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Home Entertainment Dominates Licensing Show

12 Jun, 2003 By: Anne Sherber

NEW YORK -- Entertainment-related properties dominate the licensing business, accounting for 44 percent of the $5.8 billion paid in licensing royalties, according to a study commissioned and released by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association (LIMA) and conducted by researchers at Yale School of Management and the Harvard Business School.

And nowhere was that dominance more apparent than at LIMA's annual trade show, Licensing International 2003, held June 10-12 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Every major and independent film studio solicited a packed show floor of potential licensees for what they hope will be the theatrical blockbusters of 2004, 2005 and beyond.

But entertainment companies are not limiting their licensing and merchandising efforts to upcoming theatrical brands.

Darren Kyman, senior manager of retail and brand strategy for Fox Consumer Products, said the DVD releases of many of Fox's TV properties have created interest in merchandising opportunities among potential licensees and retailers.

“‘The Family Guy' didn't really ever find a home on television. But because it's sold over 400,000 units on DVD, retailers are more willing to bring in licensed merchandise,” he said.

According to Bill Jemas, Marvel Entertainment, the license holder for such hits as Spider-Man and the highly anticipated The Hulk theatrical releases, tries to work with specific retailers to guarantee the success of its licensing programs. For Spider-Man and Hulk, the company created a retailer-exclusive comic book in conjunction with Wal-Mart. Jemas said the comic, which included advertising from virtually all of Marvel's merchandising partners on Spider-Man, “extended the product lifecycle significantly.”

Animation studio Nelvana is producing new episodes of its popular preschool property “Franklin.” The company is also creating new “Babar the Elephant” and “Berenstain Bears” content.

“Video is the edge of the licensing and merchandising wedge,” said Doug Murphy, EVP of business development. He said Nelvana is also looking at acquiring projects and at co-production deals for the first time.

Other properties being revived include Nelvana's “Care Bears” (Artisan Home Entertainment will release a direct-to-video feature in late 2004), Hasbro's “My Little Pony” and Sony's “Astro Boy,” a ‘60s-era precursor to “Speed Racer” and “Gigantor.”

DIC Entertainment is promoting a new anime product. Carole Lee, SVP of home entertainment, said “Knights of the Zodiac,” which, as an animated program has aired around the world and, in its comic book incarnation, broke publishing records in Japan, will begin airing on the Cartoon Network Aug. 30. ADV will release the DVD in October. Because the show is serialized, the company plans to insert a DVD of the first episode into a fan publication. “Each episode ends in a cliffhanger,” Lee said. “We're trying to whet consumer appetites.”

Hit Entertainment has launched the first-ever concerted merchandising effort around its very popular property, The Wiggles. Licensed products associated with the singing group will begin appearing in stores for fourth-quarter 2003, coinciding with the release of the property's first animated video.

Warner Bros. actively solicited potential licensees for properties with very long histories, such as Looney Tunes, a 50-year-old brand around which the studio will release a theatrical film this November, and for properties at the very beginning of their merchandising lives.

According to Jordan Sollitto, Warner Bros. consumer products EVP of worldwide marketing, his company has “an aggressive franchise strategy toward management of brands.” Sollitto sees home video as one of the tent poles around which a successful merchandising campaign can be built.

“We see home video as both a key driver and a beneficiary of the integrated marketing that drives our franchises,” Sollitto said.

As Warner Bros. prepares for the release of the fifth book and the third film installment of the Harry Potter phenomenon, the consumer products division will launch two new merchandising initiatives for the property in spring 2004. The “entertainment program” will include a broad range of products for fans of the films and books. The “literary collection” is a line of products aimed at “fanatical fans of the literature,” Sollitto said.

Taking a cue from the enormous success of the Barbie videos, Hasbro has created the first CGI-animated G.I. Joe programming. On Sept. 27, Spy Troops: The Movie will debut on the cartoon network. Following the premiere, the movie will be sold as a DVD in a two-pack of 12-inch action figures.

In fall, 2004, the company will release a new title, GI Joe: Valor VS Venom, direct to video. The company has not yet announced a distributor for the title.

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