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William Van Rest, ITV Exec Who Helped ‘Love Island’ Merch Make Millions, Launches Jem Media Ventures

EXCLUSIVE: ITV made big bucks from Love Island brand extensions, and the man behind the merchanise millions has now launched his own company.

William Van Rest has set up Jem Media Ventures, a UK-based company designed to help business, brands and talent create ancillary income from IP, including programs and films, plus other assets and unused inventory.

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Jem will look to work with producers and distributors to commercially optimize their IP, find IP for companies to license into their operations to develop new commercial products around fandoms and audiences, and establish partnerships with brands and advertisers.

As Jem gears up for a formal launch, the company is already working with unnamed VR firm on several initiatives, helped a global distributor secure a deal to launch a restaurant for an unnamed major TV format and helped a tech start-up win a major media business tender. It has also secured deals to license global IP into an immersive experience business; secured IP for gambling and games companies; created a partnership for a leisure business; and helped a talent agency find commercial deals for a major fashion and music star, a UK pop group and a children’s author.

Industry veteran Van Rest was most recently ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s Director of Games, Live & Merchandising, a role that allowed him to create brand extensions for the likes of dating smash Live Island and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. Love Island brand extensions were worth millions in revenues, with more than one million personalized water bottles and 25 million downloads.

“Typically, rights owners spend most of their energies getting their shows on air or projects off the ground and then move on to the next idea,” said van Rest, Jem’s MD. “But with today’s budgetary and commissioning challenges it’s never been more vital to explore and properly maximise the long tail value of what you already have – and that’s where JEM Media Ventures comes in.

“We understand the power of both content and personal brands and know how to extend and manage them off-air in a wealth of innovative ways that drive meaningful interactions and new levels of engagement – as well as important new revenue channels.

“There are also a wealth of non-media brands and companies out there looking to tap into the potency of content fandom and audience loyalty. We are well placed to work with them too, driving mutually beneficial new partnerships. Our strategic and creative thinking, combined with an extensive network and experience in numerous sectors, allows us to support IP holders of all sizes and types, and at all stages of a brand’s journey, in addition to helping businesses licence in and optimise IP.”

During a 17-year spell at UK network ITV, Van Rest also had spells as MD of ITV.com and Editorial Director of ITV’s digital content studio. He was initially hired as a late-night programs controller for ITV1, digital network ITV Play and a games website, which generated more than £20M ($25.4M) in its first year. ITV Play was later closed following a phone-in scandal that hit most of the UK’s networks — though the channel itself was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Deloitte review.

Van Rest also sold 600,000 tickets to live tours on the sets of Coronation Street and Emmerdale and events such as The Big Reunion and Ant & Dec’s Takeaway on Tour, and created a network of 17 Ninja Warrior adventure parks.

Before ITV, he co-founded The Optimistic Network, which ran entertainment network Nation 277, and was Head of Enhanced TV at Sky predecessor BSkyB. He also helped created the Enterprises division at Fremantle predecessors Fremantle Media and Pearson Television, exploiting the ancillary rights of show such as Family Feud/Fortunes, Play Your Cards Right, Neighbours, The Bill, Baywatch and Pop Idol.

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