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Video Spotlighted at Licensing Show

26 Jun, 2007 By: Anne Sherber

NEW YORK — Big ticket theatrical properties looming this summer and beyond — including a live action Speed Racer, The Dark Knight, the fourth installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise and The Golden Compass — were top properties at this year's licensing show. But consumer products executives also said home videos are tentpole properties that drive sales.

Entertainment and character licensing was, once again, the largest category in the licensing industry, representing more than $60 billion in worldwide retail sales, according to figures from the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association released at the Licensing 2007 International Expo held here June 19-21.

Video is at the leading edge of a number of the company's most successful brands, said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products. “Baby Einstein,” the company's signature developmental brand, is dependent on its home video component.

“High quality DVD content is the key to this brand's success,” Mooney said.

Some brands, Mooney said, defy even the most optimistic outlook. “Cars exploded off the starting grid at the theatrical release, accelerated rapidly at the DVD release and has picked up speed in 2007,” he said.

Disney is expecting a number of high profile fourth quarter DVD releases to drive merchandise sales. Mooney said that the DVD release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End is expected to help generate close to $1 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise for the company this fiscal year.

In addition to a deal to create and market the “NASCAR, Jr.” brand, Reel FX is in the process of extending a faith-based property, previously available only through religious channels, to the broader marketplace. “Boz, The Green Bear Next Door,” currently a top seller at Christian retail, will be featured in the holiday-themed DVD A WowieBOZowee Christmas, which the company hopes place with mainstream retailers.

Although it's difficult to build a property without a broadcast component, Reel FX EVP Dennis DeShazer — a co-creator of Barney the Dinosaur — said he believes the story of a brand's success is told after the TV is turned off. Do kids incorporate elements of the program into their play world? Deshazer said that feedback from parents tells him that Boz is such a property.

DeShazer's old pal Barney is turning 20 this year, and HIT Entertainment will partner with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for the Sept. 11 release of Barney: Dino-Mite Birthday, in honor of the anniversary. The companies will also collaborate on the release of the third season boxed set of Jim Henson's “Fraggle Rock,” one of the first HBO original series, also in September. The set will feature all 24 episodes, along with interviews with the series' creators, and lots of extras.

Leslye Schaeffer, SVP of marketing and consumer products for Scholastic Entertainment. said R.L. Stine, author of the wildly successful “Goosebumps” series, is writing new “Goosebumps” books for the first time since 2000. She noted that, at the height of the property's popularity, a disagreement among rights holders made a “Goosebumps' movie impossible. But now Scholastic owns the rights, and Schaeffer hinted that such a movie is in the works.

Lionsgate will release Betsey Bubblegum's Journey Through Yummi-Land direct to video in October. The property is based on a line of scented dolls marketed by MGA Entertainment, the same company that owns the rights to the “Bratz” line of dolls and merchandise.

Although licensed product for adults is a much tougher sell than products aimed at kids, Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products announced the launch of licensing and merchandising efforts to coincide with a fourth quarter release of a new “The Colbert Report” DVD and the first DVD of “The Sarah Silverman Program,” coming in October.

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