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DVDs Integral to Licensing Show

11 Jun, 2008 By: Anne Sherber

NEW YORK — Entertainment licensing generated more than $23 billion in global retail sales last year, according to figures released by the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association at the Licensing International Expo 2008 held here June 10-12, and owners are eagerly extending brands to DVD.

For example, Little Tikes, a manufacturer of very popular outdoor toys including the ubiquitous orange Cozy Coupe, recently acquired by MGA Entertainment, will morph into an entertainment property in October with the release of Little Tikes Land. The DVD will include four episodes, each of which will focus on a different toy. A licensee will release toys based on the animated characters in the DVD program.

MGA has experience turning toys into entertainment. The company is also responsible for both the Bratz line of fashion dolls and the associated animated movies. According Ed Rodriguez, MGA's VP of creative development and entertainment, extensions to the toy line have resulted in extensions to the franchise's entertainment offerings. Rodriguez says DVDs featuring line extensions Baby Bratz and Pampered Petz are completed, although no distributor has been announced. MGA will also release its first holiday-themed DVD, Bratz Babyz Save Christmas, this December, although a distribution deal is not finalized.

Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products, notes that from a consumer products standpoint, channels that lift properties have “reach and frequency.” Mooney says that the target audience for Disney Fairy titles watches each DVD 37 times. Consumers with that kind of commitment to a property want to connect with it in a variety of ways.

Mooney says that the current retail environment is competitive and in the face of limited shelf space, “retailers have to roll the dice.” For example, says Mooney, retailers who invested in “Speed Racer” merchandise have been disappointed and that may make them wary of the next hotly hyped theatrical property. He believes that retailers can take advantage of DVD releases to re-promote titles that have done very well at the box office. He points to Cars as an example, noting that merchandise associated with the film and video is selling briskly almost two years later on the strength of the DVD release.

Leigh Anne Brodsky, president of Nickelodeon Viacom Consumer Products, says that her company is successful because it approaches each license as a unique property.

“Nickelodeon is not formulaic,” she said, adding that the property dictates the way in which it will grow. The first season of “iCarly,” a popular tween television property, will hit DVD in September 2008, and will contain all 13 episodes as well as extras. “Ni-Hao, Kai Lan,” a sort of Asian “Dora the Explorer,” will launch on home video in August 2008. Both properties, which began life on the company's cable channel, will be at the center of aggressive merchandising efforts.

Among the quirkiest DVD-related products at the show was CliffNotes DVD. Last July, as a result of a partnership with Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment, Wiley & Sons, the publisher of the popular study guide series, released nine guides that were packaged with film versions of the book or play discussed in the guide. According to John Hislop, associate director of licensing for Wiley, the titles proved very popular and, this July, Wiley will release four additional titles: Midsummer Night's Dream, The Crucible, The Grapes of Wrath and A Farewell to Arms.

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