Why the Licensing Industry Needs Technology More than Ever in 2021
By Ted Larkins
Global Head of Licensing
Being a licensing agent for most of my career, I never thought I’d be working for a tech startup, especially for one without any founders from the licensing industry. Technology was just never a priority for the bulk of my career; I’d negotiate deals, make sure deliverables were met by all parties involved and royalties were collected without any thought to how these processes could be improved and automated. Now we’re in 2021, and my mind has truly been blown by the technology we have to make our jobs easier.
My job as a licensing agent had its challenges and my job today certainly does as well, and they are more similar than you’d think. I used to represent Paramount Pictures, Sony, MGM Studios, DreamWorks and worked with Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Jack Nicklaus. I was the SVP of Licensing based in Hollywood for DHX Media, representing Telebubbies, Inspector Gadget, Peanuts, Space Invaders and Felix the Cat.
What kept me up at night was trying to keep all of the various communications smooth and on track, and the lack of technology to do so was definitely an obstacle. Today, I still have to use my powers of persuasion and manage projects smoothly to keep communications flowing with customers, but this time around, I have the best technology at my fingertips to make my job easier.
What are the issues most licensors, licensees and agents face today, and how could they be solved with the latest technology? We recently hosted a webinar to discuss the future of licensing technology in 2021, and questions and comments came pouring in, more than we anticipated. This made me realize even further how crucial the right technology can be in solving the challenges faced by the licensing industry.
Some of the key issues that were brought up included:
- Collecting revenues faster and easier
- Being able to track discounts, allowances, promos and returns
- The ability to manage only specific properties on a platform as an agent, rather than your full portfolio
- Editing and redlining contracts more efficiently
- Allowing licensees to seamlessly view all of your brand guidelines and creative assets
What’s amazing about technology is that there are solutions for all of these today – and more. Working at Brainbase has taught me that technology is your ultimate friend if you work in the licensing industry, especially in our new normal of remote work and collaboration.
In the coming year and beyond, look out for products that incorporate AI and machine learning. Even to an industry veteran, these terms seemed a bit intimidating at first, but once I dove into the details and learned how they will shape the future, I could barely contain my excitement to see how companies in licensing will flourish from these technologies. And who knows, maybe soon, we’ll even start paying royalties in Bitcoin!
Some words of advice to my fellow peers and colleagues: don’t wait for the “right time” to find the right tools for your licensing team. Working remotely is tough – I was doing it even before the pandemic began, since I am based in Florida and the Brainbase headquarters are in Los Angeles. Think about how connected we are with video conferencing platforms and communication tools like Zoom and Slack. If we apply the same thinking to adopting these tools within licensing, our industry would be even more connected and set up for long-term success.
As a former licensing agent who used to do things “old school,” let me tell you how refreshing it is to join the new school way of unifying your job.
Ted Larkins is the Global Head of Licensing at Brainbase, and over the last 30 years has worked domestically and in Japan with companies such as Paramount Pictures, MGM Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Sony Pictures. Ted worked with Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, and Jack Nicklaus and was the Senior Vice President of DHX Media/CPLG (now Wildbrain) in Hollywood.