Icelandic newspaper Frettabladid reported yesterday (6th of May) that Lazytown‘s owners, Turner Broadcasting have invested 4,5 billion ISK ($37,5 million) in Iceland on the Lazytown operations. Turner acquired Lazytown in November 2011 for a reported $21 million. In that deal it was specified that Lazytown’s founder and CEO Magnus Scheving would stay on for two more seasons as Sportacus and that the production studios would remain in Iceland.
Lazytown was founded in 1992 by Scheving who was at that time one of the best Aerobics competitors in the world winning the European championship (1994 and 1995) and getting second place in the Suzuki World Championship (1994). Scheving had a vision of a better quality of life for children through better health and started with a book and a theatrical play named Lazytown. The play was a great success and was seen by most children in Iceland at the time.
Lazytown moved into TV productions in 1999. In 2003 the company made a breakthrough selling rights to 40 TV shows to Nickelodeon in the US and opened their own studio in the south Reykjavik municipality of Gardabaer. In the next couple of years they produced 53 episodes of Lazytown which are still being regularily broadcast to children in 128 countries. The shows were very well received winning at BAFTA award in 2006 for best best international children’s program and being nominated twice for an Emmy award.
Despite these successes the company suffered heavy losses and was forced into financial restructuring.
Following that restructuring it was as previously mentioned sold to Turner Broadcasting which has been investing in a two new seasons of Lazytown episodes airing in the UK right now. Icelandic youngsters have actually had a sneek preview of season three as the episodes have been put up on the big screen in Reykjavik cinemas this spring.
According to Lazytown’s financial manager in the Frettabladid interview, the production of the new season has called for 150 new employees. The future is looking bright for Lazytown as Turners sees them as a key component in their media strategy for younger audiences.
The evolution of Lazytown has had an immense impact on the startup ecosystem. Lazytown has been the breeding ground for high quality talent which has gone on to other companies in the ecosystem. Examples of talent emerging from Lazytown include Magnus Ragnarsson chairman of Gogogic, Johannes Skulason, Marketing director at Saga Film, Lazy Town studios was the first big project for TrueNorth; and an amazing number of creatives (designers, graphic artists) have spent some time at this company. The Icelandic film industry mostly consists of small, project based companies where almost all employees are part-timers. Having a company producing top quality material for the international market in Iceland raises the bar for everybody else.
This development of talent leaving the company and creating new ventures shows that when companies develop internationally experienced employees with specialization within their fields, that increases the possibilities of more companies forming within the same industry. When the Icelandic industry has managed to create one company which has a world leading product/service, it usually results in other companies forming within the same industry. Examples include Marel, Össur, Lazytown, CCP among others.
Next month, June 1st-4th, the Startup Iceland conference will look into how communities can build strong resilient entrepreneurial ecosystems. This is a great opportunity to learn more about innovation and entrepreneurship. Last year the event sold out one week in advance so hurry up get your tickets.
- Startup Iceland Entrepreneur Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland from June 1-4, 2013, to Focus on Building Antifragile Startup Ecosystems (prweb.com)
- Expand into the Entrepreneurship Scene in Any City (tech.co)
- Its the Entrepreneur…and the Team (startupiceland.com)