Film and television production has always been a collaborative process.
One quick glance along a Winnebago-lined street during a film shoot, or a careful read of the credit roll at the end of a movie or television show serve as a constant reminder of the legions of craftspeople who are required to bring a story to celluloid.
Yet there is more to it than that.
In today’s ever-fragmenting media universe, with more and more distribution outlets springing up every day and with the fees that are paid to the creators of the programming software falling proportionately collaboration in the making of any moving picture show has taken on new meaning.
This is particularly true in the children’s market, where broadcast license fees and theatrical ticket prices are lower than in the adult market, and yet the audience of child viewers is getting harder to reach, and even tougher to please.
The production partnership has necessarily broadened to include any potential stakeholder, be it a toy company, a new media outlet, or a manufacturer looking for exciting new characters to enliven a product line.
And thus the licensing and merchandising departments of film and television studios have joined the production partnership as full-fledged and increasingly important collaborators.
Those studios that have been at it for some time the clear leaders being the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. have much to show for their effort. Consider that Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters alone ring in $3.5 billion in retail sales around the world each year. Batman merchandise brings in another $1 billion or so a year, and that g’es up considerably when a new Batman movie hits the theatrical circuit.
Others, like Columbia TriStar, are cranking up their operations with a new TV animation studio that will work closely with its Sony Signatures licensing division in order to be able to participate in every potential spin-off from their entertainment cores.
Even relatively smaller players like Film Roman have joined the trend by bringing licensing and merchandising in-house.
Meanwhile, this heightened activity gives rise to a new kind of challenge. It’s one that producers and distributors have known intimately for years, and it’s called clutter. It’s difficult to find a T-shirt these days that d’esn’t have some kind of licensed image stenciled onto it.
As expectations rise, and as the competition in the retail environment intensifies, the marketing and creative people in licensing and merchandising find themselves measuring their work by the same level of creative standards as the artistic talent that develops the shows.