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Not A Toy Story: How Brian Goldner Is Transforming Hasbro

It’s Friday night and The Uncommons in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is running at full tilt. A few dozen people—kids, college students, adults fill every corner of the meandering space that’s part café, part game shop. Seated shoulder to shoulder, they fill the room with the sounds of Magic: The Gathering, the 26-year-old collectible card game owned by Hasbro, the world’s most valuable toy company.

In an age of Fortnite, League of Legends and stadium-filling esports tournaments, the chatter seems to come from another time. Players arm themselves with decks of 60 cards, each one featuring a deadly fantasy creature or a fiendish spell, with 20,000 unique cards up for grabs. It’s easy to learn but infinitely deep. More importantly for Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, it has a rabid, and profitable, following. In total, some 38 million people have played Magic since its release in 1993, and in 2017, the game accounted for an estimated $500 million in sales, according to KeyBanc Capital Markets.

“We’ve always been a management team that’s taken the longer view,” says the 56-year-old Goldner, who joined the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company in 2000 as the head of toys and games, and took over as CEO in 2008. “Any moves we make in the future, it’s with an eye to where the consumer and audience is going to be in three to five years, not three to five weeks.”

Goldner has built his career both by carefully stewarding old franchises like Magic and Dungeons & Dragons and by turning toys like My Little Pony and Transformers into television and movie stars. Goldner calls it the “brand blueprint” strategy: Nurture your own brands, build audiences around them and push them onto riskier, but more lucrative, platforms.

He sold off Hasbro’s factories, pushing all of that messy, low-margin manufacturing work onto third parties. Revenue hit a record $5.2 billion in 2017, the year before Toys “R” Us died and Hasbro saw a 12% drop in revenue. Even in that annus horribilis Hasbro managed to eke out a profit of $220 million on revenue of $4.6 billion. That same year, its archrival Mattel lost $531 million on revenue of $4.5 billion. Under his leadership, Hasbro shares have returned twice that of the S&P 500, hitting a record high in July. In all, Goldner’s performance has been good enough to earn him the 96th spot in our first ever ranking of America’s most innovative corporate leaders.

He is not resting on his laurels. Goldner made a huge move, spending $4 billion in late August to buy Entertainment One. The Toronto-based film and TV production company is known mostly for owning Peppa Pig and PJ Masks, cartoon favorites of the preschool set. The two properties pull in almost $2.5 billion of retail sales and are a nice addition to Hasbro’s My Little Pony and Play-Doh. Better yet, Peppa Pig and PJ Masks are not only beloved stories, they also represent the potential for future Hasbro toy sales. As Goldner can attest after his flopping with movies based on Battleship and Jem and the Holograms, it’s much easier to start with a great story than with a great toy.

Back when Goldner joined the company, stories weren’t Hasbro’s business. They manufactured toys, and revenue was increasingly reliant on outside ideas, like licensing Pokémon, and tethered to a holiday shopping season that left managers holding their breath until Thanksgiving, when sales began to pick up steam.

“People were asking, ‘Why is that essential?’ and ‘Does that add more volatility?’ ” Goldner says. “You actually have more volatility when you’re relying on other people to provide you all the entertainment for your portfolio.”

Goldner, after being named COO, tapped Transformers as a place to prove it. The line of miniature cars that can be converted into bipedal robots had been a huge hit with kids since the mid-1980s, thanks in part to a popular television cartoon. Goldner turned his sights to a much bigger screen. Attach characters like Optimus Prime to a Hollywood blockbuster and things could really soar.

Steven Spielberg got it. A fan of the toys, the billionaire director signed on to produce the movie, and would spend planning meetings carefully positioning the action figures on a table and taking shots with his phone as they talked. The film was directed by Michael Bay and debuted in 2007, with Goldner and Spielberg as executive producers. It did $710 million in global ticket sales and increased Transformers toy sales by a factor of five. Goldner was named CEO the following year.

The son of an electronic engineer and teacher turned investor, the Long Island native is a boundlessly energetic self-labeled geek who can flip conversations seamlessly between everything from building radios to canoeing. He is no stranger to adversity. Just as things were starting to click at Hasbro, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he revealed to investors he’d been treated for in 2014. A year later, his adult son died of an opioid overdose.

By buying Entertainment One, he’s just taken on a hefty new challenge. Hasbro shares plummeted when the deal was announced, some saying he overpaid for two preschool properties and others focused on the risks of owning a media company outright, rather than hiring one to tell your stories. Entertainment One’s content library, worth $2 billion, also comes with adult-skewing properties that don’t lend themselves to selling more toys, such as TV shows Criminal Minds and Sharp Objects.

There is reason for skepticism. In 2009, Hasbro invested $300 million in Hub, a children’s TV network that was a joint venture with Discovery Communications, and has little to show for it today. A push to make G.I. Joe into a movie star made for decent box-office sales but didn’t move the needle on sales of the action figures. Other films just tanked. And the company has suffered repeated black eyes with efforts to further exploit Monopoly, arguably it’s most iconic property, including a recent attempt to create a socialist-themed version of the canonical board game of capitalism.

But then there’s Magic, which Goldner’s team has rejuvenated in conjunction with Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary based outside of Seattle that also oversees Dungeons & Dragons. The card game had its best year in 2018, fueled by an expansion into digital that began with Magic: The Gathering Arena, a free-to-play video game that some feared would cannibalize the core tabletop product. So far, those fears have proved unfounded. Still not officially launched and lacking a mobile version, its soft launch has significantly boosted its audience on Amazon’s game streaming platform, Twitch, and viewership is up 120% year over year.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Andress estimates Arena pulls in $75 per user. He expects the free version will have almost four million players by year-end, a promising step toward bringing lapsed players back to the game. An animated Netflix spinoff series from Joe and Anthony Russo, the duo behind the Avengers: Endgame, is in the works.

The Transformers films are also thriving, with two sequels pulling in $1 billion each worldwide. A television series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, became a massive hit among children and, surprisingly, older viewers, known as “bronies.”

The rise of social media helped Hasbro turn the game Pie Face, a 1960s throwback, into what market researcher NPD says was Hasbro’s bestselling toy in the U.S. in 2016, due to viral videos, like one of a grandfather and grandson having laughing fits, which drew 205 million views on Facebook.

These new efforts are funded in part by a 2014 coup that saw Hasbro steal the license to produce Disney Princess toys from Mattel. Euromonitor estimates the rights brought in $441 million for Mattel in 2014. Despite the new emphasis on owning its own intellectual property, Hasbro hasn’t abandoned the licensing game. Third-party partnerships, including Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars franchises, make up 21.5% of Hasbro’s revenue.

And things are far from perfect in the toy industry, which NPD reckons generates $90.4 billion in annual sales. Not only is Toys “R” Us a shell of its former self—the struggling retailer remained an important sales channel even in the era of Amazon—but the threat of Chinese tariffs is making 2020 look uncertain. Hasbro currently outsources about two-thirds of its manufacturing to companies in China.

So the move into media could prove prescient. The streaming wars are picking up and players like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ are all on the hunt for fresh properties. Goldner says the acquisition will help Hasbro create content out of its smaller properties, while bigger brands will still get the Hollywood touch, including Transformers films, which are produced by Paramount under a five-year deal signed in 2017.

Stephanie Wissink at Jefferies estimates the acquisition could boost Hasbro revenue by more than $1 billion and operating income by more than $200 million.

“People are looking for high quality content that has great story and canon and characters,” Goldner told Forbes the day after it was announced. “We of course have that in spades.”

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I’m the reporter for the Games section of Forbes.com. I previously served as a freelance writer for sites like IGN, Polygon, Red Bull eSports, Kill Screen, Playboy and PC Gamer. I also manage a YouTube gaming channel under the name strummerdood. I graduated with a BA in journalism from Rowan University and interned at Philadelphia Magazine. You can follow me on Twitter @mattryanperez.

Source: Not A Toy Story: How Brian Goldner Is Transforming Hasbro

Hasbro released a new version of the game “Monopoly” that parodies socialism. The game went viral on Twitter and quickly sold out on Amazon. NBC News’ Dasha Burns decided to play the game and reports on the new riff on the classic. » Subscribe to NBC News: http://nbcnews.to/SubscribeToNBC » Watch more NBC video: http://bit.ly/MoreNBCNews NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands that deliver compelling, diverse and engaging news stories. NBC News Digital features NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, TODAY.com, Nightly News, Meet the Press, Dateline, and the existing apps and digital extensions of these respective properties. We deliver the best in breaking news, live video coverage, original journalism and segments from your favorite NBC News Shows. Connect with NBC News Online! NBC News App: https://smart.link/5d0cd9df61b80 Breaking News Alerts: https://link.nbcnews.com/join/5cj/bre… Visit NBCNews.Com: http://nbcnews.to/ReadNBC Find NBC News on Facebook: http://nbcnews.to/LikeNBC Follow NBC News on Twitter: http://nbcnews.to/FollowNBC Follow NBC News on Instagram: http://nbcnews.to/InstaNBC Playing Hasbro’s New Monopoly Edition: Socialism | NBC News Now

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Screen Time For Kids: 4 Myths About Tech and Apps

As technology advances, devices with screens get more sophisticated, cheaper, and, for parents, more worrisome. The pressure to plop the kid in front of an iPad for hours on end is strong, but so is the sense of guilt that pushes some parents to ban screens altogether. The correct response seems to be somewhere between laissez-faire and digital teetotalism, and it’s up to parents to figure out how much and what kind of screen time is best for their kids.

A good place to start developing nuanced rules for screen time is dispelling myths that, while accepted as conventional wisdom, are actually closer to old wives’ tales. Here are four misconceptions that need to go away so parents can introduce kids to technology in a responsible way.

Myth #1: Interactive Learning Apps Always Help Kids Learn Faster

There’s no shortage of apps that purportedly help kids learn, but they’re not all created equal. Some developers, out to make a quick buck from parents, have little to no understanding of how children actually learn. That means apps that are labeled as educational to assuage parental fears may actually be no better than addictive puzzle games like Toy Blast.

Consider a Vanderbilt University study that attempted to establish if interacting with a learning app via swiping or tapping helped preschool children learn. Using a university-built word-learning app, researchers found that while girls did benefit from tapping a screen for visual rewards, boys did not learn as much. In fact, boys were more likely to tap willy-nilly without prompting.

This discrepancy makes sense when you consider how boys and girls develop differently. Between 2 and 5 years old, girls have better impulse control and better coordination. The app served them well, but it depended on skills boys didn’t have. They likely spent more time concentrating on the dexterity challenges and less time learning what the app was ostensibly meant to teach.

The lesson: Apps labeled as educational that lack age-appropriate learning mechanisms don’t do much for developing minds.

Myth #2: Introducing a Child to Technology Early Helps Prepare Them for the Future

Lots of parents introduce tech to their kids early in life in an effort to build skills that will help them in an increasingly tech-driven future. Unfortunately, that can mean they neglect crucial interpersonal skills that kids need to develop before the age of 6. No matter how sci-fi the future becomes, children will still need to develop emotional intelligence and communication skills that can’t be built in front of a screen.

Interpersonal skills require interactions with real, emotional human beings that affect how young brains develop. For a kid’s brain to be optimally wired for interpersonal skills, those interactions need to occur during the first crucial years. That’s why a pioneering researcher in the psychology of computers, Dr. Tim Lynch, recommends parents wait until their kids reach Kindergarten before introducing them to computing in any form.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, an early introduction to tech appears to be a threat to kids’ physical development as well. British researchers found that early exposure to screens had an adverse effect on a child’s dexterity. The effect was so profound that some children were unable to hold a pencil.

The lesson: To support the development of your kids’ emotions and dexterity, wait until school to introduce screens into their lives.

Myth #3: Screen Time Is Inherently Bad

While screen time panic has reached a fever pitch, there is a growing body of research that says screen time in and of itself isn’t so bad, and that a thoughtful parental approach can make it a positive in a child’s life.

One of the first major studies of time spent in front of the television found that engaging with a TV show can be beneficial as long as the content is educational. For instance, researchers found that watching Sesame Street was as beneficial for some kids as years of preschool education. And watching shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood correlates with increased emotional intelligence in kids who watch regularly.

But research also suggests that it’s not enough for parents to simply place their kid in front of a screen and hope they learn something. Screen time is much for helpful when parents are a partner helping their kids understand and interact with the content.

A Georgetown study found that kids learned better on a puzzle app when they were coached by an adult than when they followed an on-screen tutorial. Help from adults was a “social scaffolding” that helped kids learn. Studies like this are what helped define the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time. These stress parental involvement in media consumption, including a personalized Family Media Use Plan developed in concert with a pediatrician.

So, what is actually bad about screen time? When screen-fed media is overconsumed by kids, they tend toward inactivity. The blue light that screens emit can also interfere with sleep patterns. So, the smart parenting solution is to set time limits for kids that include at least an hour of screen-free time before bed.

Myth #4: Video Games Are Inherently Bad

“Video Games” writ large have received a bad rap from parents, who only see mindless button-mashing, and politicians, who only see gratuitous violence. But conflating a game like Minecraft with a game like Red Dead Redemption ignores the realities of how video games affect kids.

It is true that the child psychology community is conflicted regarding the effect of violence in video games. But not all video games are violent. And besides, the reason violent video games might lead to violence is that they act as simulators. By selecting the right games, parents can turn the power of simulation into something positive for their kids.

Studies have shown that fast-paced video games can increase reading speed in dyslexic children, that strategy-based games promote problem-solving skills, and that world-building games like Minecraft promote creativity. Finally, controlling the main character in a video game prompts kids to see the world through their eyes and can help build emotional intelligence. Like books and TV shows, video games can also be used as learning tools.

But as with television and books, video games benefit from parental involvement. The problem of antisocial behavior connected to gaming is likely couched in the fact that parents allow kids to go into their virtual worlds alone and without guidance. In fact, parents would be better off joining them in those worlds, regardless of console choice.

Kids benefit from parents who recognize the achievement in mastering a game, and parents will be more empathetic and less wary of their kids’ gaming behavior if they recognize the effort they’re making to achieve a difficult task — even if that task is in a digital world.

Source: Screen Time For Kids: 4 Myths About Tech and Apps | Fatherly

How To Start Your Child On An Allowance Program – Liz Frazier Peck

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Ah, the great allowance debate. This has become a hot topic over recent years, and for good reason. It’s one of the most impactful ways to teach children about money. It’s also the first exposures our children have to earning money, and can shape their attitudes around money. So it’s understandable that this has become a focus of interest and debate. We are passionate about our kids and want to make sure we are doing what’s best for them…

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2018/09/06/how-to-start-your-child-on-an-allowance-program/#fbd3f9927b4a

 

 

 

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