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Darren Throop: Quality Is Entertainment One’s Stake in The Ground

Darren Throop: Quality Is Entertainment One’s Stake in The Ground

 Darren Throop

When you are the President and Chief Executive Office of a global entertainment power house like Entertainment One, aka eOne, it’s only a matter of time before your peers take notice. On Thursday May 7th at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre, Darren Throop will be inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame as part of the 2015 Canadian Music Week Conference.

To those not familiar with the machinations of the North American entertainment industry, neither the name Darren Throop nor his Entertainment One brand may mean much. But next time you see an advert on television for a major movie release like The Hunger Games franchise, Divergent series, The Theory Of Everything, Paddington, Mommy, to name a few, you will notice eOne’s distinctive blue logo at the bottom of the ad. eOne delivers so many memorable hits and award-winning favourites.

“We are a multi-national, multi-channelled content owner, producer and distributor of music, movies, and television content,” explained the Alberta native on the phone from Los Angeles where he had just attended this year’s Academy Awards. Not bad for someone who started his career running a Halifax Nova Scotia record chain called the Urban Sound Exchange before graduating to become President and CEO of Toronto-based record wholesale and distributor, Records On Wheels in 2003.

The company’s robust library has over 40,000 movie titles, over 4,500 hours of television content and over 45,000 music tracks.

eOne produces and distributes television content for audiences around the world (Rookie Blue; The Book Of Negroes; Bitten; Haven; Chopped Canada; Border Security; and AMC’s The Walking Dead alongside all scripted series from AMC Networks; and many others).

eOne is also the largest independent film distributor in the world and is expanding their film production business to build on the success of their franchises Insidious, Sinister and Woman in Black with features including the upcoming Suite Francaise and Eye In The Sky.

Plus eOne also boasts a thriving music division which is developing new talent such as Halifax’s Gloryhound, Toronto’s Die Mannequin, Matt Dusk and Dearly Beloved to mention just a few of the promising acts on their roster.

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games

“I married a girl from Newfoundland and she wanted me to move there but there are limited employment opportunities so I capitulated and opened up Urban Sound Exchange in Halifax,” Throop noted. “The driving force for me was to be involved in a business, to have ownership and be focused on that desire to build my own company.”

A love of music drove Throop towards opening up his own record retail business. “I was always a big, big music fan but I couldn’t play any instruments, can’t sing a note and I’m not a very good dancer, but I love to listen to music and attend live shows,” he explained so I was able to put my passion for business and my passion for music together.

When CD Plus came calling to add Urban Sound Exchange to their retail network, Throop not only sold his chain but also joined forces with the company and became VP of field operations.

“I was put in charge of street stores and after six months I was put in charge of the entire retail operation,” enthused Throop. “That opened a lot of doors for me. I learned about point of sale, data base, working with staff, experience that turned into opportunities for me.

In a move that proved to be an indicator of Throop’s future legacy, he suggested CD Plus should be retained as the company’s retail arm and that Records on Wheels should concentrate on the wholesale side of the business to improve their ability to get better profit margins from their distributors.

“When I arrived at ROW both they and CD Plus had record stores,” noted Throop. “CD Plus was in decent shape but it made no sense for ROW to be in competition so it was important that ROW concentrate on the wholesale side of the business. We were not only buying from major record companies we were also buying videos from major film studios in Los Angeles. By putting the two together, the buying power of the two combined to help our margins.”

By acquiring Canadian-owned Video One, ROW solidified their domestic Video distribution business and taught Throop an important lesson about controlling content. As the internet started to impact sales, he realized that it was important to own and control your own product rather than rely on wholesaling other companies stock.

By the time Throop became President/CEO of ROW in 2003, he set into motion a whole series of acquisitions and distribution agreements which would turn the eventually named Entertainment One into a global power; his first major acquisition being the purchase of Koch Entertainment in 2005.

“At that time, ROW was a Canadian company which licensed content from other global companies,” explained Throop. “With Koch, we acquired a nice, big independent record label that was signing and supporting their own roster of artists. We also got a multi-channel, distributing infra-structure in the U.S that meant I had a physical CD business, a visual content distribution business and I had a digital distribution business with relationships with companies like iTunes. Koch gave me a North American platform, I could get content to market on a North American-wide basis.

Speaking of iTunes, Throop obviously had a strong sense of foreboding of the darkening impact of digital music on his business when he joined forces with Moontaxi to introduce the Puretracks music streaming system. “It was really an experiment,” allowed Throop. “We knew the movement towards music streaming was vast and unstoppable but the introduction of Puretracks was a little ahead of its time. People weren’t using their mobile phones and other mobile devices to listen to music at that point but it was a good learning experience for me.”

Bitten
Bitten

Everything kicked up a notch following a series of key acquisitions and strategic distribution agreements which saw eOne secure preschool phenomenon Peppa Pig and international box office sensation The Twilight Saga, along with the 2007 joining of former Alliance Films executive Patrice Theroux to the company, who Throop enlisted to head up the company’s filmed entertainment division.

British investment brokerage company Marwyn invested in eOne and the company listed on the UK’s AIM. That investment came in handy when the Wall Street Crash of October 2008 wiped out many global companies and forced eOne to put the brakes on their escalating acquisitions.

“The market took a horrible turn, we didn’t do another acquisition until 2011,” reflected Throop. “We just put our hands down and ran the business with what we had. We had significant operating cash so we just worked on our assets and ran a tight ship until the markets improved.”

Although many of the divisions continued to grow, one victim of the time was the company’s CD Plus retail operation which was dismantled that year. “This is something I don’t fondly reflect on but the way the record industry was at that time, we didn’t have much choice in the matter,” explained Throop.

Since rebounding from the 2008 Wall Street scare, Throop’s eOne has been on a prodigious role across all content: movie, television, DVD-CD distribution and music properties, acquiring the likes of Alliance Films (in 2012) and most recently entering into a joint venture studio partnership with esteemed LA-based The Mark Gordon Company (producers of hit television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Criminal Minds” and films like “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Speed”).

Noting that the partnership with Mark Gordon was another initiative to expand his company’s global platform, Throop assessed “That eOne has long arms. We touch a lot of different parts of the entertainment business as we see growth in different areas and we focus on different things at different times.”

One area Throop is enthusiastic about is the growth of his company’s music division in Canada which has seen a team of experienced music industry personnel like Jay Devonish, Mark Costain, Nathan Quinn and Eric Alper create an impressive roster of new Canadian talent to go along with their U.S and international releases.

“Some artists may ask why bother signing with a record company considering the difficulties in achieving radio exposure and generating product sales but I believe artists can benefit significantly from our marketing and development side of things,” explained Throop. “If you are a young independent artist relying on promoting your new release via the internet, you have to understand that there is more content uploaded onto YouTube every day than any one person can view in their lifetime. So our job is to promote and position these artists so that they do get the proper attention their music deserves.”

Throop is clearly aware that the global entertainment market changes by the minute. The DVD’s and CD’s eOne used to distribute for rent to retail outlets like Blockbuster, Jumbo and Rogers Video are now available to download on demand on Netflix, Crave, Shomi, Amazon and other streaming services. These same services are also drastically changing the population’s television viewing habits by airing whole series of past season shows and in some cases even an entire new TV series in one block. And of course television’s pre-recording devices mean you can watch any show you want at any time.

Mommy
Mommy

Perhaps the movie industry is exempt from change but Throop allows that even this medium is not without its peaks and valleys. “You think that movies are recession-proof but last year, the business wasn’t so robust,” Throop concluded. “This year, so far, things look good but in the end, it’s all about quality.   At eOne, our stake in the ground is quality and we want to make sure we are involved with only the best projects at home and around the world.”

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