LazyTown stands stronger than ever. The company's relatives are big-hearted and seem to have every reason to be optimistic about the business in the coming years. "We have just become part of the Turner group, which in turn is part of Time Warner. Those agreements were finalized late 2011, and the purpose, among other things, to bring on board an owner who has the right distribution channels," say...
Magnús Scheving says he is completely satisfied with his position after selling LazyTown to the American media group Turner. He will become the CEO of the company in Iceland and will again be Sportacus in the new series. Freyr Gígja Gunnarsson talked to Magnús about the changes and the future of this phenomenon that has won the hearts and minds of children all over the world.
According to a press release sent out to the media yesterday, September 8, 2011, about the purchase, Turner’s investment amounts to two and a half billion Icelandic ISK or 21 million dollars. In the purchase agreement, it is assumed that the sale proceeds of Magnús Scheving’s and his wife, Ragnheiður Melsteð’s shares, will flow in as an investment in Turner’s new company.
It is planned to develop a special online LazyTown homepage, launch an international clothing and toy line as well as start the production of a new TV series with Magnús in the role of Sportacus. “It was actually the most difficult part of the contract, playing Sportacus, I wondered if I could do it,” says Magnús, who also reveals that there was talk of moving the entire LazyTown production to the United States, which would have been a huge shock. “However, we managed to convince them that it was best this way, to have it in this country.”
Found a power plant in Turner
A year has passed since Turner, which one of the largest producers and distributors of entertainment in the world, showed interest in buying LazyTown. “We decided to reorganize the company. All the shareholders wanted to join the reorganization meetings and we decided to find a buyer to get them out.” Magnús has been on edge for the last two weeks because of the purchase, barely sleeping more than four hours a day and there won’t be much more sleep in the near future while the purchase walk through “No kidding, people have been working here literally day and night.”
After the signing, Magnús will be the CEO of the new company of the Turner group. He sees yesterday as a day of victory for LazyTown and not as a personal defeat for him as some might think. “The fact is that we have been looking for this kind of partner for many years, a company that has a distribution network in TV and on products. We have always had either; we were on the product market, but then it took too long to get on TV and vice versa.” Magnús compares LazyTown to a power plug that has been looking for electricity. “And we actually found a whole power plant in Turner.”
Magnús says he is satisfied with the direction LazyTown is taking, the brand is gradually becoming able to stand on its own two feet after being closely associated with him. “LazyTown will exist without me and will outlive me.”
Saving British children
Magnús admits that he feels sad that those who invested with him in LazyTown to begin with should not enjoy it today. But this is the story of entrepreneurs, it is a valley of waves. He recalls that Disney came close to going bankrupt three times when he was starting out. “Among other things, because he wanted a symphony orchestra to play children’s material. It had never been done before.” On the other hand, he says he will never forget those who took part in this adventure and he will be eternally grateful to them.
“But now three to five hundred jobs are coming into the country and two and a half billion ISK into the economy. I’m still in LazyTown, but I’m not getting any money, just a new job title. I’m still in but they control everything. Nothing has really changed for me, except that the stage I dance on has become much, much bigger.”
Magnús admits that sometimes it seems to him that LazyTown does not enjoy the truth here at home in Iceland. For example, he is about to launch a new campaign with the British government live on the BBC on Tuesday. “We have been planning this with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, for weeks. The British choose an Icelandic company to introduce healthy lifestyles to children. I think people sometimes don’t understand what LazyTown is, there are thirty thousand people going to run a marathon with us in Bulgaria next week and we increased vegetable consumption in Mexico by over twenty percent. But no one translates those activities to Iceland.”
Want me as I am
Magnús says the biggest change for him personally is that now he will work for others, he hasn’t done that for a long time. He was alone in the fight, but now he has an American giant behind him. “And it will be interesting to see how it goes in the market, that you are no longer a loner who has certainly helped me many times.”
Magnus confesses that he floats around a bit in the open air, he doesn’t know if any emotion will come over him when he officially sign the contract with Turner. “This is definitely the last time I can say anything.” After the signing, I have to follow Turner’s PR strategy, and there is no small trick to learn,” but Turner made it a condition that Magnús would be CEO for the next four years. After that he can stop. “You have to learn from this and maybe change, I still don’t think so. I think they want me exactly as I am.”
The production of the new episodes will begin immediately after the end of 2011, and Magnús informs that they intend to find new faces for it. He is also optimistic about getting Stefán Karl Stefánsson back to join him. Few, if any, can play Robbie Rotten as good as him. “He is our very best actor and Stefán and I have maintained a good relationship. It is definitely possible to get someone else to play Robbie, but Stefán does it best. I also thought it would be appropriate that Stefán and I ride together into the sunset when the episodes run their course.”