GERMANY: Books written and illustrated by Janosch have been well known in Germany for over 20 years, but licensing the characters is just now becoming an interesting business.
Merchandising is becoming increasingly important in the German market, especially with shows aired by public broadcasters, such as Janosch’s Tigerenten Club by ARD. More than 300 licensed products, from backpacks and bikes, to toothbrushes and T-shirts, are available in toy stores, supermarkets and by mail order. In June, a new theme park with Janosch characters opened near Berlin. The aim is to make the Janosch franchise even more popular, but licensing still isn’t as common in Germany as it is in America, narrowing the likelihood of achieving a merchandising hit there.
However, Munich-based Bavaria Sonor is optimistic about changing that. ‘The licensing market in Germany has been underestimated [for] a long time,’ says Rolf Moser, the company’s managing director. ‘But the growth of it is promising.’ In two years, the company has managed to break into the upper echelon of the German licensing industry. In fact, Bavaria Sonor now boasts two-figure expansion rates, mainly due to the success of the Janosch license.
Janosch is the stage name of Horst Eckert, the 67-year-old mastermind behind the more than 200 children’s books and two popular TV series (Janoschs Traumstunde, Der Tigerentenclub), around which Bavaria Sonor developed merchandise. The company registered a 30% expansion with Janosch licensed character mercandising last year, according to Moser.
Janosch’s characters, including Little Tiger, Little Bear and Tiger Duck, are successful because they capture the attention of teens and parents, as well as kids. Airing on weekends, The Tigerenten Club attracts 60% of its 3- to 5-year-old target audience, as well as 53% of the 6- to 15-year-old viewing demographic.
Janosch’s most famous book Oh, How Nice is Panama, sold 1.5 million copies in Germany and was translated into 16 languages. The book is now 20 years old, but it recently gained fresh media attention when the author was honored by the president of Panama.
‘This helps us to promote licenses abroad,’ says Gloria Rathsfeld, marketing director of Bavaria Sonor. ‘Majors in the U.S. are already interested.’
Janosch’s TV show Janoschs Traumstunde, which launched in 1989, was the first animated series that Germany sold to the U.S.
However, despite Janosch’s book success abroad-his stories are now available in 36 languages-the property’s international television and licensing business is expanding quite slowly. Broadcasters from France, the U.S. and Japan have showed interest, but there are no deals yet.