Mega Brands & Innovation in Focus at Hasbro Studios

Finn Arnesen, senior VP of global distribution and development at Hasbro Studios, and Nina Scales, the VP of international sales distribution, talk about the company’s international distribution strategy.

With its acquisition of Power Rangers last year, Hasbro Studios added to its already enviable stable of megabrands, among them My Little Pony, Transformers and Equestria Girls. All have been run through the company’s signature “brand-blueprint” strategy as it seeks to make sure it is connecting with audiences, and consumers, wherever they are.

“We’re thrilled to have Power Rangers in our portfolio,” says Arnesen, who leads a team of execs tasked with bringing the company’s treasure trove of IP to channels and platforms across the globe. “It’s a massive brand, with 25 years of heritage and the new season, Beast Morphers, launches in Q3/4 2019. We’re activating Power Rangers across Hasbro’s brand wheel and activating the brand across all of Hasbro’s touchpoints. From a global distribution point of view, we will continue with our existing partners, seeking new ones and expanding the global reach.”

Arnesen and his team are also focusing heavily on continuing the success of My Little Pony, which Scales calls “the gift that keeps on giving. It’s one of the top drivers of our business from a revenue point of view and [in terms of] distribution partners across all platforms. Across the world, it’s always in the top ten for every broadcaster, so they always want to have more. And it’s a joy to work on.”

Arnesen notes that one of the key things about My Little Pony is the show’s mass appeal. “It’s a cross-platform, cross-demo show and not confined to our core girl audience—it’s an inclusive show, with parents and older fans engaged with the series. Season nine of My Little Pony comes out this year.”

The Transformers franchise also continues to deliver for the company, driven by Hasbro Studios’ willingness to innovate in both storytelling and distribution strategies. “We’ve evolved it over the years,” Arnesen says. “From the early days of Transformers Prime in 2009/10, to the lighter tone of Transformers Robots in Disguise. Now we’ve taken a further step with Transformers Cyberverse in partnership with Cartoon Network globally, with a new distribution strategy that sees the series on Cartoon Network’s app, VOD platform, linear and YouTube within a week of first airing. Its our omni-screen strategy and flexible approach to multiplatform, making sure we are where all our audiences engage with our content. It’s been a great partnership with Cartoon Network and it’s a real example of an all-screens strategy. We have season two in production and we’re discussing further series down the line.”

The show features the character of Bumblebee front and center and premiered ahead of the live-action Bumblebee blockbuster film. “Bumblebee is the most popular [Transformers] character with kids, so [Cyberverse] is picking up on that and making him more accessible to a wider audience,” Scales notes.

Also within the Transformers franchise is Rescue Bots Academy, a follow-up and reinvention of Rescue Bots, which ran for four seasons. “One of the things we found is Rescue Bots didn’t sit comfortably in the preschool slot, but it wasn’t a prime-time action-adventure show,” Scales says. “So sometimes it was a little tricky on the scheduling front. Also, as we produced Robots in Disguise and Cyberverse, and our main Transformers [movie franchise] was getting younger, we aged down Rescue Bots. Rescue Bots Academy, which has been animated by [Hasbro-owned] Boulder Media, is a more preschool focused entry-level Transformers show. We’ve brought back the popular characters from the original Rescue Bots, and they are now teaching the new recruits how to be the greatest first responders.”

Arnesen adds, “One of the trends in the marketplace is inclusive, mission-based entertainment that has a learning element to it, without calling it edutainment. It’s about young recruits going on a mission and learning something in a fun and entertaining way.”

Hasbro Studios is deploying new distribution strategies with Equestria Girls, an older-skewing spin-off of My Little Pony. “Last year we slightly adapted the distribution strategy to make it a digital-first property,” Scales says. “We created a digital series where every Friday there’s a new episode on YouTube. At the same time, as the movies have worked really well for our broadcasters, we’ve also reversioned [the digital series] so we can still satisfy the linear TV market.”

Hanazuki: Full of Treasures also had a digital-first strategy, having premiered on YouTube. It was Hasbro Studios’ first original IP not based on an existing toy or gaming brand. “It was a really interesting experiment to see if we could launch a new property on a digital platform like YouTube and actually get the audience,” Arnesen says. “We now have a second window on linear. So we flipped the rollout model around. We’re always trying to find new ways to bring things to market, and innovate in terms of where our audiences engage with our properties.”

On that front, Arnesen’s team benefits from being a part of an organization where content development, brand-building and distribution are all working collaboratively. “We try to be as nimble and agile as we can be as a company,” Arnesen notes.