In the Philippines, the California teen series Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High is spawning a fashion craze in apparel, perfume and stationery. The show’s creator, Saban Entertainment, is heading to MIP’ Asia ready to repeat that licensing success.
It’s betting Sweet Valley products will be a hit because ‘the series reflects the dream world of the California beach scene and that’s something that’s always attractive,’ explains Michel Welter, president of Saban Enterprises International, who’s heading up licensing and co-productions. All told, Saban plans to cross-promote 10 of its series at MIP’ Asia including Space Strikers, a 3-D animated space-adventure series, which will debut later this year in China and other countries with action figures by Toy Biz.
Even though this is the first year the market is open to licensing, Welter is optimistic about sales. For one thing, he says, in some parts of Asia families tend to spend a larger percentage of their budgets on children’s education and toys than in other parts of the world.
‘The general situation is good for the children’s market,’ says Welter. ‘They are much more sensitive to licensing products than in the Western world.’ He notes that the novelty of such things as TV characters on T-shirts holds stronger appeal for a larger group of kids than it would in the United States.
Welter also points out the sheer size of the population in Asia overrides the fact that only a small percentage of people actually own TV sets. In Asia, even if only one percent of the market is watching, that’s still a huge audience, and one that is bound to grow given the rapid increase in network, cable and satellite television stations. The only country where Welter foresees a struggle to license characters is Japan, where he says children are not accustomed to Western styles of animation. He adds that the situation will probably change as more Western cartoons are broadcast there.
On the programming front, Saban will be pushing many of its action-adventure series, including Power Rangers, Goosebumps and Bureau of Alien Detectors, according to Stan Golden, president of Saban International. However, Golden is quick to downplay the hype surrounding the marketplace. ‘For the most part, any [one] of these individual countries d’esn’t add all that much to our bottom line,’ says Golden, explaining that most of Asia hasn’t met its expected growth figures. ‘We view it as long-term, consistent growth.’