Licensing your property across the territories: Europe, Latin America and the U.S.

The globalization of kids entertainment, spurred on by the Internet and the ever-increasing reach of multinational kidcasters, has allowed for breakout properties to dominate on the world stage like never before. That said, how licensors manage their licensing and merchandising programs...
October 1, 2000

The globalization of kids entertainment, spurred on by the Internet and the ever-increasing reach of multinational kidcasters, has allowed for breakout properties to dominate on the world stage like never before. That said, how licensors manage their licensing and merchandising programs differs radically from territory to territory. Some of those differences, for example linguistic and cultural nuances, you’d probably expect to encounter; others, though, like not knowing when your French broadcaster will air your show, are often a rude awakening. It pays to know what the territorial distinctions are before you launch your licensing program. In other words, it’s time to dust off that old adage about doing business abroad: Think global, act local.

Territory: Europe (U.K., France, Germany)

Challenges: Shifting Broadcast Schedules. For competitive reasons, historically European broadcasters haven’t made it a habit to inform licensors when, or during what time slot, their show will air. This, of course, plays havoc with any designs you have on launching a nicely coordinated merchandise program. ‘Often you’ll have a property, and then all of a sudden you find out that it’s on the air. So you quickly gear up with your merchandise program, and before you know it the broadcaster has already pulled it,’ says Sid Kaufman, executive VP of worldwide merchandising at Nelvana. Until recently, licensors haven’t been able to do much to convince broadcasters to let them know when their shows will air.

The solution for many licensors is to make the broadcaster a stakeholder in the property. That could mean allowing a caster to share in a percentage of the licensing revenues, or granting it all the merchandising rights for the territory. The rationale? If your broadcaster is also your agent, it’s within their interest to commit to an air date, says Marie-Laure Marchand, director of European marketing and licensing for Nelvana, which within the last year, named broadcaster TF1 its agent for Franklin (in France) and RTV its agent for Little Bear (in Germany).

Licensors are also granting merchandising rights because Euro-based broadcasters are demanding to participate in licensing revenues. There are potential downfalls to naming a broadcaster as your agent: Some broadcasters are new to the L&M game, and may not have the infrastructure in place to coordinate a successful program. Also, there’s a good chance your show will compete against one of your broadcaster’s kids properties, and who is to say they won’t favor their own? As with any other contract, it’s advisable you build in performance thresholds your broadcaster needs to meet.

Territorial rights. This is a huge issue in Europe right now. With the birth of the European Union, the continent became one giant free trade zone, which means the notion of granting exclusive merchandise rights to a licensee is no longer possible. For instance, under the EU, it’s illegal to restrict a German-based licensee from selling a licensed toy to a retailer in the U.K., even though you already have a licensee in London creating the same product. Nevertheless, most licensors aren’t allowing their agents to sign licensees outside of their territory, because they may infringe upon another agent’s rights. As a deterrent, some licensors cut their rep’s commission in half, if they sign a deal outside of their territory. Ultimately, many licensors believe the solution will be to use fewer agents who can go out and sign pan-European deals with larger licensees that have continent-wide distribution.

Market Intelligence: Pokémania continues to rage across Europe, though homegrown properties, like Les Petites Bonne Nuit in France, Bob the Builder in the U.K., and Maya the Bee in Germany, are holding their own.

Territory: Latin America

Challenges: Piracy. A major problem for licensors. The best way to prevent companies from illegally producing merchandise featuring your property is to make sure the territory’s customs officials have the trademarks of your property, and can easily discern legit product from knock-offs. Whenever authorities make a bust, publicize it so other criminals are aware that you won’t sit back and allow them to illegally profit off your property.

Market Intelligence: Classic characters from Disney and Warner Bros. have a solid following throughout the territory, as do relative newcomers such as Pokémon, Digimon and The Power Rangers.

Territory: United States

Challenges: Competition. All the big studios are headquartered here and are well-entrenched in the marketplace using their multiple platforms of TV, film, on-line and retail to promote their properties to the populace. It’s very difficult for an independent agent to mount a successful merchandise program for a foreign property without the involvement of one of the congloms-Disney, Warner Bros., Viacom and Fox. The upside: It’s the largest homogeneous market, so you don’t need to retrofit your programs to the same extent you’d need to in other territories.

Retail. Much more consolidated than Europe or Latin America. Fewer players means it’s tougher to secure shelf space for your licensees’ product. Unlike Europe or Latin America, the U.S. has three distinct distribution channels-mass, department and specialty-and each can support exclusive licensed product for the same category, which translates into more licensing opportunities for licensors.

Market Intelligence: No clear winner right now. Pokémon is in a perhaps temporary retreat (new game products and series launching for fall), while its successor Digimon is still riding the wave of anime popularity and WB superheroes The Powerpuff Girls are holding their own.

Key Agents

Below is a compendium of some of the major licensing agents that rep kid properties in key territories.

B: licensing arms of broadcasters

I: independent agents


Agent: V.I.P. (I)

Location: Paris

How old: 32

Kids properties: Snoopy, Kipper, Arthur, Angela Anaconda

Contact: Jean-Michel Biard, chairman

Tel: 33-1-44-70-7300

Agent: M6 Interactions (B)

Location: Neuilly sur Seine, with offices in Germany

How old: five

Kids properties: Wheel Squad and Kong

Contact: Pascale Breysee,

merchandising manager

Tel: 33-1-41-92-6933

Agent: StudioCanal Licence France (formerly Ellipse Licence)

Location: Boulogne Billancourt

How old: 10

Kids properties: Teletubbies, Babar, Noddy, South Park

Contact: Muriel Sauzay, director

Tel: 33-1-46-10-1200

Agent: TF1 Licences (B)

Location: Paris

How old: 10

Kids properties: Pokémon, Hey Arnold!, Franklin, Marvel Properties

Contact: Brigitte Legendre, deputy director

Tel: 33-1-41-41-2315


Agent: EM.TV & Merchandising (B)

Location: Munich

How old: 11

Kids properties: Pippi Longstocking, Weird-Ohs, Rainbow Fish, Flipper, Tabaluga

Contact: Stephan Lenbert, head of merchandising

Tel: 49-89-99-5000

Agent: MM Merchandising (B)

Location: Munich

How old: 29

Kids properties: The Smurfs, Marsupilami, Waldo!

Contact: Dirk Fabarius, managing director

Tel: 49-89-9507-8600

Agent: RTV Family Entertainment (B)

Location: Munich, with offices in Hamburg, London and Sydney

How old: 11

Kids properties: Moorhun, Brothers Flub and Gloria’s House

Contact: Kerstin Rodax, international product manager, merchandising & licensing

Tel: 49-89-99-72-7144

United Kingdom

Agent: Link Licensing (B)

Location: London

How old: 14

Kids properties: Animorphs, Barbie, Goosebumps, The Forgotten Toys

Contact: Claire Derry, managing director

Tel: 44-208-996-4800

Agent: Just Licensing (I)

Location: Derybyshire

How old: 11

Kids properties: Butt-Ugly Martians, Jellabies and Star Hill Ponies

Contact: Wilf Shorrocks, CEO

Tel: 44-162-981-4994

Agent: Copyrights Promotions Licensing Group (I)

Location: London, with offices in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Turkey

How old: 26

Kids properties: Max Steel, Sabrina the Animated Series, Rugrats, Rupert

Contact: Kirk Bloomgarden, Chief Executive

Tel: 44-171-580-7431

Agent: Copyrights Group (I)

Location: Milton, Oxfordshire

How old: 18

Kids properties: Maisy, The Wombles, Paddington Bear, Postman Pat

Contact: Tom Murphy, marketing coordinator

Tel: 44-129-572-1188

Latin America

Agent: Character Comércio e Servicos (I)

Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil

How old: 20

Kids properties: Rugrats, Blue’s Clues, DC Comics, Catdog, Sonic the Hedgehog

Contact: Helen Fakhr, director

Tel: 55-11-814-4955

Agent: Exim Licensing (I)

Location: Buenes Aires, Argentina, with offices throughout Latin America

How old: 16

Kids properties: Franklin, Barney, Teletubbies, all Marvel properties, Bananas in Pajamas, Lord of the Rings

Contact: Elias Hofman, president

Tel: 54-11-4778-9335

Agent: Grupo Losani (I)

Location: Lima, Peru, with offices throughout Latin America

How old: 20

Kids properties: Nick, Universal, Warner Bros. properties

Contact: Luis Salazar, president

Tel: 511-271-5019

Agent: Union Internacional (I)

Location: Mexico City, Mexico

How old: 8

Kids properties: Woody Woodpecker, Dragon Ball Z, Power Rangers, Marvel properties

Contact: Patricia Murakami, director of merchandising

Tel: 525-563-7451

United States

Agent: Leisure Concepts Incorporated (I)

Location: New York, New York

How old: 30

Kids properties: Pokémon, WCW, Tama and Friends

Contact: Susan Eisner, senior VP

Tel: 212-758-7666

Agent: Bradford Licensing Associates (I)

Location: Upper Montclair, New Jersey

How old: 15

Kids properties: Voltron, Panshel’s World, Milo’s Bug Quest

Contact: Len Reiter, president

Tel: 973-509-0200

Agent: The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company (I)

Location: New York, New York

How old: 5

Kids properties: Teletubbies, Noddy, Eloise

Contact: Kenn Viselman, CEO

Tel: 212-989-3660

Agent: United Media (I)

Location: New York, New York

How old: 40

Kids properties: Peanuts, Paddington Bear, Maisy, Miffy, Spot

Contact: Joshua Kislevitz, senior VP, domestic licensing

Tel: 212-293-8500

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