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Mattel CEO talks Barbie’s rebranding, expanding into media, and growth plans

Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Barbie’s rebranding, the toymaker’s expansion into film and television, consumer demand, and the outlook for growth amid an uncertain economy.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Joining us now is Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz in a Yahoo Finance exclusive. Ynon, always great to get some time with you. Look, big presentation and focus on the reimagination, ongoing reimagination of that Barbie brand. Take us inside the efforts to rebuild that brand and things you are focused on this year.

YNON KREIZ: Hi, Brian. Great to see you again. Barbie is such an incredible brand. We saw the brand continue to evolve. We are launching the movie this year on July 21. It's going to be a great event. We believe it has all that it takes to make it a societal event, a cultural event.

And it is part of our transformation, to continue to grow our IP-driven toy business and expand our entertainment offering. The Barbie movie has some incredible innovation. It's directed by Greta Gerwig, but an incredible cast led by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling and Will Ferrell, as well as some incredible actors that will support it.

And we expect Barbie to continue to grow. We just launched yesterday another collection of STEM career Barbies led by the Wojcicki sisters. And we couldn't be more excited about Barbie's long-term growth prospects.

BRIAN SOZZI: Look, Ynon, I'm 40 years old. I don't much about dolls. But they look to me like what-- they're changing. They reflect more of the society at large. Has that been a focus of you? I know what-- the dolls you just mentioned, to me, those are fearless women in business. Is that right?

YNON KREIZ: Exactly. Our brands are all led by a very clear purpose and cultural relevance. Barbie reflects the world as children see it. Barbie's purpose is to inspire the limitless potential in every girl.

And the journey has been very distinct. More than half of the Barbies we sell are diverse, not the original white skin and blonde hair Barbie that we used to know. So Barbie very much is about diversity, inclusivity, and empowering girls to reach their limitless potential.

BRIAN SOZZI: At the investor day, Ynon, there was a lot of talk about this year being the year of dolls. And I'm holding up two here, one from-- Anna from "Frozen," and one, Snow White from Disney Princess. And this is all part of your efforts to just build out the portfolio of dolls. How much do these brands or brands like this-- how much will they bring in sales this year?

YNON KREIZ: Well, we are expanding our dolls portfolio. And Disney Princess and "Frozen" is a very important part of that strategy. We have some incredible product of Disney Princess and "Frozen." And it will continue to be a key focus for our company.

It is one of our core strength. Dolls, vehicles, and infant, toddler, and preschool are the three categories where we are a global leader. And we continue to expand and innovate our product offering. This will be yet another demonstration of our innovation and capabilities when it comes to the dolls category. And it will be an important year for us in this area.

BRIAN SOZZI: We've closely been following, Ynon, your efforts to focus more on content. Can you give us an update on that this year?

YNON KREIZ: Sure. We own one of the strongest portfolios of children and family entertainment franchises in the world. And that gives us significant opportunities to expand and grow our business and have multiple touchpoints with consumers. And content is an important part of it.

We talked a little bit about our movie strategy. "Barbie" is one, our first movie. There are 14 other pictures that we are now developing that we already announced. And on the television side, we also see incredible progress with a lot of innovation. We are launching 12 series and specials in 2023.

It will have some really exciting offering. We just announced recently the new Hot Wheels show that will be about-- that will launch on NBC later this year. It's a show that will be about a car makeover competition. And it will be-- it's called "Hot Wheels Ultimate Challenge." And it will be another representation of more innovation for Mattel.

There will be additional content of Barbie on Netflix. And of course, we also announced recently the launch of Barney that will relaunch in 2024. But it will be supported and accompanied by great content, both on television and film that we are now developing for future fans.

BRIAN SOZZI: And we'll take this offline. But a Barney was a hot topic for me back in school. But we're not going to-- we'll leave it there. I don't want to get too much into my childhood.

But you are fresh off of earnings, of course, too. How much of the inventory overhang in retail from a toy perspective is less-- is left out there? And when does that clear-- get cleared?

YNON KREIZ: Yeah, we did talk about elevated inventory that we have entering 2023. It will impact us primarily in the first half. But we expect that to clear over the year. And we do look to see positive increase in consumer demand for 2023.

We are working through elevated inventory. But we-- even with the continued macro uncertainty, we are confident about our strategy and plans for the year. There will be several exciting launches and initiatives that we'll bring to the market.

We talked about Disney Princess and "Frozen" for the year. We are also very excited about the global rollout of "Monster High." And of course, the Barbie movie in July, which will stimulate more demand.

We continue to execute our multiyear strategy. We have a very balanced portfolio. Our category structure is working very well. We're seeing product in demand. Although it's still early to tell, we're off to a good start in the year. And there's a lot of crosscategory innovation in all of our portfolio.

Beyond '23, we believe this strategy-- our strategy will continue to drive top and bottom line growth. And we aim to outpace the toy industry and gain market share.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, this has been a strange week, Ynon, in markets. Now there's concerns about rates going even higher. That has impacted the stock market. Consumers are starting to get jittery. How concerned are you about where the economy is at this point?

YNON KREIZ: Well, we continue to monitor the economy. We do expect to see impact on consumer demand, although we still do believe the industry will be flat to slightly up. The toy industry has demonstrated its resilience over time. And we expect it will continue to grow over time.

Within that, we do expect to grow market share. But it is important to say that we are entering this year with the strongest balance sheet we've had in many, many years. Even in a challenging market and volatile market in 2022, we continue to improve our leverage ratio and strengthen our financial position.

And that gives us flexibility and optionality to continue to improve our position and strengthen our competitive standing. We have begun share repurchases for the year after nine years. And this really tells you how confident we are in our financial strength and opportunities that we see for Mattel to continue to grow and create long-term shareholder value.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, that was confident, Ynon. He-Man-- I believe that's He-Man behind you. That is-- as a toy geek, of course I'm going to recognize these things. Always great to get some time with you, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz. We'll talk to you soon.

YNON KREIZ: Thank you so much, Brian.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, appreciate it.