Mandalay Sports Media latest investment might look odd, until you remember that Warner Bros’ The Lego Movie is one of this year’s biggest hits. MSM just became the largest shareholder in toy maker OYO Sports, guided in part by a belief that the company can follow rivals such as Lego and Hasbro in blurring the lines between physical and digital play. MSM chief Rich Battista and one of his firm’s board members, Columbia Capital’s Jeff Patterson, joined the OYO board after MSM led an $11M equity funding round. OYO specializes in making Lego-like, building block figurines of sports personalities. That interests Battista — who for years oversaw Fox’s sports and cable networks — because “there’s tremendous potential to build a product and brand in the convergence world,” he tells me. OYO’s just getting started. (Click here to see an animated video of its Derek Jeter figure re-enacting 10 of the former New York Yankees captain’s career highlights.) That’s important, though, because “90% of [kids’] play now is online” and with digital media such as gaming consoles, Battista says.
OYO’s initial video plans involve sports personalities although there’s “nothing in concrete.” The company also is considering plans to develop its own fictional characters. OYO has more than 75 licenses, and sells its mini-figures in more than 15,000 retail locations including stadiums and Target stores. MSM’s backers include Peter Guber’s Mandalay Entertainment, producer Mike Tollin, CAA, and Rho Capital Partners.