AB WORLD’s Angie Byun on starting a new business during a pandemic, key trends for 2021 and diversity in media

Content licensing has been an important revenue driver for media brands for decades, enabling them to reach new audiences in different countries and unleash the potential of their vast content libraries. Yet international expansion doesn’t come easy, with every market presenting unique challenges – so many media brands turn to expert guidance to help them through the process.

Angie Byun is one such expert. As the the Principal of AB WORLD, LLC, a global consultancy representing leading US, Asian and international media, Byun has been at the forefront of helping entertainment and luxury companies to monetise their IP on new digital and social media platforms, as well as expand their influence and reach new consumers through strategic cross-border business opportunities.

Most recently, AB WORLD announced it would be working with Bustle Digital Group (BDG) on international expansion initiatives in media licensing, as well as new partnership opportunities.

Here, Byun speaks to FIPP about the licensing landscape after a year of Covid-19, five key trends taking shape in 2021, and why both leadership and revenues are strengthened when teams are more diverse.

What has it been like to start a new business during the Covid-19 pandemic?

When media, entertainment and lifestyle brands went into lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, many reevaluated how they could diversify their revenue and pivot their business strategy towards maximizing their IP into new global markets. 

I saw this as an incredible opportunity to leverage my media relationships in Asia, South America, Europe, and the Middle East and 20+ years of licensing and business development experience to advise such companies through complex cultural and international market intricacies and formed my own global consultancy, AB WORLD. 

Some of my clients now include: Time, Bustle Digital Group (BDG), Penske Media, Line Friends, SuperOrdinary and other global brands. 

From your perspective at AB WORLD (especially given how internationally you work), what kind of trends do you expect to see as 2021 progresses? 

There are five key trends I am seeing across the world:

Conscious Consumerism: Consumers are gravitating towards brands that are socially, ethically and eco-conscious.  From racial injustice to climate change, to ethically sourced materials and the equitable treatment of employees, consumers are demanding to know where a company stands on certain matters and expect integrity, transparency and diverse leadership from brands now more than ever.

Hybrid Work/Office Lifestyle: Working from home has become a lifestyle where many industries who were innovative and creative were able to capitalise on this global trend.  From Zoom to home office furniture to comfortable apparel, the uptick in these purchases will grow so long as people continue to “WFH” or have a hybrid work experience. 

Safety First & Health News:  Physical health, mental health and wellness news will become more prominent as the pandemic has helped prioritize these urgent matters. 

Diversity & Inclusion Commitment: Companies across the world are becoming much more vocal and active in their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  They are being a lot more mindful in integrating their DE&I commitment in hiring, marketing, events and people and brands they align with. 

We need more people in positions of power to look around the room and consciously include, promote and amplify underrepresented groups. 

Angie Byun

Creative Collaborations: Across industries – from mass market to luxury – Gen Z consumers and “always-on shoppers” expect brands to deliver more personalized and creative content, interesting e-commerce and in-store experiences, and exciting collaborations that are fun and have a viral quality. 

For example, the BTS x McDonald’s collaboration has all the elements of a successful, creative collaboration as the “BTS meal” will be available in 50 countries worldwide and have various limited edition merchandise components. 

Which markets are more alive at the moment? 

One of the most vibrant markets now is in APAC.  In the early stages of the pandemic, they were able to keep their numbers in control, and as a result – they were able to rebound faster and their consumers were buying and consuming to pre-pandemic levels. 

Also, where we once saw Western content and platforms be the dominant source of media and entertainment, it’s now apps coming out of China like TikTok/Bytedance and content from Korea like K-pop and K-dramas that have become more popular and relevant to today’s global-minded audiences and consumers. 

Angie Byun as the Head of International, Innovation Group at Condé Nast. Prior to starting AB WORLD, Byun was at Condé Nast for 13 years and held various executive level roles in new business development, sales and international licensing for brands like Vogue, GQ, Wired, and Golf Digest.  

When you joined us at the FIPP World Media Congress last year, you spoke on a panel about diversity in the media industry. What’s your best advice for working across cultures, ethnicities and languages, and what do media companies get wrong (or right!) when expanding to different markets?

If media companies really want to make a change in the industry and be representative of the audience they serve, they will need to be a lot more inclusive – at every level of an organisation. 

In addition, as I have seen over the years, the networking and dealmaking among media elites is not just happening inside a corporate office setting, but on the golf course, in private homes and at exclusive events.  We need more people in positions of power to look around the room and consciously include, promote and amplify underrepresented groups. 

If media companies want to be successful businesses in the long term, there needs to be a fundamental shift.  The number of women and people of colour in leadership positions have been unacceptably low, and the studies have shown that companies that are able to transform and make this a priority will be stronger, attract the best talent and ultimately drive more revenue. 

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