Husband-and-wife team Aly Jetha and Shabnam Rezaei knew they were tapping into an under-served market when they created their first Farsi-language direct-to-DVD feature Babak and Friends: A First Narooz in 2006. The animated movie about the Persian New Year sold 30,000 units in the US and Canada and was particularly popular with Persian immigrant families.
The proceeds from the DVD helped to raise the money needed to build the couple’s Big Bad Boo animation studio in Vancouver, Canada. Five years later, the idea is to further tap into the appetite for multicultural content by appealing directly to consumers. (The US Census Bureau recently reported that 82% of the country’s population growth between 2005 and 2050 will come from immigration. Currently 44% of US kids are from a minority ethnicity, and that number is expected to reach 62% by 2050.)
'Those niches together make a sizable market and we are creating a brand around this multicultural platform,' says Jetha.
To that end, the pair launched Oznoz.com globally in November as an online sales and distribution platform à la Amazon and iTunes to offer content in six languages (Arabic, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Persian and Spanish) and ship products worldwide. At this early stage, most sales come from Canada and the US, with business also picking up in Japan, Australia and the UK. The site sells DVDs, as well as books and games, and is looking to beef up the offering with original content and non-English dubs of preschool and core kid brands that are already well-known in the territory.
So a producer who has dubbed a series into Arabic for the Middle Eastern market, for example, can resell that same dub in a totally different territory through Oznoz.com, potentially increasing the brand’s merchandise sales because it would help popularize the IP among niche minority groups. Reznaei says price-points compare to other online retail stores, with DVDs going for US$14 each and a newly launched comic book tagged at US$4.95.
At press time, the company had signed a deal with Al Jazeera Children’s Channel to distribute its Arabic content on Oznoz.com and is contacting other producers. In terms of driving awareness, Big Bad Boo is reaching out to different immigrant communities through their cultural publications and partnering with different cultural organizations – such as the Arab Cultural Center in Michigan, the Asia Society in New York and more than 60 other museums, libraries and schools in North America and the UK – to build awareness and traffic for the site.