HRTS Member Profile: Stephen J. Davis
Stephen J. Davis is executive vice president and chief content officer for Hasbro and an HRTS Board member. I recently had a chance to interview Stephen to discuss brand building, wall dropping and time bending.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very diverse experience professionally. Virtually everything I’ve done over the last 15 to 20 years has in some way related to content-- content creation, content distribution and the new shifting paradigms of content. I feel so fortunate to be in a business that continues to re-invent itself and move itself forward with so many different challenges in creative ways. I honestly can’t think of a better time to be in our business. With the convergence of so many different opportunities to create content and so many different platforms to distribute content, it’s really about great storytelling and creating great characters and expansive worlds. To be able to do that every day is really a privilege.
Q: How did you first get involved with HRTS?
-Dick Lippin has been a phenomenal colleague for a long time. He first introduced me to HRTS as an organization that, at its heart, had the new paradigm of Hollywood in mind and was a center of excellence for networking and sharing great ideas and information. To have the opportunity to be part of the organization has been and continues to be a terrific experience. Attending events across town with some of the best and brightest in our business and being able to have one-on-one conversations with them all under one roof, is a great opportunity which not a lot of people have a chance to experience. Some of my fondest memories are just being in the room, being present with some of the great thinkers in our industry. I thank Dick for creating that opportunity for me many years ago. To this day, I continue to sit with Dick at all of the HRTS functions and plan to continue this tradition.
Q: What is the current state of the children and family entertainment market, and how has it changed in the past decade?
-There has never been a better time, certainly in my professional career, to be in the kids and family business. There are more ways to reach kids and to be engaged with kids and families to deliver immersive experiences on different platforms. Kids are using technology at a much earlier age, so we’re able to create these tremendous experiences that not only kids enjoy but that also appeal to the entire family. That’s a direct result of technology and expanding distribution channels. The current generation of kids is embracing the technological revolution that’s taking place in our business which is helping to drive content and changing the kind of content that’s made available. And yet the traditional broadcast business is also very robust and the opportunity to create immersive experiences on the big screen is still available. As I look at the pockets of the business that support our industry, it is all just green fields.
There’s this democratization of content, where great stories are being told, great characters are being created outside of the walled content garden that you and I talked about 10 years ago -- and now, tearing down the walls has allowed for greater freedom to make different kinds of content that’s appealing to a variety of demographics. There’s a home and a place for this kind of content and that’s very exciting.
Q: How are kids bending time?
-There’s a great statistic: kids are consuming on average 11 hours of media in seven hours, because they’re multimedia-tasking. They’re on their mobile phones, they’re on their tablets, they’re watching television, they’re texting. They’re taking the best of distribution channels and the best of content that is made available and they’re consuming all of that content simultaneously. So they are literally bending time with the hours dedicated to content consumption. It presents all kinds of interesting opportunities and challenges with respect to how to create stories that will resonate in an environment where kids will multimedia task. It heightens what we have always tried to achieve – focusing on the importance of being authentic and relevant and getting to the heart of the story as quickly and seamlessly as possible so that it continues to resonate in whatever form a kid may be consuming it.
Q: What is the Allspark?
-Our film label is called Allspark Pictures = a bit of a fun homage to the life force of Transformers. Allspark allows us to fund, calendarize and market certain films that are strategic priorities of the company, with greater flexibility. Our first full length animated feature, My Little Pony: The Movie, is being produced through Allspark Pictures. We will continue to distribute our Allspark films thru major studio distribution partners In the case of My Little Pony, we are partnering with Lionsgate.
Q: What is the power of Yo Kwon Do?
-We have a joint venture partnership with Alpha, which is a terrific, very progressive consumer products company based in China and we’re doing a number of projects with them including Blazing Team. We’re just premiering the show globally and we’re very optimistic that it’s going to do well.
Q: How are things shaping up in your initiatives with Sony Music?
-We’ve just begun our relationship with Sony. Early indications are that it’s going to be very fruitful and it really opens up a number of opportunities for us to continue to broadly expand our portfolio and to get more music and entertainment into the hands of kids, who are very much driven by music. Music is ever-present in kids’ lives and so it’s just natural that we would expand that business through our relationship with Sony.
Q: How do you develop content across multiple platforms while building your core brands?
-At the heart of building core brands is creating content that can work effectively across multiple platforms. I think that goes to the heart of starting with great stories, great characters, great brands and recognizing that there are certain platforms that lend themselves to a particular type of content. We’re making traditional 22-minute content for television, full length feature films, and also recognizing that there is a place for shorter form content. We recognize that the power of content is in the hands of consumers - and allowing consumers to use our brands to create their own content expressions, to be inspired by what we are seeding in the marketplace. This is the democratization of content –and there really are no walled gardens anymore. When you sit down to plot out deep storytelling you understand that it’s going to live on lots of different platforms and can be engaging in lots of different ways. The walls have come tumbling down.
Q: How does consumer insight factor into the development process?
-Consumer insights really influence everything that we do. We’re committed to listening to consumers and having an ongoing dialog to fully understand what they like and dislike, including the play patterns to which our consumers respond and the types of content with which they engage. We put storytelling and consumer insights at the center of our “brand blueprint strategy” – to activate our brands across television and movies, immersive entertainment experiences and digital gaming, consumer products and toys and games. At the heart of that is a keen understanding of what consumers are really asking for, through the daily dialog that we have with them.