My apologies to those of you who were unable to take the JellyTelly survey yesterday. Due to a technical glitch, the survey was unavailable for a couple of hours last night. It's up and running again, so if you were unable to take it, now you can.
And now for the day's bad news… an era has ended at Big Idea. 2/3's of the staff of Big Idea Inc. was let go yesterday, shrinking the company down to just 11 people. All that remains is the marketing team, one designer (Ron Eddy), one director (Brian Roberts), and Mike Nawrocki. The rest of production, including old-timers like editor John Wahba and music maestro Kurt Heinecke, are all gone. Ron Eddy, the very first designer I hired way back in 1996 to launch a team that at one point totaled 30 people, now has the distinction of being Big Idea's first designer, and last designer.
The layoffs weren't a surprise for any of you following the news about Big Idea's parent company. Entertainment Rights has been flirting with bankruptcy for the last six months, and recently revealed they only have enough cash to survive through January. So drastic cuts were in order.
As for Big Idea, VeggieTales video sales peaked nearly 10 years ago and have been steadily declining ever since. Classic Media squeezed profits out of VeggieTales not by innovating, but rather by reducing costs, renegotiating distribution agreements, and then pushing as many videos into the market as they possibly could. The kids video business has been in steady decline for more than a decade (mirroring VeggieTales decline), and the prior owners of Classic did nothing to seriously address this decline. While putting VeggieTales on NBC was billed as a strategic move to grow the audience and ministry, it was, in reality, part of the former owners' effort to sell their company. It worked. Entertainment Rights, blinded by the "dazzle" of TV deals with NBC and movie deals with Universal, grossly overpaid for Classic Media and Big Idea, and, as a result, is fighting to survive with $200mm+ of debt and a market capitalization of less than $20mm. (Astonishingly, the total value placed on Entertainment Rights, Classic Media and Big Idea by the stock market today less than what Classic Media paid to buy VeggieTales out of bankruptcy back in 2003.)
I could write a whole book about the strategic blunders that have resulted in the loss of a quarter-billion dollars of value for Entertainment Rights shareholders, but that really isn't the story here. The real story is that any sense of the original team behind VeggieTales was lost yesterday. Big Idea is now a logo only, representing a marketing team, and Mike. (Okay, and Ron and Brian. But Mike remains symbolically as the "face" of what Big Idea used to be.)
There are a couple more videos in production, which, apparently, will be completed and released. What beyond that? Who knows. God is good, and he will accomplish his goals in his timing, according to his perfect will. If God has additional ministry in mind for the cucumber and tomato I created in a spare bedroom in Chicago 18 years ago, I believe it will still come to pass. The sad thing today is that a bunch of good friends are staring down a Christmas season in a tough economy without jobs. But God knows that, too, and he has a plan for each one of them.
Let's keep them in our prayers this Christmas.