The sale last week of our client, Moonbug Entertainment, to a Blackstone-backed media company, is another significant indicator of the way the entertainment industry is changing, and why the LA publicity establishment is largely ill-equipped to deal with it.
Moonbug is nothing short of a phenomenon. If you don’t know the company, the chances are that you are aware of its children’s entertainment properties, including CoComelon and Blippi. What is most extraordinary about these two properties in particular is that neither has ever been broadcast on linear TV in the United States. Both started life on YouTube (where they are both still freely available) and, after being acquired by Moonbug, graduated on to other streaming platforms, including Netflix (CoComelon is one of that platform’s most watched shows) Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
These and other children’s entertainment properties have become increasingly popular during the pandemic. Screen time for all ages increased dramatically as we all spent more time at home, and experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have long advocated strict limits on screen time for youngsters, are now taking a more nuanced view.
The fact that Blackstone was willing to back media executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs to the tune of $3bn in their acquisition of Moonbug suggests that there will be no ‘snapping back’ to pre-pandemic behaviors, and that the future of children’s entertainment is very much on-demand.
This makes linear TV an irrelevance, and so too, the breed of entertainment industry publicists who have relied on the same tried and true techniques since Lucille Ball was in vogue.
While episodic TV is not dead (who else can’t wait for the next episode of Succession to drop?), for children’s TV it might as well be. Which means that those responsible for ensuring those shows remain talked about need to evolve.
- Think Brand: CoComelon and Blipp are successful not because they are shows, but because they are brands. It is no coincidence that Moonbug recently hired a raft of new marketers with responsibility for its various properties; brands outlive TV shows. So this new breed of streaming-only children’s entertainment properties needs communicators who understand brands - their properties, their attributes, their potential - and who are able to market those brands accordingly. Old school Hollywood publicists just won’t cut it.
- Know Thy Audience: Brand communications professionals take this seriously. We are obsessed with understanding our brands’ target audiences - what makes them tick, how they behave, their media and information consumption habits. (At Clarity we have a whole team dedicated to audience intelligence and insights, to help us plan targeted programs for our clients.) Only by understanding our audiences inside-out can we reach, engage and influence them. The days of the little black book are dead.
- Tap into the Issues: It may seem odd to be talking about ‘issues’ when we are concerned with children’s entertainment, but this holds as true for this industry sector as it does for any other. When the CoComelon characters are singing nursery rhymes, or Blippi is exploring waste management, there are issues to be explored. In communications terms, we must use this content to spark larger conversations about the way children learn, what they learn, how they grow. These brands not only have an opportunity to be part of that public discourse, they have the right to be, arguably more so than the doctors in white coats, given their incredible reach and influence. The old episodic approach to TV publicity is no longer relevant.
At Clarity, we are proud to be associated with the success of Moonbug and other tech-forward entertainment firms, and changing the way communicators adapt to new media consumption patterns, which are here to stay.
Photo courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.
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