Genius Brands Acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media

Genius Brands International is acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media for approximately $53 million in cash and stock, according to the companies.

WOW! Unlimited Media, based in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles, is an animation production company producing for the top broadcasters and IP holders including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sony, Hulu, Dreamworks, Moonbug, Peacock and Mattel. The acquisition includes two studios — Frederator Studios (which produced “Adventure Time,” “FairlyOdd Parents,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Castlevania”) and Mainframe Studios (“Madagascar: A Little Wild,” “Barbie Dreamhouse”).

WOW! CEO Michael Hirsh will join the board of directors of Genius Brands and continue his responsibilities for Mainframe, Frederator Studios, networks and platforms.

Andy Heyward

“The acquisition of WOW! substantially accelerates the financial growth of Genius Brands, delivering on our promise to shareholders to execute meaningful and accretive acquisitions, as we seek to rapidly consolidate the marketplace and become the foremost producer, broadcaster, and consumer product licensor of high-quality children’s entertainment in the world,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “I have known and worked with WOW! Chairman and CEO Michael Hirsh throughout my career, and there is nobody more talented, accomplished or well regarded. His track record of many hits includes the first ‘Star Wars’ animated programs, ‘Magic School Bus,’ ‘Care Bears, Babar,’ ‘Johnny Test,’ and ‘Beetlejuice,’ among others.

“In addition to the animation productions of WOW! today and the exciting new brand brought to the table for Genius Brands, WOW! has a massive social media footprint across YouTube, TikTok, Giphy, etc., expanding the Genius Brands kids’ audience demo into the lucrative teens and young adult marketplaces. The company has over 1 billion views per month on its Frederator YouTube Network, with over 2,500 advertiser supported channels, making it the number one talent driven animation YouTube Network.”

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WOW!’s Canadian production facilities enable a number of profitable synergies for the company via access to various federal and provincial tax credits, which will allow Genius Brands to transfer its current animation production at great savings from China, according to Genius Brands.

“In addition to WOW!’s 3rd party service production, we will now place many of the exciting upcoming WOW! owned content on Kartoon Channel! and activate it through our consumer products and global distribution sales network, further advancing revenues and earnings,” Heyward said in a statement.

“I’m excited to work with Andy and the Genius Brands team,” Hirsh said in a statement. “This is a powerful partnership that brings immediate and significant value for shareholders. We bring production capacity, new IP, and a robust and profitable YouTube Network with over a billion views per month. Genius Brands, with Kartoon Channel!, has a fully distributed footprint where our content can thrive and also help Kartoon Channel! itself expand. Genius Brands’ world class consumer product licensing team led by Kerry Phelan, will enable us to monetize all of these great characters and brands. This transaction represents the culmination of our extensive strategic review process. We feel that this is a very attractive opportunity for our shareholders with significant potential upside in the months and years ahead.”

The transfer of animation production to Canada is expected to benefit Genius Brands through Canadian Content incentives as well as Production Service Tax Credits, according to a press release.

Kartoon Channel! Gets New Spanish-Language Content

Genius Brands International has announced a new Spanish-language content service for children — ¡KC! En Español — on its streaming platform Kartoon Channel!

Kartoon Channel! also announced Oct. 5 that it is now available on Pluto TV.

With ¡KC! En Español, Kartoon Channel! expands its current  platform to serve the Latino children’s community in North America. The new Spanish-language children’s program service will reside on the main Kartoon Channel! platform and function as a sub-brand of Kartoon Channel!, similar to Kartoon Classroom!, which premiered in September 2020. The offering will launch with Genius Brands’ “Rainbow Rangers,” in addition to “Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab,” “Mi Perro Chocolo,” YouTube’s “Spanish Tree TV” and “Stan Lee’s Mighty Seven.”

“Not only is this the right entertainment and cultural move for Kartoon Channel!, but it also makes good business sense too,” Jon Ollwerther, president of Kartoon Channel!, said in statement. “Today, 26% of kids in the U.S. under the age of five are of Latinx heritage, a number that is only expected to grow. Further, 83% of Latinx audiences are streamers, versus 73% of non-Latinx audiences. Finally, digital ad-spend focused on the Latinx audience in the United States has more than doubled from 2015 to 2020 and the market today is estimated at over $1.5 billion. We look forward to this becoming an important and growing contributor to the business of Kartoon Channel!”

“Following the success of our educational sub-brand Kartoon Classroom!, ¡KC! En Español was the obvious next step for us,” Michael Riley, Genius Brands International’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement. “We’re proud to announce this new offering during Hispanic Heritage Month and to better serve the Latinx community, now in English and en Español.”

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Genius Brands International’s digital network Kartoon Channel! is a family entertainment destination. Kartoon Channel! delivers  content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs. Kartoon Channel! can also be streamed on TVs and mobiles device by downloading the app, or on desktops by visiting www.kartoonchannel.com.

Genius Brands International’s ‘Kartoon Channel!’ Launches on Pluto TV

Genius Brands International Oct. 5 announced a deal with ViacomCBS’s ad-supported platform Pluto TV to stream a branded Kartoon Channel! beginning today, significantly expanding the curated free family-friendly channel’s content.

Pluto TV users will now have access to Kartoon’s program line-up, including Genius Brands’ slate of original series — “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; the fast-paced trivia original game show series for kids, “KC! Pop Quiz” (starting Oct. 12), hosted by Nickelodeon’s Casey Simpson; and the upcoming “Shaq’s Garage,” starring Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski — as well as classics such as “Baby Genius” and “Pac-Man,” among others.

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Harold Chizick, president of content sales, marketing and consumer products at Genius Brands, said the company has a longstanding relationship with ViacomCBS, starting with the launch of “Rainbow Rangers” on Nick Jr. in 2018.

“This deal with Pluto TV provides us with an opportunity to significantly expand the brand footprint to a broad audience across the U.S., as well as to build our advertiser base,” Chizick said in a statement.

Amy Kuessner, SVP of content strategy and global partnerships at ViacomCBS Streaming, said Kartoon’s mission of providing “content with a purpose” to kids of all ages and their families is a perfect complement to ViacomCBS’s range of programming.

“We are thrilled to bring Kartoon Channel! to the Pluto TV audience,” she said.

ViacomCBS claims Pluto’s monthly average viewership base reaches 52 million users.

Genius Brands Posts 318% Increase in Q2 Revenue

Genius Brands International, the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based licensor of children’s programming, Aug. 16 reported second-quarter (ended June 30) revenue of $2.3 million, up 318% from revenue of approximately $561,000 for the same period last year. Revenue for the first six months of the fiscal period were about $3.4 million, compared with $895,000 for the same period last year.

Genius said its branded Kartoon Channel, self-described as “Netflix for kids, but free,” saw unique viewership increase 932% to 21 million in the quarter, according to data sourced from Apple iOS, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Prime Video, Roku, YouTube, Samsung Smart TV and LG Smart TV, among others.

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Among top licensed shows, “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, saw total viewership top 50 million in 15 weeks since its debut. “Rainbow Rangers” generated strong penetration worldwide, including Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, and Nickelodeon/Nick LatAm. The series begins streaming on Paramount+ on Aug 18.

On Sept. 14, Genius will launch it second original series, “KC! Pop Quiz,” hosted by teen influencer Casey Simpson, with more than 12 million social media followers.

The company also signed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski as co-executive producer and voice artist, playing the voice of the ‘Gronkmobile’ on “Shaq’s Garage,” airing on the Kartoon Channel in Q2 2022.

“We are confident that we are on that path toward channel success and value creation,” CEO Andy Heyward wrote in the shareholder letter.

Former Dreamworks and Pixar Exec Kerry Phelan Joins Genius Brands as EVP and GM

Genius Brands International, a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has appointed Kerry Phelan to the newly created position of EVP and GM of global franchise management.

Phelan will report to both Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO, and Harold Chizick, president of global content sales, marketing and consumer products.

In her new role at Genius Brands, Phelan will be responsible for global management of the company’s existing IP across licensing, merchandising, retail and promotions, including Stan Lee’s “Superhero Kindergarten,” “Shaq’s Garage,” “Stan Lee Universe” and “Rainbow Rangers,” as well as properties currently in development.

A 30-year consumer branding executive, Phelan successfully launched the “Star Wars” brand at Lego Systems and was recruited directly to Lucasfilm, where she led the global consumer products and promotional licensing business for the multi-billion-dollar “Star Wars” franchise in more than 60 countries worldwide. She then joined Pixar Animation Studios, reporting directly to Steve Jobs, where she launched, in concert with Disney Consumer Products,  the original “Cars” consumer product program, which became franchise totaling more than $8 billion in retail sales. Following her stint at Pixar, Phelan spent seven years at DreamWorks Animation as head of consumer products and licensing, driving the development of franchise management plans for the studio’s film and television properties, including “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” At DreamWorks, she managed the retail consumer products business and doubled the consumer products revenue in just three years.  Most recently, she served as president of global franchise management at Lionsgate Entertainment, where under her leadership, the studio created brand extensions spanning location-based and live entertainment venues, consumer products, licensed merchandise, brand partnerships and an array of promotional ventures for such blockbuster franchises as “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight.”

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“Kerry’s pedigree and reputation in entertainment branding is unparalleled as she has driven the global revenue streams of some of the most lucrative franchises in history,” Chizick said in a statement. “In the coming year, we have multiple properties launching into the global retail marketplace, including Stan Lee’s ‘Superhero Kindergarten,’ which just premiered on Kartoon Channel!, as well as ‘Shaq’s Garage’ and ‘Stan Lee Universe’ plus more categories coming to market around ‘Rainbow Rangers.’ Kerry’s leadership and strategic guidance will be instrumental in driving the growth of our brands around the world. She is a dream executive to have on board to help us achieve our long-term goals.”

“The majority of my career has been spent building properties into global franchises, specifically in the children’s space.  Having had a peek at the coming pipeline, I am excited about the future at Genius Brands and the opportunity to build bigger brand ecosystems around their properties,” Phelan said in a statement.

Genius Brands Promotes Jon Ollwerther to President of Kartoon Channel!

Genius Brands, a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has promoted Jon Ollwerther to president of family entertainment digital network Kartoon Channel!

Ollwerther previously served as GM of Kartoon Channel! and will continue in his role as EVP of business development for Genius Brands.

“I am pleased to announce the well-deserved promotion of Jon, in recognition of his significant contributions to the rapid growth and success of our hit kid’s streaming platform, Kartoon Channel,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

Kartoon Channel! delivers content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs.

“Viewer rankings have put Kartoon Channel! above all other services, including Netflix, Disney+, and You Tube Kids, in both the Apple and the Google app stores,” Ollwerther said in a statement. “In addition, I am extremely proud to announce that ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ has just surpassed 21 million views on Kartoon Channel!, over 3.6 million per episode, since the initial launch just over one month ago with six episodes now released.  We believe ‘Superhero Kindergarten’ has risen to the ranks of one of the most highly viewed new cartoon launches in history, as we are building an evergreen production that will entertain generations of children, while attracting both advertisers and consumer product licensees.

“In addition to the recently launched hit, ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, we will be rolling out ‘KC Pop Quiz!’next quarter. It is a lightning fast-paced daily game show based on pop culture where kids win cool prizes. Think Jeopardy meets HQ Trivia! Shortly thereafter, we will introduce our third original product, Shaquille O’Neal’s first animated series, ‘Shaq’s Garage,’ created by Joel Cohen, the co-writer and creator of Toy Story. Additionally, we will now be launching season three of our hit series ‘Rainbow Rangers’ with an exciting new twist.

“I am honored to take on this new role with Genius Brands, as I truly believe we are curating the very best combination of original, exclusive, and commercially acquired product within the kids’ entertainment industry.”

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Prior to joining Genius Brands, Ollwerther served as VP of media, arts and entertainment for Measure, the nation’s leading Drone as a Service company. Working with clients across the country and around the world, Ollwerther has an extensive credit list of collaborations with brands and advertising agencies to create unforgettable experiences.

Genius Brands International Names Former Fox Kids Network Executive Margaret Loesch Executive Chairman of Kartoon Channel!

Margaret Loesch

Genius Brands International has named Margaret Loesch Executive Chairman of Kartoon Channel!, the pending (June 15) ad-supported VOD platform available in more than 100 million U.S. television households and 200 million mobile devices. David Neuman, former president of Walt Disney Television, has been named chief creative officer of Kartoon Channel!, and will work closely with Loesch and GM Caroline Tyre.

Loesch was the founding president and CEO of Fox Kids Networks Worldwide, growing the channels across all metrics, where it was eventually sold to the Walt Disney Company for $5.5 billion. During this time, she launched a multitude of hit series, including “Power Rangers,” growing Fox Kids into the top children’s program service on television.

Prior to Fox Kids, Loesch served as president & CEO of Marvel Productions, and previously, president of The Jim Henson Company, and founding CEO of the U.S. Hallmark Channel and Crown Media U.S.

Most recently, Loesch served as president of the HUB, which was a joint venture between Hasbro Toys and Discovery Communications. Her resume includes launching some of the most successful animated children’s properties in the world, including “Batman,” “Spiderman,” “Steven Spielberg’s Animaniacs,” “Transformers,” “My Little Pony,” “X-Men,” “Muppet Babies” and “Fraggle Rock.”

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“I have known and admired Margaret and David for many years. There are no two more accomplished executives in our industry,” Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

Genius Brands International to Bow ‘Kartoon Channel’ Across Digital Platforms, Connected TVs

Following the recent increases in viewership on Kid Genius Cartoon Channel and Baby Genius TV digital platforms, Genius Brands International May 6 announced that is merging the two channels under one new network brand, Kartoon Channel, which will launch on June 15, 2020.

The rebranded channel aims to expand distribution, which currently reaches over 100 million U.S. television households and more than 200 million users via OTT and mobile devices.

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Kartoon Channel targets kids 2 to 11 years old, featuring access to 4,000 episodes of entertaining and educational content in a safe environment. The channel will feature programming from Genius Brands’ catalog and from third-party creators, including Warren Buffett’s “Secret Millionaires Club,” “Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab,” “Baby Genius,” “Martha Stewart & Friends,” “Stan Lee’s Mighty 7,” Gisele Bündchen’s “Gisele & The Green Team,” “Gummi Bears,” “Shark Academy,” “DaJammies,” “Amber the Ambulance,” “Dino the Dinosaur,” “Ethan the Dump Truck,” “IncrediTales” and “OneZeez and Super Geek Heroes,” among others.

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“We are extremely focused on providing positive purposeful content that parents can always know will provide safe viewing for their children,” Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brands International, said in a statement.

Genius Brands has also acquired more than 3,000 episodes of programming to feature on Kartoon Channel, including hit programs form key content suppliers around the world.

Kartoon Channel is now working with Dooya TV, a leader in ad monetization and content optimization technology, to rapidly grow ad sales among major cable providers such as Comcast, Cox, Dish and Sling TV.

The channel will be distributed across Genius Brands-owned and operated APPs, multiple TV providers and over-the-top platforms as both ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and subscriber video-on-demand (SVOD) services.

Genius Brands’ current platforms include Dish, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, Comcast’s Xfinity on Demand, Roku, Apple TV and Apple iOS, Android, Cox, Tubi, and Xumo, with all transitioning into carrying Kartoon Channel. New platforms launching Kartoon Channel content include SelectTV, RedBox, Plex and Canela Media.

“With so many kids now having the learning-at-home experience, children’s programs that can teach about money, about science, about cooking and DIY, all offer something special that will be embraced by parents as well as kids,” Heyward said.