Why Discovery's Consumer Products Boss Is Focusing on Adventures Merchandise, Educational Toys

Courtesy of Discovery Communications
Leigh Anne Brodsky

Leigh Anne Brodsky also discusses the planned Scripps acquisition, why her team is working more closely with camera people and why men's lifestyle channel DMAX is bullish on kitchen knives.

Discovery Communications has not only been building out its digital business and agreed to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive. It has also been focused on growing its consumer products business and other emerging revenue streams. 

Leigh Anne Brodsky has overseen consumer products, location-based entertainment and program sales worldwide since May 2016 as executive vp at Discovery Global Enterprises.

The former Nickelodeon Consumer Products and Peanuts Worldwide executive recently attended the annual Brand Licensing Europe showcase in London and spoke to THR about her current focus areas, the pending Scripps deal, the opportunity of consumer products in the education space and why a European men's lifestyle channel is betting on kitchen merchandise.

Tell us a bit about what you're featuring at your Brand Licensing Europe booth and what your current focus is?

We had a graffiti artist yesterday here at our booth who apparently has done a lot of graffiti on trains in the past, but now we have him doing a safer job on T-shirts. And we have a gigantic screen featuring our global sizzle that tells you all about the power of Discovery.

The two brands we're leaning into this show are Discovery Adventures and Discovery #Mindblown, which is our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-based kids property we have been working on. 

What's the focus with Discovery Adventures?

What's very exciting is we are now working with Debenhams and a number of other retailers that have created shops in shops. Right in the heart of London, you'll see our Debenhams shop at their flagship store on Oxford Street. The line will be in store for the next three months through the holidays, but then launching across all of their stores in 2018. It features mainly our Craghoppers, which is a 30-year veteran in the outdoor apparel space. We call it "from street to summit." It is really catering to the millennial who wants all of the trendy looks that are in fashion but also having some of the technology that allows you to, if you want to, do a hike or so. 

We are also on some hard goods for Discovery Adventures, outdoor tents, consumer electronics and optics, backpacks and the like. It's very much a full-on 360 brand extension of our Discovery core brand under that Discovery Adventures lifestyle branding. Our core brand has always represented adventure, but also authenticity and exploration. 


I have heard you are also doing more consumer products work with your camera people. What are you doing there exactly?

We are leaning into a relationship with a number of our camera crew. So the guys who are behind the documentaries that you see on our channel are working with us on products. They are wearing our product and are working with us on doing blogging from different shoots for our shows. It is also reinforcing that authenticity. If it's good enough for the guys who shoot these amazing documentaries, then it should be good enough for you.

What merchandise beyond apparel are you focusing on these days?

Apparel and accessories has been our first focal point. But now we are starting to pivot to other areas, including things like nutrition bars. It is really a holistic approach to the brand. 

Any hot product categories these days that you are pushing into more?

One of the areas that we have found amazing interest in are STEM-based products for kids. So we have created a brand called Discovery #Mindblown. We are working with Discovery Education and also the Science Channel. We borrowed their catchphrase, which is #Mindblown. It's a trend we are seeing in the retail space. I believe it is a 10 percent growth area in the toy area. So STEM is where a lot of people are putting their emphasis. We have noticed that a lot of other studios were using their animated characters to create STEM products, and we started to look at our library and found we have more STEM programming than any other entertainment company, really. So we are pretty excited about it. Our goal is to launch a toy line fully vetted by our Discovery Education team that is truly legitimate STEM product and not just label slapping. We will launch that during in spring of 2018.

How does the planned Scripps acquisition fit into your business?

We really can't talk [about details] until the deal is concluded. But certainly, it is something that is super exciting. It brings a whole lot of new programming and new brands that I think could be very interesting for us.

Are there any major financial milestones the Discovery consumer products business has hit?

We don't report anything at Discovery Global Enterprises. We just don't break it out at that level.

Anything we haven't discussed yet that is interesting to highlight?

[At European men's lifestyle channel] DMAX, we are partnering with Zwilling, the oldest manufacturer of kitchen knives. And we have done this really amazing partnership for the new equipment for men to use in the kitchen. There are a number of retail outlets that have set up Zwilling [displays] that are featuring the DMAX line of knives and cooking equipment for men. It's a unique way of leaning into what the new men are into these days.