Q&A: Andrew Berman of Genius Brands International

Last week, Genius Brands International announced an important new partnership with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, covering distribution and opening the doors for future co-development and co-production. Andrew Berman, SVP – Global Distribution Sales for Genius Brands International, took some time to answer our questions about what this means for the company’s future.

What was most important for Genius Brands International in forging a new distribution pipeline?
Andrew Berman: The world is evolving and content consumption habits are at the top of the evolution process. Genius Brands’ new Kid Genius channel on Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand was the critical first step in our expansion strategy, providing consumers with direct access to all of our content through a single, collectively branded platform, which also links our various digital sites through a common home. Our relationship with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment was the crucial next step in that it opened the door to additional content for the Kid Genius channel while also empowering Genius Brands in its negotiations with traditional licensing and retailing partners. Our content attracts buyers, licensees and viewers and by partnering with Sony we have significantly increased our global influence.

Why was Sony Pictures Home Entertainment the right partner for this?
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment was committed to expanding its distribution in the children’s entertainment sector, which makes them the perfect partner for Genius Brands. Working collaboratively, we’re able to complement each other’s content offerings and meet a greater share of the growing global demand for smart programming for kids. Plus, being able to include the support of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in any market is always a substantial plus.

How does Genius Brands International plan to maximize its Sony distribution partnership?
We see our relationship with Sony on two fronts: First, utilizing Sony’s global name recognition, we’re able to maximize distribution opportunities for Genius Brands’ original content – more potential buyers are paying attention now; and secondly, third party producers trust us to develop and distribute their content knowing that we’re sanctioned by Sony.

As to the rather new Kid Genius channel, what kind of response are you seeing from viewers?
Since launching the Kid Genius channel last October, we have seen a fantastic month-over-month increase in viewership which is very exciting and which I believe will continue to increase as we debut more Genius Brands’ original, Sony and third-party content.

What is the next step in growing the Kid Genius presence?
It’s all about the content. That’s what will ultimately grow the reach and audience for Kid Genius. We’re aggressively seeking out new content that complements our existing line-up — more content with purpose. We’re looking to augment the existing carriage, expanding the reach of the Kid Genius Channel through other cable providers and platforms. And we also are creating a corresponding Kid Genius Channel app to further expand our audience.

What are the plans for growing Genius Brands International’s catalog through acquisitions, original properties and/or co-productions?
As I mentioned previously, we are actively seeking 3rd party acquisitions to complement and enhance our existing library. Specifically, we’re interested in acquiring content that serves the Baby Genius demographic, content which we plan on releasing through Sony under our Baby Genius releasing label. Of course, this content would also be made available on the Kid Genius Channel. Similarly, if a developer or producer has a strong concept or production in development, we want to speak with those people, especially now that we can offer Sony’s distribution strength in addition to our own development, production, licensing and marketing capabilities.

How does Genius Brands International/Kid Genius programming stand out from the larger TV animation landscape?
Genius Brands and Kid Genius stand out because of the distinct, unique and fresh “content with a purpose” that we bring to the marketplace. We have created a solid niche for ourselves by focusing on producing content that is enriching, engaging and, of course, extremely entertaining.

What is Genius Brands International looking for in potential acquisitions?
Four E Content! Enriching, engaging, extremely entertaining content that is harmonious with the Kid Genius line-up and would support our relationship with Sony.

How important are international content markets for the company as it continues to expand?
Our team has open lines of communications around the globe because content development, distribution and licensing is a year-round commitment. There may be seasons when it comes to schedules, but you can’t rest for a second and still maintain a competitive edge. That said, it is important to have one-on-one time with producers, programmers and licensing executives, which is why MIP Junior and Kidscreen markets are always must-attend events for us. But you have to maintain the dialog and relationships year round.

Will we see more Genius Brands International original series in development/production in the near future?
Absolutely. With the success of the Kid Genius channel and the myriad of opportunities made possible through our new partnership with Sony, we have a very robust, active development slate that includes several original series, including SpacePOP and Baby Genius, for both near and long term.

Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman