eOne digs into data to learn buyer mindsets

eOne had begun 2020 strongly, having cemented its position in the UK distribution landscape by posting £293.4m revenues in the 2019 Distributors Survey, a growth of 15.8% from last year and the second highest in the top 10 distributors.

Its status was further buoyed by the £2.9bn takeover by toy giant Hasbro in January, which added an IP library of some 1,500 brands to its more than 6,000-hour sales catalogue.

The deal was the pinnacle of a change in strategy in recent years, which has seen the producer-distributor looking to fuel its distribution arm with in-house productions to retain IP ownership and have greater exploitation leverage in the global market.

“Pure distribution entities depend on other people creating the shows, are less creatively involved and don’t fundamentally own the underlying IP,” says Stuart Baxter, eOne president of international distribution. “Five years ago, that was a big part of eOne’s business. It’s a much smaller part now and after the Hasbro acquisition, it’s going to become even smaller.”

As such, new president of global television Michael Lombardo is overseeing the development, creation, and ownership of programming, drilling down into the Hasbro library and tapping IP for projects.

Furthermore, Baxter says he now spends less than 25% of his time on pure distribution and more working with creatives on the international value of their shows.

One change he has identified during lockdown, however, is that the lack of new content has meant an “uptick in distribution”, with eOne seeing particular interest in library content that is “pertinent for the times”.

Another consequence of the coronavirus lockdown has seen the distributor become more forensic in its client engagement. Without the option of face-to-face meetings, Baxter says eOne has beefed up its online screening system.

This allows sales execs to see exactly what buyers have viewed, how much of a programme they’ve watched and if they went straight on to another episode. “We’re becoming, dare I say it, a little more data-centric, and we’re seeing lots of clients are fully engaged,” he says.

The system will have the added benefit of informing eOne’s development going forwards – though it does not ask clients to rate shows, as there were internal concerns this could be considered as a negotiation tactic.

“We were trying to understand the different motives for buyers – should we do a thumbs up, thumbs level, thumbs down system, or something more sophisticated? Ultimately, we haven’t asked them to rate shows and our thinking is the buyers prefer subtlety.”

However, in this extraordinary time, eOne is further tailoring its distribution to changing buyer behaviours. With more buyers able to watch shows at greater length, Baxter and his team are supplying more episodes, uploading more and offering programmes from older seasons.

While this results in more work for the team, the benefits are clear, says Baxter: “At home, buyers are less prone to pure sales fervour and more focused on their own evaluations. When we engage in discussion, what we’re seeing is they’ve watched more, they know the show better and they’ve done more research.”

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