Alums advise how to profit from images of Elvis and Ali


Penn Law alums discussed intellectual property during second annual Media & Entertainment Week




CORE Media Group is in the business of keeping celebrities alive, even after their prime has passed. The company deals with entertainment intellectual property and owns rights to the names and images of Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and the like.

And last night, CORE Media Group’s Chief Digital Officer and Director of Intellectual Property, Matthew Apfel and Jonathan Seiden, shared their experiences in the entertainment industry. The event was part of Penn’s second annual Media and Entertainment Week, hosted by business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and the Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club.

In addition to Elvis and Ali, CORE also owns the proprietary rights to American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? From the name and image of Elvis Presley alone, CORE makes an average of $55 million a year.

“We’re like a pirate ship,” Apfel, 1990 Penn Law graduate said. “We have lots of pirates on board … and we’re sailing on this sea of intellectual property … We look at everything that comes across our bow as a new potential and a new business.”

Apfel became CORE Media Group’s Chief Digital Officer in April 2012. His team develops content across multiple platforms to support CORE’s existing franchises. “We’re a small cohesive team but we’re a very fast-grown company … doing what I think is really cool cutting-edge stuff,” Apfel said.

Seiden, 2001 Penn Law graduate handles a different element of CORE — he counsels CORE and its subsidiaries on intellectual property and entertainment law. “If you don’t protect the brand, you lose the brand, and you let other people define what that brand is going to be,” Seiden said.

Defining the brand also means taking charge of the future of assets that may be declining in value, such as Elvis and Ali. “They’re not going to be around forever,” Apfel said. Part of his strategy is to ask himself, “As stewards of their legacy, how do we keep them relevant … but also, how do we have fun?”

Apfel and Seiden shared some of their strategies to keep these names relevant, which included putting videos online, selling merchandise, broadcasting unreleased videos to the public, producing Elvis-themed slot machines and creating video games.

Anna Sabo, a College senior and co-president of UME, was the head organizer of the event. She reached out to Apfel earlier in the year and found that he “was interested in getting more involved in the student body” after his graduation from Penn.

“It’s very clear they’re passionate about what they do,” Sabo said.

At the end of the lecture, Apfel encouraged listeners to take his business cards, hoping to keep in contact with Penn students. “We need to know what’s out there in the world … We are constantly trying to find treasures, and I think we’d be crazy to think that two guys, or even 10 people in our company, would be able to know what 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds are thinking about.”

Although CORE’s successes seem numerous, Apfel said, “there are so many things that never make it — you just don’t know.”

CORE is considering ways to rework some of its declining assets, and both Apfel and Sabo are optimistic that they can produce the next biggest sensation.

This article has been updated to reflect the proper attribution to the quote, “They’re not going to be around forever.” Matthew Apfel said this, not Jonathan Seiden.

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