LM interviewed Simone Fenu– Senior Director Licensing, Italy, Greece & Malta, shortly after he joined the Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products Italian team. He told us more about his company’s goals for the near future
Tell us about your new role in Viacom
In this new role at Viacom I will be in charge of managing the Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products business unit for the Italian and Greek market. Based on my previous experience, especially in Warner Bros and Planeta Junior, I have been able to build on my knowledge of the market and of the players in the sector. This new challenge is a fascinating one in a dynamic company that works with some of the most famous properties in the world – and has some marvellous new projects on the horizon. Viacom’s strategic Consumer Products division is one of the fundamental growth drivers for accelerating the business aligned to our core work on brands and channels.
What are the main goals for the near future?
Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products (VNCP) has a diversified portfolio of brands and properties, including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures. Our goal has always been to develop innovative products for “Every age, every physical place and everywhere in the world”.
In particular, we will plan to build on our leading position within the Italian licensing market. We will do this by implementing our corporate strategies, the first of which is to be present wherever our consumers and fans are through the diversification of our portfolio of properties. A major focus will be on retail, which we consider the “third screen” through which we continue to tell the stories of our characters. Retailers ask us to create experiences using our characters to create unforgettable moments, so, for us, retail is an essential extension of the fantastic stories we tell on the screens.
We are working on a local digital strategy through the selection of influencers that will help us to build or reinvigorate licensing programs. Viacom already has an amazing interaction with fans and consumers worldwide: it is present in 183 markets, across 4.4 billion subscribers, 600 million houses and 1 billion fans on social networks. We have set ourselves a major goal for the next two years and we are convinced that we can achieve it with the important synergies that we can implement in our company – and of course with the content produced by the company itself.
What are the top properties that you will work on?
In the kids’ market the priorities include SpongeBob. It’s a classic now with 122 million followers, but with new content always available. Since July 1999, SpongeBob has reigned supreme on TV as an animated series, generating a universe of characters loved by all, slogans and symbols that have entered pop culture, and memes, cinema releases, consumer products, a Tony-awarded Broadway musical and a global fanbase. The twentieth anniversary of SpongeBob started in July 2019 with the premiere of “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout”, a special original with live-action mixed media and animation. The celebration will culminate with the Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon film The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a wonderful Sponge, coming to screens in summer 2020.
Then there’s Paw Patrol, which remains a benchmark in the pre-school market.Loved by millions of children, the brand is boosted by new episodes and special content, among which I must mention Paw Patrol Mighty Pups. The new Ninja Turtles series (Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles),now launched on Rai Gulp, is another high priority with three new apps created to support the launch. As for Top Wings, in the light of its success on Cartoonito and the launch of the master toy, we’re looking forward to new products for next year.
In the adult target market, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures offer us strong opportunities to create fashion and lifestyle lines for superfans.
The MTV brand in particular has already been an inspiration for designers, including Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott and Fyodor Golan, as well as high-fashion brands such as Forever 21, American Eagle and ASOS. It continues to enjoy huge success with teenagers and adults – it boasts 320 million fans on social media. MTV represents music and youth culture throughout the world and the MTV logo translates perfectly into fashion and lifestyle programs. We have a creative team dedicated to keeping up with the latest trends, but incorporating retro themes and nostalgia will also be a great opportunity for MTV.
The addition of Paramount Pictures gives us access to iconic IP, including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Clueless” and “The Godfather”, as well as upcoming releases like “SpongeBob” and “Top Gun: Maverick”, a sequel to the 1980s film for which we plan to develop an ad hoc licensing program.
And what are the main product categories that you will want to develop?
Let’s look at the consumer products categories in their entirety. In the apparel sector we have for years been building incredible collaborations on brands like SpongeBob – with Octopus to name only one. MTV and Paramount are two major points of reference for the adult target market. In the field of toys and publishing, all our properties are linked with the most important master toy licensees: Top Wings with Hasbro, Spongebob with Alpha Toys, Ninja Turtles with Playmates and of course the ongoing Paw Patrol collaboration with Spin Master. The role of Giochi Preziosi is also very important. We collaborate with Giochi Preziosi in the Italian market both on distribution and completion of the product ranges. We are continuing to develop and build repeat or continuing business in the FMCG area. On promotions, the loyalty partnership with Eu Promotions is an essential part of growth.