Trying to take shelf space away from Disney and other kidvid goliaths is a tall order for any video company, let alone one not able to boast ownership of a comparable supply of kids properties. Despite the odds, Amy Sprecher, head of acquisitions and production at PolyGram Home Video, remains bullish about her
company’s ability to find a niche in the ultra-competitive kidvid marketplace. (According to video sales tracker VideoScan, PGV ranked 10th among companies selling nontheatrical kids videos in 1998, capturing 1.2% of total sales in this category-Disney grabbed 26% of the market.) It’s confidence, she explains, that derives from the strength of PGV’s 1999 roster of kidvid franchises like Noddy, Maisy, Franklin and The Busy World of Richard Scarry, all of which began as publishing programs before making the leap to the small screen. In the U.S., The Nelvana-produced Franklin has been running on Nick Jr. since January, after a four-month stint on CBS’s Saturday morning kids block. Noddy, produced by the BBC, began airing on PBS last fall. The Busy World of Richard Scarry, produced by Montreal-based Cinar Corporation, has been airing on Nickelodeon since 1995, and Maisy, produced by PGV’s sister company PolyGram Visual Programming, took to Nick Jr.’s airwaves last spring.
The properties’ presence in other entertainment formats ‘gives them a terrific platform to build the video brand from,’ says Sprecher. Sprecher et al. will find out soon enough if that is indeed the case. On May 11, PGV will kick off the release of its first wave of product with two Noddy videos-Noddy Gives a Birthday Party and Noddy Makes a New Friend (SRP for both tapes is US$12.95). On June 29, it will follow up with two Maisy titles, Counting and Bedtime (SRP US$12.95), and on July 20, PGV will release two Franklin vids, Tooth Fairy and Franklin Goes to School. In Q4, PGV will put out two Richard Scarry titles. Additionally, throughout the year, PGV will be releasing several special holiday-themed videos, bringing its number of releases to somewhere near 20 titles for this year, which doubles its total kidvid output in ’98. All of the titles feature TV episodes grouped by theme or subject, such as a holiday or learning the alphabet. Sprecher says it’s an approach that has worked well in the past. Last year, PGV enjoyed a 50% spike in sales for its Richard Scarry videos
after working with Cinar to include episodes that focused on specific subjects. In some cases, PGV has gone a step further this time around, adding original music for both its new Maisy and Noddy titles, as well as some exclusive-to-video Noddy interstitial programming.
At retail, PGV’s strategy for the videos will include a three-phase rollout, initially focusing on its specialty accounts, then mid-tier and department-store retailers, before finally moving onto mass.
‘Obviously, our ultimate goal is to get the videos into all retail channels including mass,’ says Sprecher. ‘But because these properties have a real literary feel to them, we’re starting them at specialty to build the brand and the consumer base.’
While opportunities for cross-merchandising are somewhat limited by the fact that PGV’s parent company owns the merchandising rights to only one property-Maisy -Sprecher says the company will be working with the licensors/consumer products divisions that helm the merchandising programs for each property. At press time, PGV had yet to finalize its Maisy merchandising program, although as part of a Nick Jr. QSR deal, this summer, Subway Sandwiches will be including coupons in all of its kidspak meals for a US$5 rebate off the purchase of a Maisy video. Retailers will be able to order all of the PGV titles (which come in a duracapsule packaging) from PGV, with free-standing 24-count displays and accompanying header cards. PGV will make larger multititle displays geared to special time periods, such as back-to-school, available throughout the year.