Saban Capital Group's Haim Saban
By Anna Carugati
More than 20 years ago, Haim Saban spotted a children’s show in Japan and saw the international appeal of a group of teens who “morphed” into superheroes and fought evil in an attempt to make the world a better place. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered in the U.S. in 1993, helped launch the Fox Kids programming block and was sold to broadcasters around the world. Saban’s instinct was right—the show’s campy humor, mixed with messages of empowering kids, making good choices and helping others caught on with children everywhere. Today, as Saban invests in major media holdings around the world, he remains committed to children’s properties—his company Saban Brands is investing in a number of them—and loyal to the power of television. Recently, a Saban subsidiary took over the Saturday morning children’s block on The CW in the U.S., creating a destination for action-adventure fans. The block includes Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Iron Man: Armored Adventures and WWE Saturday Morning Slam. Saban talks to TV Kids about Power Rangers’ longevity and about building brands in today’s crowded market.
TV KIDS: Power Rangers is coming up on a very important anniversary: 20 years. Did you imagine when you discovered the property that it would have this kind of staying power?
SABAN: I have a very wild imagination!
TV KIDS: What was it about the property back then that captured your imagination?
SABAN: Action combined with very campy humor and a positive message in each episode. The combination of those three elements made it very appealing to me.
TV KIDS: How have those elements endured while the children’s television landscape has changed so much? What has given Power Rangers such longevity?
SABAN: The show gets revitalized every season. All the actors are new. The superhero costumes are new. The robots are new. You keep the basic concepts of action, campy humor and moral message going but at the same time you completely revamp and refresh the show. These elements are the main reason that this show has been going on in Japan for 35 years, and in 2013 will be 20 years in the Western world.
TV KIDS: My son was a little boy and completely enamored of the Blue Ranger, and I remember standing in line a long time in stores waiting for the blue costume at Halloween!
SABAN: My question, did you buy any costumes?
TV KIDS: Oh yes, absolutely.
SABAN: Thank you for supporting my family, we always need it!
TV KIDS: Power Rangers changed the rules of the game for a property because it really reached out to many different areas in a way that properties before had not. What was the reasoning that went behind that?
SABAN: It really is the fundamentals that I just mentioned that have universal appeal. It was our job, when we owned the property and then when we bought it back, to just do one thing—make the kids aware that it’s out there. Because with the proliferation of platforms and options kids have, it has become more challenging to expose properties to them. But I believe we have done the right thing in ensuring in 150 countries, which is where it airs now, that it is exposed on the right platforms. We’re on the main vehicle in America for kids, which is Nickelodeon. And we are on all the main outlets in [the other] countries, where it airs both on free TV as well as on pay TV. So when you combine that marketing effort with the fundamentals of the show, you basically end up with a winning formula.
TV KIDS: Given the complexity of the market nowadays, is it easier to accomplish what you have accomplished with a brand that already has a certain awareness than with a new one?
SABAN: Yes, clearly, having the notoriety that Power Rangers has has made it easier. Nothing is 100 percent easy, but having a property with that kind of notoriety clearly made it easier.
TV KIDS: Are you looking to acquire other brands?
SABAN: The answer to that is yes. We are always evaluating potential acquisitions that fit nicely into our portfolio. In fact, in early August Saban Brands acquired the Playforge business, a leading mobile-games developer and publisher, known for Zombie Farm, which is the third-highest-grossing iOS app in 2011 and a top ten grossing game for nearly two years. This followed closely on the heels of our acquisition of a programming block for morning kids’ television, which we have branded Vortexx.