The Power Rangers may regularly save the world from the forces of evil, but the TV superheroes still need help when it comes to the management and marketing of their brand. That’s where the Los Angeles-based Saban Brands comes in, President Elie Dekel says.
The company is an affiliate of Saban Capital Group (SCG), a private investment firm that operates in the media, entertainment and communication industries. SCG founded Saban Brands in 2010 to acquire and develop a portfolio of properties and capitalize on its experience, track record and capabilities.
Today, Saban Brands has more than 130 employees and a growing list of properties and platforms that not only includes the iconic Power Rangers franchise and the internationally recognized Paul Frank brand, but a handful of others.
While Paul Frank is its most popular brand among general consumers, “Power Rangers would be our lead property in the kids’ space,” Dekel says. “We’re the No. 3 action figure line in the marketplace, and growing!”
Although the Power Rangers brand is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it is more popular than ever. This is largely thanks to the current season, “Power Rangers Megaforce,” airing on Nickelodeon and other Power Rangers series availability on Netflix, Hulu, Nicktoons and more. “We have over 800 episodes of content,” Dekel adds. “We are feeling very gratified and excited to keep the Power Rangers strong.”
In the past three years, Saban Brands has grown its digital and broadcasting capabilities, Dekel says. One acquisition that enables the company to do more is its purchase of The Playforge, a mobile game studio known for its successful “Zombie Farm” game franchise.
“We are now developing ‘Zombie Farm’ as a broader initiative,” Dekel says. “We are working with The Playforge to ramp up and develop more games.” The company has numerous new titles coming out in 2013. “Eat Eat Hooray!” is the latest title from The Playforge, and launched with a feature on Apple’s “New and Noteworthy” section the day after it launched.
Saban Brands’ recent acquisitions also include Zui.com, which specializes in kid-friendly online content. “We’re starting to license and extend the technology of the Zui browsers,” Dekel says.
The company also has Vortexx, a Saturday morning block of TV programming for kids that is presented on The CW Network, reaching 115 million homes. “We deliver Vortexx and MyVortexx.com to kids with a specific focus on action, adventure and comedy,” Dekel says.
Through Vortexx, Saban Brands not only presents its own shows, but also drives brand marketing across its platforms. For instance, in the last month, Vortexx has advertised Power Rangers DVDs and Toys “R” Us promotions.
“We’re going to be advertising ‘Zombie Farm,’” he adds. “Having strong media platforms to reach millions of young people is a huge catalyst for awareness.”
Saban Brands is excited about two properties that it will promote this June at Licensing Expo 2013 in Las Vegas. “It’s a major rally point to see what’s new,” Dekel says, adding that this will be Saban Brands’ fourth year at the show.
One property the company will push is “Julius Jr.,” an all-new preschool series that presents the adventures of a young Julius, the famous monkey featured on Paul Frank merchandise. “[It’s Julius] as a child that is very inventive, very curious and friendly,” Dekel says. The show will start airing this fall on Nick Jr.
Saban Brands also will promote “Digimon Fusion,” a new incarnation of the “Digimon” animated series of the 1990s. “It emerged out of Japan as an animated series,” Dekel says. “We’ve been working with the original producers, Toei Animation and Bandai.”
The show, which will reintroduce the “Digimon” world with new characters, also will air on Nickelodeon and appear on Vortexx. “We believe ‘Digimon’ will become a strong, TV-driven and digital property for kids in the coming year,” he says.
Social media is more important to Saban Brands’ business than ever, Dekel says. “We have real-time feedback from our fan base,” he says.
“We have a two-way conversation,” Dekel asserts. “This is much more involved, much more engaged and much more authentic.” Saban Brands is extremely active on social media for all of its brands, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and even Pinterest where fitting. Saban Brands even went as far as to create a specific “Power Force” for its Power Rangers brand. The Power Force represents a group of 20 select fans who were chosen to receive exclusive inside access to all things Power Rangers in celebration of the 20th Anniversary year.
The company also has enjoyed success on YouTube, where Power Rangers videos have garnered more than 52 million views, at a current rate of over one million per week. “We continue to put new content into the market that isn’t necessarily targeted to the younger viewer,” he says. “Some of it is more targeted towards the popular culture that may have had a personal experience with Power Rangers over the past 20 years.”
A longtime veteran of licensing, Dekel previously worked as the head of licensing and merchandising for 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw products for such properties as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” At Saban Brands, he has nurtured a collaborative environment.
“I’m a big believer in team leadership,” he says. “For me, the organization succeeds when each member of the team is empowered to do their job, shares a common vision and is communicating collaboratively all the time.
“Saban Brands nurtures a culture where new initiatives are embraced and encouraged,” he says. “When that works, the whole business works. This approach is part of how and why we continue to find success.”
Saban Brands plans to grow, Dekel says. “We hope to add more properties to the portfolio while also introducing some new capabilities and platforms to our business,” he says.
“We will continue the rapid growth and expansion internationally,” he says, noting that the company will open offices in Europe and Asia later this year. As Dekel declares, “The momentum continues to build as we become ‘the new state-of-the-art’ in this space.”