An Exclusive Interview with the President of Hasbro Studios; Stephen J. Davis

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Steve-Davis-2010_1Stephen Davis, Executive, VP/Chief Content Officer, Hasbro is the president of Hasbro Studios, the Los Angeles-based TV development and production division of Hasbro, Inc.  He oversees the development, production and distribution of more than 400 half-hours of original kids and family programming, ranging from animation to live action to game shows.  He is active in a number of organizations including theBoard of Directors and Executive Committee of The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE); the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of PCI: Media Impact, a leading NGO addressing social and health issues through media; the  Board of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society (HRTS), the Los Angeles Board of Governors of The Paley Center for Media; the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; the Advisory Council of the School of Communications/Radio, Film and Television at University of Texas at Austin and is a trustee of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Additionally, he is an active member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), as well as a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS).

(Please note – I have bolded certain of Steve's sentences that I found particularly impactful).

Richard:

I recently compared Hasbro and its current line up of brands to the 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and their “Murderer’s Row” batting line up.  With licenses like Star Wars, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Disney Princesses as well as powerful in-house brands like Transformers, Magic The Gathering and My Little Pony, you are definitely the team to beat.  Two questions:  How did you do that and will you be competing next year in the American League?

Stephen:

We’ve built a strong, strategic relationship with Disney and Lucas Film and look forward to introducing even more innovative products and play experiences inspired by some of the hottest entertainment brands, from the classic properties all the way through to more recent favorites like Frozen.  We’ve also created an entertainment strategy to build our in-house brands globally, and continue to retain and seek out new licensees that are best-in-class talent in their respective industries, allowing us to think differently about how our brands come to life and to try new ideas or break into new categories while staying at the forefront of trends.

If they would accept Hasbro into the American League, I suspect our “Murderer’s Row” of Hasbro talent would give them a run for their money! 

Richard:

I have also noticed that Hasbro is not just in a lot of play platforms (video games, apps, children’s media, traditional toys and more) but appears confident in those platforms.  That calls for a special business culture.  Can you describe it for us?

Stephen:

Hasbro has rapidly evolved way beyond a great toy & game company and into a rich portfolio of diverse business units working to expand our franchises into bona fide global lifestyle properties. We rely on great stories and great characters to reach kids and families anywhere they are consuming content, including video games and apps. Not only are we confident in each of the platforms you mentioned, but immersive brand storytelling across film and TV is a crucial part of the foundation for Hasbro. It’s where we use great stories to bring the world’s best play experiences to life.  

Richard:

The think-tank, the “Urban Institute,” recently released a study on birthrates among Millennial Generation women.  It stated: 

Between 2007 and 2012, birth rates among twenty-something women declined more than 15 percent. It remains to be seen whether the millennial women who eschewed childbearing from 2007–12 will compensate by exhibiting higher birth rates later or if this generation will have fewer children than its older counterparts.

What impact has this decline in birthrates had on the toy and play industry and has Hasbro made any changes in its business based upon the decline?  For example, does the adult who wants to play become more important?

Stephen:

2014 was actually the best year in our history, and growth came from virtually every brand, category and region – and 2015 is shaping up to be just as impressive. We have a number of entertainment-driven brands, Transformers and My Little Pony especially, with nostalgic appeal and modern storytelling that transcends age, which has awarded us a very broad spectrum of fans. We’ve long engaged our adult fan bases in meaningful ways across several channels, from highly detailed collector scale toys all to high-end couture and more. And series based on our entertainment brands are consistently the most co-viewed shows on television today.

Richard:

Available time to play is the coin of the realm for any industry that sells toys, entertainment and play.  In fact, I have seen figures that indicate that free playtime is down 50% since the 1970’s.  It seems like everyone, and particularly children, have less free time than ever.  Should we and can we, as an industry, play a role in advocating for more free playtime for children?

Stephen:

It’s about advocating playtime, and adapting to the way our consumers play so we can better reach them. We continue to research and develop new technologies to enhance our consumer play experiences and provide new and innovative ways for kids of all ages to engage with our brands. Our consumers are technologically and digitally savvy and we strive to provide them with products that fit their lifestyle, which includes, engaging content, enhanced play, and immersive digital experiences. Knowing when and how to best incorporate new technology into a product, or what platforms to introduce new content based on what our consumers crave, is key to maintaining the success of our brands.

Richard:

Do you have any toys on your desk?  If so, can you tell us what they are?

Stephen:

Ok – that must be a rhetorical question! Better answered: What toys don’t I have on my desk?? Optimus, Bumblebee, Pinkie Pie, a bunch of Littlest Pets, GI Joe and Nerf Megastrike are among my “BDB’s” – Best desk buddies. 

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