Anyone who doubts the mercurial nature of the kids licensing biz need only think back to Lucas Licensing president Howard Roffman’s stunning proclamation that ‘Digimon will be a flop,’ made in a keynote address at last November’s EPM conference in Los Angeles. By last February, the show had gone on to gain a 5.9 Nielsen rating with kids ages six to 11 in the U.S., the trading cards were gaining at the expense of Pokémon card sales, and by April, the number of licensees had jumped from one to 100-in only nine months. Press time figures show the Fox Kids series still holding with a 6.3 rating and 22 share with boys six to 11 in the week ending April 8.
Elie Dekel, executive VP of consumer products and promotions at Fox Family Worldwide, attributes the success of Digimon: Digital Monsters to a speedy campaign targeting licensees that hadn’t jumped on the Pokémon bandwagon. ‘Speed to market has been a key part of the strategy,’ Dekel says. ‘We first determined which licensees were in the Pokémon business, because we didn’t want to license to a direct competitor.’ Dekel adds that he looked for businesses with mass accounts that could produce product quickly. At Licensing 2000, Dekel says the focus will be on Digimon: The Movie, which hits theaters across the U.S. in third or fourth quarter this year (tentatively in October). The movie will be a part of Digimon brand-building in general, and there are no plans to break out a separate merch program for the film.
Saban will continue to boost the property in the months to come, most notably by forming an e-commerce partnership with Amazon.com that will see Digimon in a featured ‘shop’ at the dot.com super store. Dekel says a theme-park promo is also in the works for the summer, in time for the all-important back-to-school period. The latest licensees to go Digi include: Dark Horse Comics of New York (comics), Fisher-Price (Viewmasters), Hallmark (party goods), Mondo USA of Montana (playballs) and Scholastic (novelty books).
(Saturday morning TV)
boys (6-11): 118
girls (6-11): 82