Top Gear, for example, that is pretty much everywhere now. We have around 30 print and digital deals for Top Gear, so we can quite confidently say that if it works in one market, there are a number of other similar markets – markets that are quite close by, which have similar market growth and a similar economic profile – that we know it will also work in. Likewise, with our crafts content, that tends to be particularly strong in northern and western Europe because a lot of the consumer habits are similar – a cratfer in Holland is quite similar to a craft consumer in the Czech Republic, for instance. And then, what we’ve also noticed, is that our more educational brands, such as bookazines, seem to do well in Asia, because there is a strong emphasis upon learning in those markets. So there, we’re able to say that if it works in China, it will probably work in Taiwan and it will probably work in Hong Kong and Japan. There are always exceptions, of course, but there are certainly products and sectors that we know will perform well based on their performance in other similar markets.
What will be the big disruptors to the licensing and syndication market going forward?
Specifically, from Immediate’s perspective, we’re very interested in and developing quite a lot around endorsement licensing and accreditation. We’re not alone in that, but we’re going to see quite a big push in that area. In terms of the broader technological trends, it remains to be seen what sort of impact that will have on the broader licensing market, I think, but in the meantime, we’re certainly more focused on the multi-platform, 360-degree deals – and we expect those to continue to be the norm for some time yet.