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HRTS Member Profile: Steve Davis

Steve DavisSteve Davis is President of Hasbro Studios and an HRTS Board member. Steve began his career with Merv Griffin and has worked in many areas of the business, from television to online to mobile. I recently had a chance to interview Steve to discuss immersive environments, branded entertainment and the A-Team.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-in short, Merv Griffin convinced me to spend the rest of my career in entertainment. I met him when I was at a company developing interactive applications for his game show, Wheel of Fortune. When Merv offered me a job, I jumped at the opportunity to work for one of TV’s greatest legends. He gave me the best practical education in the entertainment industry, both creatively and from a business standpoint. He threw me into all sorts of jobs that I had never done before, which forced me to learn every aspect of the business—and quickly! I also learned from him to surround myself with the best people and avoid falling into the trap of being formulaic. With that as my foundation, I had the skills to go on to run Carlton America and Granada (now ITV) America, online and mobile media for Infospace, my own company with Family Entertainment Group and, now, Hasbro Studios.

Q: How did you first get involved with HRTS?
-my good friend Dick Lippin introduced me to the organization. When I saw the roster and high caliber of participants, I knew immediately that I had to be part of the great work that HRTS does.

Q: What are some of the keys to success in branded entertainment? Are there differences in TV versus new media?
-to achieve success, you need product that is closely identified with the brand while allowing it to evolve in clever, entertaining, informative and interesting ways. For instance, Hasbro has an amazing stable of more than 1,500 global brands from which we can choose to re-imagine, re-invent and re-ignite for television. It is critical to have a multi-quadrant, 360-degree enterprise approach to value creation when re-imagining brands for entertainment. Hasbro has created a corporate business model that has allowed the company to evolve from a U.S.- focused toymaker into a global immersive branded play company that reaches consumers via television and features, digital gaming, lifestyle licensing and, of course, toys and games. And, the company’s retail relationships are second to none.

It is critical to success in both television and new media to have superior product to cut through the clutter and succeed. As we have experienced firsthand at Hasbro, online also provides the ability to generate new and loyal customers by creating totally immersive environments and creative engagement, which can lead to substantial new revenue streams.

Q: How are things shaping up in your joint venture with Discovery?
-great. At the studio, we want to create a leadership position in all platforms by re-imagining the Hasbro brands for television, online and mobile—literally wherever kids and their families consume content. In the run up to the Oct. 10 launch of The HUB, we are currently supplying the network a number of shows, ranging from favorites like Transformers Prime, GI Joe Renegades, Pound Puppies and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic to an entirely new, live-action game show called Family Game Night, which is based on a number of Hasbro’s most popular games.

We’ve also been fortunate enough to attract some of the best and brightest creative stewards in Hollywood, all of whom grew up with these brands and have a real affinity for them. Our talent roster includes Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, who are writing and show-running Transformers after doing the first Transformers movie, Star Trek, Fringe and working with JJ Abrams.  Also working with Alex and Bob is Jeff Kline, who has executive produced scores of popular kids’ series, including My Friends Tigger and Pooh and Dragon Tales. With GI Joe, we’ve also attracted top writers with Henry Gilroy and Marty Isenberg, whose credits include Ben 10 and Rugrats. And we have Lauren Faust, who won an Emmy for Power Puff Girls and a number of other top shows, producing My Little Pony. 

Q: How does your ‘A-Team’ approach work?
-studios traditionally develop too many things at once, spending a great deal of money and time on material that never ends up on the screen. Our A-Team approach is designed to create a business model that is focused and financially sensible. We give the show-runner everything necessary to translate the brand to television by bringing together a genre-specific development head from the studio, a member from the original Hasbro product team and a development executive at The Hub. They are assigned to consult with the show-runner to ensure that we have a more coordinated, efficient and holistic approach to successfully re-imagining the brand for television.

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