LICENSING EXPO: Q&A with Elan Freedman, EVP, Surge Licensing

Entertainment development company Surge Licensing represents a wide roster of brands, including Diane Alber, Spy Ninjas, WEBTOON, Epic 7, Stanley Kubrick, Fiesty Pets, Munchkin and more. Licensing Biz caught up with EVP Elan Freedman ahead of Licensing Expo to talk about the company’s latest deals, and what we can expect to see over the coming months.

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Can you tell us, in a nutshell, what Surge Licensing does? What’s your USP? Do you have a particular area of expertise?

Surge Licensing is an IP development and brand management company.  Our ultimate goal with our partners is to evolve their nascent and growing brands into fandoms and franchises. While we engage as agents and advisors and absolutely focus on licensing rights strategies, we see ourselves as a business that helps creators and licensors enhance and fill out their operations to achieve our shared goals.

Can you tell us some of the brands Surge Licensing represents? Which brands will you focus on at Licensing Expo?

Our portfolio of brands is completely community driven. Diane Alber’s publishing brands have an incredible community of parents and teachers seeking the best SEL content for their children and students. WEBTOON has a massive community of manga readers that love to read their titles the way users scroll TikTok or Instagram, and the Stanley Kubrick Archive’s fandom is filled with film buffs and creatives who have been eternally inspired by his work.

We’re presenting Spy Ninjas, which has 46m YouTube subscribers who participate in the videos by finding clues and commenting below the videos. Epic 7 has a diehard fanbase of mobile game players, who make every Twitch stream a #1 viewed event.  We have several vinyl toy properties, like Thimblestump Hollow, where collectors look forward to every single product drop.

Can you tell us what makes WEBTOON so exciting, and such a good fit for Surge Licensing? Are there any deals in the works yet, or is it still early days?

Pardon the repetition, but we seek ways of working with fandoms to deliver the programmes they desire. The WEBTOON community is massive and loyal, and it couldn’t be more exciting to build a programme for this audience. It’s a digitally native business, affording a direct relationship with our readers and data to help understand where they are and what they want. Fifteen million U.S. monthly active users, 11.5 billion global monthly page views and a constant stream of innovative content make WEBTOON the ultimate springboard for franchise behemoths (plural)!

Can you tell us more about Spy Ninjas, and how the licensing programme is progressing?

The programme has been growing beautifully. Soon, we’ll be able to share our media plans around animation, a live tour, family entertainment centres and additional YouTube formats. Expect to see Spy Ninjas everywhere shortly. We already have fantastic key partners in Playmates, Scholastic, Event Merch, Bentex and more, but the sky is the limit for Chad, Vy and Ninjas team.

The TOMY [global master toy] deal for Diane Alber is pretty big news. Where else would you like to take the brand?

The TOMY programme is just the beginning of the partnership business.  Diane is selling millions of books per year through Amazon, and we will be scaling the publishing programme globally through key partnerships.  Parents and teachers are demanding arts and crafts, school supplies, apparel, sleepwear, bedding and more. Now that TOMY is anchoring the programme and widening retail support, we’re going to begin diving into these new categories.

What are your goals at Licensing Expo? If you have your ‘dream’ show, what would that involve?

This year’s Licensing Expo is all about finally seeing all of our friends and colleagues. We’re going to gauge success by how many people are hanging out and connecting in our booth. Hopefully we meet plenty of new people as well. Ultimately, we’re looking forward to the party that will be the Licensing Expo show floor. Come by booth J120 and interrupt our meetings! It happens anyway, so let’s all lean into it!

Does the licensing industry ever get old? Or are you seeing any trends/innovations that are exciting you? Experiential/live events? The metaverse? NFTs?…

It truly never gets old. It’s a business driven by creative innovation AND product innovation, so there is never a short supply of inputs and outputs to craft opportunities. Going forward (and currently), we are going full throttle into Web3, but with a long-term approach. We view Web3 as a great disruptor, in the sense that the technologies afford direct communications with consumers/fans in ways never seen before.  We believe Web3 becomes the engine to offer unique experiences, content and product directly to fans who are seeking them. The data capture and direct communications create a flywheel, allowing brand managers to build hyper-targeted programmes, requested by the community.

Surge Licensing will be at Licensing Expo, Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, from 24-26 May 2022. 

Surge Brands named as North American licensing agent for mobile game Epic Seven

Leading global licensing agency Surge Licensing has been appointed as North American licensing agent for the fan favourite and community-driven anime RPG Epic Seven “E7”, developed by Super Creative and published by Smilegate Megaport.

E7 is an 2D anime-inspired epic featuring over 1,000 stories and 234 collectable characters, in which players explore and adventure through the Land of Orbis, attempting to prevent its demise. Surge Licensing has been retained to develop a merchandise programme across multiple categories, including toy, publishing, apparel, table-top games, and digital products including NFTs and more. The launch is anticipated in Q2, 2022 across retailers and direct-to-consumer platforms.

With an 18–34-year-old adult demographic, E7 is played in over 145 countries and has topped growth charts in all of the major territories. The game was recognised as a “Top 10 RPG Game of 2020” by the Apple App Store and is a Top 3 grossing RPG on Android. In 2018, E7 was awarded the “Best Mobile Game” in the Korea Game Awards and “The Game of 2018” in the Google Play Store. E7 boasts a loyal fan base with over a billion minutes played every month.

E7 is an adventure unlike anything seen on mobile, with anime-inspired production values that rival television and film production quality,” says Elan Freedman, Surge Licensing EVP.  “With a loyal and engaged fanbase of hundreds of thousands in the US alone, we’ll be able to leverage the game’s plethora of characters and rich backgrounds to create a robust L&M program to further engage players with the brand as it continues to build its user base on a global scale.”

Founded in 1986, Surge Licensing is an IP incubator, which identifies, nurtures, and grows brands into multi-platformed entertainment and consumer product licensing programs. It has developed a number of pop culture’s best-known properties, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStreet SharksAxe CopFeisty Pets and more.