Ynon Kreiz knew he was sitting on a “treasure trove” of IP when he took the reins of toymaker Mattel as CEO in 2018.
Mattel’s big vault of toy and game brands had the kind of built-in audience and multi-generational appeal that make for four-quadrant hits. But first he had to sort out major issues with Mattel’s struggling toy sales business before he moved into expansion by ramping up content production activity, as Kreiz explains on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
Four years later, Mattel is about to begin production on a Barbie movie directed by indie darling Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie. The project is an ambitious prototype of Mattel’s effort to grow by adding a content dimension to its balance sheet. Lena Dunham, Tom Hanks and Vin Diesel are among the notable creatives working with Mattel. The company has 14 movies in development and 20 TV series and specials in some form of production.
“We are looking to attract the best creators in the world to allow them to reimagine our brands and interpret them through their own lens to create an engaging experience for audiences and consumers,” Kreiz says. “We don’t make movies to sell more toys. We try to make movies that people want to watch and television content that will be engaging and entertaining. The mandate to our creative partners is to make great content that people want to watch, not try to sell more toys.”
Kreiz came to Mattel after a long career in media and entertainment. He was a co-founder with Haim Saban in the 1990s of Fox Kids Europe. He subsequently served as CEO of Endemol and Maker Studios.
During the conversation, Kreiz observes that the fundamentals of Mattel’s toy business is not too far removed from Hollywood. Both are driven by “big brands and big IP,” he said. Kreiz has hopes for a Marvel-like metamorphosis for Mattel as it gets more creative with content.
“Marvel was a comic book publisher, as we all know, but what was really interesting was the incredible IP that the company owned,” Kreiz said. “Looking at that analogy, we know in success that this can be transformative.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.