Albie Hecht's Worldwide Biggies Inks Licensing Deal With Video Game Site Miniclip (Exclusive)
The digital studio is partnering with Miniclip to develop TV, movie and online programs based on brands such as Gravity Guy and Sketch Star.
Worldwide Biggies, the digital studio founded by former Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht, has entered into a partnership with Miniclip.com, a popular video games website.
The deal gives Worldwide Biggies the exclusive right to develop movie, TV and new media shows, webisodes and other multiplatform properties based on Miniclip’s library of dozens of characters such as Gravity Guy, Hambo and Monster Island.
This is the first time that 11-year-old Miniclip – which attracts more than 70 million unique visitors a month -- has done this kind of deal with any developer.
“The Miniclip content is going to be very successful in other places,” Hecht said. “It has authenticity that web audiences look at, and I think we're going to be able to develop these properties in a lot of different mediums, everything from feature films to live-action game shows to animated web series.”
Miniclip, based in Switzerland, with offices and facilities all over the world, is probably most famous for distributing and bringing the world the Club Penguin, a multiplayer online game that Disney acquired in 2007 for more than $350 million from its creator New Horizon Interactive. It continues to run as a game on Miniclip but is not one of the properties available to Worldwide Biggies to develop.
What has taken so long for Miniclip to exploit brand extensions to its popular characters it does own? “I don’t think we had the depth of expertise to tackle the licensing arena before,” said Chris Bergstresser, who is a vp at Miniclip.com based in Neuchatel, Switzerland. “Albie is really the first big jump into that broader IP [intellectual property] licensing. Albie has such an incredible track record.”
Hecht is credited with helping develop and launch SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and other franchises while at Nickelodeon. Now he will try to do the same for Miniclip characters like Sketch Star, Extreme Skater, Minipets and Canyon Defense.
This was not an easy deal to make. Hecht knew Bergstresser because they had collaborated on a Princess Bride online game. After he joined Miniclip, Hecht approached him about a deal, but Bergstresser kept saying, “We’re not sure it's time.”
Then with the success of Angry Birds and other games that found life online, they saw the light. “Finally we decided as a company, we really do need to look at how we can broaden the appeal of our IP, and a big area of that is licensing,” Bergstresser said.
Not all of Mini’s clips content is available to Hecht, as is the case with Penguin Club. Bergstresser said the company owns about 30 percent of its content outright or has global rights. The other 70 percent involves various partners. They continue to create about a dozen new characters for their games annually.
Gravity Guy was created in 2011. “It has been in the top five on iTunes for games in all the major markets around the world and done millions of downloads,” Bergstresser said. “It is going to be a launch title for Windows 8 as well.”
Gravity Guy is a character chased by space-age cyber bullies. He has a gravity suit that allows him to float in space and turn upside down if he wants. He also can run really fast.
The Miniclip audience, according to Bergstresser, is about 55 percent male and skews from young teens to young adults for the most part. They also offer games that skew older.
The U.S. provides Miniclip’s largest audience – about 27 percent of its traffic. After the U.S. the highest number of visitors come from the U.K., Germany, India and Australia.
Hecht sees the international aspect as part of the attraction. “The power of the brands is not only in the characters,” he said, “but also that our partner is the worlds biggest online game site. When Miniclip gets behind the content we’re delivering and promotes it and markets it, then our partners are getting an enormous promotional vehicle. So it is not just the power of the IP but also the power of the marketing vehicle as well.”
He also sees an advantage in that the properties will have instant global recognition with much of the target audience. “One of the reason I was so bullish and felt it was a coup to be involved with this is the global reach,” Hecht added. “More and more of the audience for the web, for TV and features is the global audience. The strength of this brand globally is an enormous advantage."
Miniclip is looking at the deal with Hecht as part of a larger strategy to leverage its online brands with consumers in new ways, including at retail where they own licensing rights for toys, stuffed animals and other variations.
Miniclip also recently did a national kids meal promotion with Del Taco and a promotion with Universal on the movie The Lorax. In June, privately held Miniclip made its first appearance at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. It is also expanding in mobile.
“There is a lot of opportunity because of the depth and creativity of these characters,” Hecht said, “that will lend itself to creating content in all medias.”