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Opinion: A view from Europe: Buyers face licensing dilemma

Every year, an abundance of animated programs and characters are presented at various television markets and trade shows throughout Europe. When program buyers and retailers return home, they are left with the question of which, among these properties, is the best...
April 1, 1997

Every year, an abundance of animated programs and characters are presented at various television markets and trade shows throughout Europe. When program buyers and retailers return home, they are left with the question of which, among these properties, is the best license to buy.

Looking at the television industry in Europe, it is clear why these buyers face such a difficult task.

In Germany alone, there are six television channels targeting young viewers exclusively, and more are certainly coming. Children can choose from approximately 300 hours of programming each week. How is it possible for one series to stand out and attract the attention of children viewers, especially since German kids watch an average of only 1.4 hours of television per day, compared to 3.5 hours for kids in the United States?

One easy solution is to acquire well-established classic characters. The disadvantage of this strategy is that a classic character has less of a chance of becoming a smash hit than a new and innovative product, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the more recent Power Rangers phenomenon.

Kids are looking for new things every day, and marketing experts satisfy them with unusual and creative ideas that last for increasingly shorter periods. The licensing industry should not fall behind this market reality.

The challenges are great for both broadcasters on the one side, and marketers and retailers on the other. They should be working more closely towards a common goal of joint events in licensing. In order to succeed on a European scale, television broadcasters need to cooperate, just as retailers have been doing in the creation of pan-European operations. The retail chain C&A is a prime example, with more than 500 outlets throughout Europe.

Retailers are the driving force behind the licensing industry. In Germany, the 10 biggest retail groups have 95 percent of the total market, yet they are rather conservative in their outlook. New properties are looked at just as suspiciously as new ways of presenting them. This is perhaps one of the reasons why fewer than 20 percent of German toy products are entertainment-based, whereas, in the United States, the figure is as high as 50 percent.

Clearly, the media and licensing industries must cooperate and work together more closely in order to better serve each other’s needs.

Florian Haffa is managing director of EM-Entertainment, a Munich-based diversified communications company. EM-Entertainment is involved in the merchandising and licensing of TV series, characters, logos and events, as well as international co-production and co-financing and worldwide sales of TV productions, particularly animation.

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