Meredith International’s Paul Ordoñez on trends in the world of content licensing

Licensing content has been an important revenue source for many media brands for decades. Yet the shift to digital content, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has created both new opportunities and new challenges in this industry sector.

One company at the forefront of licensing content is Meredith International. Its Executive Director, Licensing Operations, Paul Ordoñez, is charged with finding new markets for the company’s massive portfolio of content.

Paul Ordoñez

As he explains here, many of the discussions at the current time revolve around digital content like video and podcasts. Yet he remains optimistic that as the world emerges from the pandemic print and experiential events will once again deliver exciting opportunities for Meredith.

Can you explain what your role is at Meredith and how central licensing is to the company’s overall strategy?

I work at the Meredith International department as Licensing Operations, Executive Director. At Meredith International, we are dedicated to expanding our domestic brands across various territories by implementing innovative ideas within existing mediums. We work in close collaboration with our partners to tailor Meredith’s content to resonate with targeted audiences, create commonalities, unify global readers, and further establish Meredith’s already extensive portfolio.

What do you see as the key opportunities and challenges in the licensing world at the moment?

The global spread of Covid-19 has impacted our industry to varying degrees. As we navigate this crisis together, we have seen an openness from our partners to experiment with new ideas to counteract the impact of Covid-19. Where I see the most experimentation is in the digital space, which is no surprise due to the consumer shift to online content consumption as a result of social distancing and lockdowns.  For example, we are answering more inquiries for digital launches, whether they be websites, ecommerce opportunities, podcasts, among the many possible digital products. Unlike traditional businesses with proven revenue models, we don’t yet know whether these new undertakings will translate to meaningful revenue for our partners and for our licensing business, but in this unusual environment, we encourage our partners to test new concepts and to stay relevant. 

Which geographical markets are you particularly excited about?

We see meaningful level of licensing activities from pockets of countries from around the world. We are particularly excited about some of the conversations we are having in markets in Asia.   

And which subject niches are now attracting the most attention?

The subject niches attracting the most attention at the moment are, not surprisingly, entertainment, health/fitness, and cooking/recipes content. 

For example: People ranks number one among Total Brand Audience across platforms with nearly 89.1M brand touchpoints, followed by Allrecipes at number two with 61.7M and Better Homes & Gardens at number seven with 37.8M.

How has Covid19 impacted the content and brand licensing business? Are there positives as a result of the pandemic?

While we had a limited number of print launches and live experiential events due to lockdown measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we have seen an increase in demand for digital-first brand and content licenses. Whereas the industry trend has shifted more and more towards digital platforms in recent years, the pandemic has accelerated this move. The good news is that although most licensing conversations are digital-focused at the moment, print remains in the picture when the world emerges from the pandemic. 

Have we reached peak video yet? Or is it still a growing market for companies looking to license their content?

We’ve not reached peak video yet as this is certainly a growing market for us globally. Due in part to the success of our PeopleTV channel and growing catalogue of video products, we anticipate further expansion of our video licensing program in the years ahead.

Do you see a role for emerging technologies like AI and blockchain in licensing deals in the future?

Meredith is always exploring the potential of emerging technologies like AI and blockchain to further monetise our content. For example: Meredith owns the Life Picture Collection, a photographic archive of over 10 million photographs shot for Life Magazine. Millions of these photos have been digitised and Life staff has used AI to provide object and action tags to the photographs. In addition, Life has used AI for visual similarity, facial recognition, and de-duplication processes.


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