LazyTown is shown in 170 countries and reaches children in 500 million homes. The company has around 300 active contracts at any given time, both with television stations and a variety of producers who have signed an agreement to use the brand. Now LazyTown plans to conquer Asia with the help of Turner Broadcasting. "LazyTown has a very strong position in North America and Europe, in every sing...
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,” says Guðmundur Magnason, manager of international sales at LazyTown ehf.
Filming of the third LazyTown series is currently underway. Filming takes place in Iceland as before, and over 100 people are now working behind the scenes to make the new episodes a reality. “The first series was filmed in 2004 and the next in 2006. It says a lot about the quality of the shows and it’s far from a given that TV channels around the world are showing this 4 and 6 year old material as much and as often as it really is. ,” adds Guðmundur.
“Many people shook their heads when Magnús Scheving started with this project approx. 18 years ago, created Sportacus and started talking about the importance of encouraging children to exercise and eat healthy food. When we look back now, we see how far ahead of his time he was,” says Guðmundur.
In 500 million homes
LazyTown has around 300 active license agreements at any given time, both with television stations that broadcast the programs and also with producers of food, toys and all kinds of other consumer goods that can use the LazyTown brand. The TV shows are shown in 170 countries, and Guðmundur says that the latest figures are that you can follow the adventures of Sportacus and friends in up to 500 million homes.
“LazyTown has a very strong position in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and in every single country in Central and South America. Up until now, we have had the most difficult upturns in the north-eastern part of Asia: China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, but the merger with Turner should help us greatly to make up for it. I was just last week in a meeting in Hong Kong with Turner’s representatives in Asia and I can say that all the doors are opening there and in maybe another six months LazyTown will be fully operational in the Asian countries where we have been in a weak position so far.”
The partnership with Turner also secures funding for the series. Guðmundur says that the long wait between episodes until now is explained by the fact that the episodes are expensive to produce and the time in between had to be used to raise funds, e.g. with license fee sales. The TV episodes themselves are not the most important source of income where the business model is based on all kinds of spin-off projects and brand usage agreements.
The episodes are like an advertisement
“Television content for children is sold at a very low price and in most parts of the world there is not much advertising on television aimed at children, therefore the television stations have limited advertising revenue from showing this material. The market for the sale of television content has worsened since we produced the first series, and more and more restrictions are placed on advertising around children’s content on television,” says Guðmundur. “From the point of view of LazyTown’s revenue model, the TV episodes are more like an advertisement that generates license fee sales to producers who use our brand, since the children form a very strong bond with the protagonists they watch on the TV screen. Also, securing regular screenings of the shows is also key, and that is now in place with Turner.”
Although the journey has been difficult at times, Guðmundur says that the people of LazyTown have put a lot of emphasis on neither reducing the quality nor linking the brand to goods that do not conform to the show’s ideals of wholesomeness and healthy living. “A number of food producers have approached us to use the LazyTown brand, but we have had to turn many away because the product they wanted to sell with our name does not comply with our criteria for healthy content. Magnús Scheving never considered any compromises when the health of the children was on the one hand, and there has been no wavering from this,” he says, mentioning e.g. that the UK’s largest juice producer has recently made an agreement to use LazyTown’s characters on packaging with pure fruit juice.
In the same way, they could have tried to save on the production of the episodes by having them drawn rather than acted. “But with real characters, a better relationship is achieved with the children, and they are more willing to imitate Sportacus and Stephanie at home in the living room and take part in the exercises.”
Become the biggest brand in the world in its field
The people of LazyTown do not set the bar low: “With the partnership with Turner, all roads are open and access to TV viewers has been secured. The goal is for LazyTown to become the biggest brand in the world in the field of entertainment for younger children,” says Guðmundur and points out that the LazyTown brand already has an extremely strong position: “Turner, which maintains the children’s channel Cartoon Network, recently launched a new station, Cartoonito, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This station is designed with younger children in mind, and there is LazyTown with its absolute uniqueness and hallmark of the station.”
When the filming of the third season ends, Guðmundur says that work will begin on the LazyTown cooking show. Then the fourth series about the adventures in LazyTown will start, and after that what will probably be the biggest project by far: a LazyTown movie. “There, the cooperation with Turner is again very important, since easy distribution channels are guaranteed.”