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Baby Boom: Videos That Rock the Cradle Set

28 May, 2004 By: Meryl Schoenbaum

In case you hadn't noticed, baby videos are multiplying.

One of the top producers is Genius Products Inc., of Solana Beach, Calif., which distributes the “Baby Genius” line of videos and music CDs. The line debuted in 1999, targets children ages 0-4 years and has won numerous awards, including The Film Advisory Board's Award of Excellence, and is approved by the Kids First! Coalition for Quality Children's Media. Baby Genius: A Trip to the San Diego Zoo earned Parenting Magazine's 2002 Video of the Year award, and The Four Seasons was named the Kids First! 2001 Video of the Year.

What makes Genius Products' titles stand out from the pack of other baby videos? Larry Balaban, the company's EVP of production and marketing and creator of the Baby Genius line, said the background music plays a big part.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of music we use in our videos; we use high-quality classical music. Our teaching methods are based on research with children's hospitals and pediatric ophthalmologists. We offer high-quality merchandise at affordable prices,” he said.

The company will unveil a “retooled” Baby Genius line later this year at The Licensing Show 2004. The revamped line will feature new box art, characters, character designs and animation.

Genius Products has decided to distribute its products in-house, ending its longtime distribution partnership with Warner Home Video. Balaban, stressing that the separation was amicable, said the company feels it is best equipped to handle its own distribution now.

Seven re-releases are slated for Sept. 14 (prebook Aug. 10) with new packaging: Baby Genius: A Trip to the San Diego Zoo, Mozart and Friends, Favorite Nursery Rhymes, Animal Adventures, Underwater Adventures and Mozart and Friends Sleepytime ($12.99 for each DVD, $19.99 for a DVD two-pack; $9.99 for each VHS, $15.99 for a VHS two-pack).

In a radical departure from its catalog of mostly horror titles, Ardustry Home Entertainment has jumped on the baby bandwagon to distribute a line of titles from The Shushybye Co., of Encino, Calif., in a partnership forged earlier this month.

Ardusty CEO Cheryl Freeman said the distributor is committed to growing its children's offerings.

“We have been very successful with our family titles, such as Hildegarde, My Teacher Ate My Homework and Whiz Kids, and are very selective about the titles we choose,” she said.

Ardustry has grown its kidvid genre sales by 50 percent since its inception in September 2002. By the end of 2005, the company expects the genre's sales to grow by 150 percent.

The Shushybye line, as the name suggests, is designed to help little ones go to sleep. In addition to the video component, the line includes a book, music CD and a plush toy of the main character, Snoozles. The line has been picked up by Borders and FAO Schwarz. Starting Aug. 10 (prebook July 20), video stores will be able to order the Shushybye items in a boxed set ($18.95) or separately.

Ardustry wants to expand the line in video stores, Freeman said.

She added that the line is getting a good deal of marketing exposure. Shushybye debuted at the Toy Fair in January, and there are readings of Shushybye: Snoozles Saves the Night at Borders, which signed on to sell the line after it was a hit on Radio Disney. The line will be spotlighted at this summer's Video Software Dealers Association show.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has a new entry in its popular Baby Einstein line. Baby DaVinci streets Aug. 10 (prebook June 29, $19.99 DVD, $14.99 VHS).

Fisher-Price, a well-known name in baby products, recently bowed Nature Baby and Baby Moves in Volume 2 of its “Fisher-Price Baby Development Collection” video series ($14.98 DVD, $12.98 VHS), distributed by Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The line is designed to bring out a baby's full potential by entertaining and stimulating development in infants. Baby Moves enhances physical movement, from reaching, kicking and crawling to dancing and playing. Nature Baby introduces infants to the world around them, such as the seasons and other babies and parents.

Another popular name in children's entertainment — Nickelodeon — launches the “Curious Buddies” series in the Nick Jr. Baby line Aug. 31 (prebook July 20), geared for ages 0-2, distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment.

“We felt the Nick Jr. Baby line was a natural extension of our brand [which also includes the Nick and Nick Jr. lines],” said Steve Youngwood, SVP media products at Nickelodeon. “Baby Einstein has 99 percent of the market; we saw an opportunity for another major player there. We're setting our sights on becoming No. 2, then No. 1.”

Youngwood said the line is positioned as “edutainment” for babies and includes activities they can do with their parents or caregivers. The videos are differentiated by taking a stage-specific approach, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” grouping. Also included are scenes including touching and hugging — something noticeably absent from other baby videos, according to Youngwood.

The first three titles in the “Curious Buddies” line are Curious Buddies: Exploring at the Beach, Curious Buddies: Helping at Home and Curious Buddies: Look and Listen at the Park ($16.99 for each DVD, $12.95 for VHS).

A less well-known, but equally enthusiastic, supplier is The Infant Learning Co. The Oceanside, Calif.-based company has the title Your Baby Can Read!, developed by Robert C. Titzer, Ph.D., an educator and researcher in the field of infant learning. For the first time, the video, which debuted in June 2003 for children ages three months to 5 years, is available on DVD ($16.95 each, $64.95 for a five-DVD set).

For a different kind of instruction, Thinkeroo, a division of Emmy Award-winning Mazzarella Bros. Productions, will release Potty Power, for children ages 18 months to 3 years, July 13 (prebook June 15, $14.95 DVD or VHS). The video shows enthusiastic youngsters demonstrating just how easy and fun going to the potty can be.

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