On Tuesday, Anime News Network reported that Saban acquired the global rights to Digimon outside of Asia. The company will partner with MarVista Entertainment to distribute the property, while Toei Animation handles licensing and distribution within Asia. The company’s rights include Digimon Fusion, the newest title in the franchise, and “over 250 library half hours”, according to ICv2. Saban will debut Digimon Fusion to potential broadcasters and distributors at Cannes’s MIPCOM, which runs from October 8 – 11.
Saban’s announcement of new content shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those that watch the market. The company returned to the licensing fray in June, when Saban subsidiary Kidsco bought the broadcast licenses to a number of properties as part of a joint purchase with Konami. Specifically, Kidsco ended up with the following:
- Dragon Ball Z Kai
- Sonic X
The company also purchased the rights to 4Kids’s Toonzai programming block, which was re-branded and re-launched on August 25 as Vortexx. Vortexx launched with a combination of 4Kids’s old shows, as well as a number of old Saban properties like Power Rangers and WWE Saturday Morning Slam. However, since Saban is actively shopping to other networks, I’m not expecting the show to hit Vortexx in the near future.
What’s particularly interesting in this acqusition is the fact that Saban is once again the major rights-holder for the franchise in the west. The company aired the first Digimon Adventure series in 1999 under its Fox Family Worldwide brand. The company would go on to broadcast the second season of Adventure and Digimon Tamers, and release the Digimon movie to theaters. Afterwards, the series bounced from licensee to licensee, as Sensation Animation would acquire broadcast rights to Digimon Fusion and Digimon Data Squad would be broadcast by Disney.
At this point, I’m curious as to how Saban will market the brand in the west. With New Video’s release of Digimon Adventure‘s first season due in two weeks, we could see some interest revived by the consumer market. This depends on a number of factors, though, which include distribution to brick and mortar retalers, reach in the first week, and word-of-mouth conversions. Success of the first season could make Saban’s pitch of Fusion easier, as broadcasters would be less apprehensive about purchasing a show that can perform at retail. The more realistic scenario of the DVDs performing decently, but not enjoying a wide spread could still be spun as a positive by Saban, as they could indicate some form of demand for the product. How effective it would be in the sales pitch, though, would vary greatly, depending on sales and general performance in the market.