Ford Brothers Productions (FBP) consummated an agreement with LeTV – the ‘Netflix of China.’ The enviable [partnership] deal streams licensed video to 750 million unique monthly viewers on the Mainland. The Ford’s successful Master Karate Todd series and affable presence, plus a decade of tenacious effort are key elements behind the newly minted partnership announcement.
Tech in America spoke with producer/content creators Harold and Julian Ford about the opportunity. It’s a story of earned success and persistent vision.
One thread of the tale starts with Interprise Financial, a mortgage bank the brothers founded and expanded to seven states, in the process establishing relationships with A-list professional athletes and actors.
Says Harold Ford, “We made a lot of connections, including ties with every minority-owned bank in the country.”
On the transition from lending to creation of the Master Karate Todd series, Harold explained, “In many ways, lessons we learned from mortgage banking translate well to intellectual property (‘IP’) deals.”
For those unfamiliar with the contract heavy side of IP, agreements require a facility with numbers and a keen eye on valuation. Ford sums it up, “Lending and the distribution business have a lot in common.”
The Master Karate Todd animation began as interstitial programming, first appearing on NYC PBS in 2011. Considerable rigors of writing, directing and producing soon blossomed into a product line of video, web content, and children’s books. The series teaches children fundamentals of Karate through easy to understand animated segments.
Here’s where Harold’s brother and partner Julian Ford comes in. Julian’s childhood love of martial arts – instigated by his mother – translated into 1988 Junior Olympic victory at age 18. He recalls the Kansas City MO tournament “with the gold medal placed around my neck, and a wreath around my head” as a pivotal moment driving desire to share his story. The goal: help kids understand “their dreams are within reach” – a backbone of the successful Master Karate Todd formula.
Experience gained distributing the work doubled as grand tour of the IP world, yielding contacts and content now exploited in the LeTV partnership. Julian relayed the anecdote of calling hugely successful Dora the Explorer creator Chris Gifford “35 times before he took my call” to exemplify their hard-bitten drive to succeed.
“The Dora series was the biggest animation property in the world – it’s still huge,” Julian explained.
Chris Gifford took the time to understand and validate what the Fords suspected – Master Karate Todd worked and would find a receptive audience. For those unfamiliar with the tenants of Karate, respect for family and self are key elements. Add in the object lesson of earned advancement through a ‘non-quitting spirit’ and the rest is kid’s video publishing history.
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Closing a deal with 12 Billion dollar LeTV included the very same resilience. Harold described negotiations proceeding “at near lightning speed for this industry – though it was really 9 months of 15 hours days.” The old adage, ‘luck is where preparation meets opportunity’ comes to mind. LeTV sells millions of feature-packed smartphones and smartTVs that easily handle streaming video- a powerful market force requiring software – content – to drive hardware sales.
Enter the Fords
Over years, they wooed IP sources now underpinning the new relationship. Though we aren’t at liberty to reveal names – stay tuned for those details – the agreement sees a huge volume of freshly licensed video soon reach homes in China, followed by points on every continent.
Producers reading this article may wonder at the ‘secret sauce’ cementing this complex international deal. Answer: It’s easy to like the Ford’s straight up, confident style. If we were to guess its genesis – background research raising our viewpoint above mere speculation – it’s about family. Smarts and schooling account for some of it, but their principled approach shines a picture of home instilled integrity.
Initial gut instinct carries the day in the fast-paced entertainment business and both brothers exude openness. You feel safe revealing personal details and receive equal candor. Then there’s the breathtaking grasp of particulars – these guys wreak of competence.
This tale of two brothers and Asian titan LeTV has a certain symmetry – a satisfying intro to the still unfolding story now rippling across the globe. We’ll keep you posted.
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