The U.K.’s SKD Media and Carrington Productions International join forces to
create multimedia rights division Entertainment Rights. The new company makes its debut at NATPE.
Germany’s EM.TV and Victory MediaManagement announce a US$773-million co-financing deal for 100 animated TV series over the next five years.
The Beanies live! Secretive Ty Inc. releases the results of an on-line consumer vote to decide the fate of the Beanie Babies. A shocking 92% of the Beanie faithful implore company owner Ty Warner to continue production of the toys-and he does.
EM.TV Junior block launches in Germany.
The Time Warner-AOL merger is announced. Hysterical lobbying ensues.
Fox Entertainment Group and News Corporation launch their year-long Simpsons Global Fanfest in London, England. With 50 major marketing partners, a Burger King promo spanning over 30 countries, and packaged goods tie-ins across Europe and Canada, the promo was one of the most extensive international promos of the year.
EM.TV acquires The Jim Henson Company, making headlines in consumer pubs across the U.S.
Nickelodeon becomes available in New Zealand on Sky Television’s digital platform.
Tricon chains Taco Bell and Pizza Hut return to entertainment tie-ins after last year’s Star Wars Episode I-The Phantom Menace blow-out left fuming franchisees with piles of premiums (which they’re still pawning off on unwary kid meal customers). Taco Bell signs Saban’s Digimon, and Pizza Hut signs SPFE’s Max Steel. Both chains stick with TV properties for the rest of the year, and there’s no more talk of Tricon-wide promos.
Nikolai.com, a children’s Internet portal and e-commerce company, and Applause announce a
multiyear worldwide licensing agreement (excluding Asia) for characters Nikolai and Neow-Neow.
Funschool.com, a kids educational Internet game site, selects American Champion Entertainment to handle global licensing and merchandising for its intellectual trademark, including original on-line characters Browser the Bus, Globeboy, Gator and Worm.
Tiger Electronics unveils Yahoo!-branded kid products at the International Toy Fair in New York.
Sony Pictures Family Entertainment’s Max Steel premieres, marking the first CGI series to air on Kids’ WB! The show rates fourth among boys ages six to 11 in its first season.
TV-Loonland goes public on Neuer, the German stock exchange.
The NASDAQ suspends trading of Cinar’s shares while unapproved investments totaling US$122 million are investigated. Cinar founders step down, but hang on to board positions.
BKN goes public on the Neuer exchange in Germany.
Telescene Film Group announces a US$102-million production slate and an output deal with TeleMönchen Group.
Disney closes its Vancouver and Toronto offices. The production boom that prompted the opening of the Canadian studios in 1996 and 1997 was scaled back, forcing the toon house to trim its employment roster.
France’s Expand and Ellipse Programme merge to better compete with the big guys. The new Expand boasts a 5,130-hour catalog and anticipates revenues of US$209 million for 2000.
Mattel puts software subsidiary The Learning Company back up for sale-less than a year after buying it for US$50 million.
Microsoft announces its entry into the console fray with X-Box, a fall 2001-launching system with broadband apps that many industry insiders peg to steal the show from Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo’s Gamecube.
Fox Kids Europe opens its 11th regional service: Rome-based Fox Kids Italy. The new digital channel is available via the Stream pay-TV platform and targets two- to 14-year-olds.
Miramax announces its first kid movie, Spy Kids. The studio snags McDonald’s for a QSR deal and brings Isuzu on-board for the car company’s first-ever kid flick tie-in.
TV-Loonland marks its move into the global scene by signing a co-pro deal with Canada’s AAC Kids for 27 series over three years.
German media giant Bertelsmann and the U.K.’s Pearson announce the merger of CLT-UFA, Pearson Television and Audiofina, creating one of Europe’s largest integrated broadcast and content groups. The new company, called RTL Group, is headquartered in Luxembourg, has interests in 22 TV stations, and plans to produce over 10,000 hours of TV programming per year.
The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company launches a second QSR deal for Teletubbies, this time with McDonald’s. The promo is a great success with tots, but raises the ire of a few children’s advocacy and media groups.
The FTC implements the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, requiring that dot.coms obtain parental consent prior to collecting, using or disclosing personal info from a child. Mad scrambling to comply ensues.
Tiger Electronics unleashes North America’s first moderately priced electronic dog, Poo-Chi, at FAO Schwarz. In the first seven weeks of its release, Tiger finds homes for 250,000 of the cyber pets.
Number one U.S. specialty toy retailer Zany Brainy swallows competitor Noodle Kidoodle in a stock swap deal, increasing its store count by 50%.
Kids upfront breaks. Kids’ WB! and Cartoon Network up their market share, but the overall market is flat with only about US$750 million to US$800 million in ad commitments made.
Germany’s Kinderkanal changes its name to KI.KA and gives itself a facelift.
Viacom-backed toy e-tailer Red Rocket terminates operations. Over the next two months, ToyTime and Disney majority-owned Toysmart follow suit, exploding the myth that selling toys over the Net is easy money.
New York-based Young & Rubicam’s 77 years of independence come to an end, thanks to a US$5.7 billion takeover by the London-based WPP Group. The agency was best known in kid circles for its Jell-O jingle.
Nigel Pickard, one of the most influential kid commissioners in the U.K., suddenly announces he’s leaving CITV to go to the BBC, causing much speculation about who will fill his shoes. Two months later, former Nick UK head Janie Grace is packing to leave for CITV.
BKN and Arles Animation merge.
Fox’s Titan A.E. has a US$27-million opening weekend and does US$77 million at the box office in the first month. Shortly after, Scary Movie opens at US$42 million and has a first-month box office take of US$140 million. In July, Fox closes its Feature Animation Studio.
The biggest U.S. packaged goods kid tie-in partner just got bigger. Philip Morris announces its US$14.9-billion acquisition of Nabisco Holdings and its intent to merge Nabisco with Kraft.
Fox launches Fox Kids Germany, helmed by Christophe Erbes.
Discovery Networks launches a Discovery Kids programming block (two hours) on its cable net in Japan for Saturday and Sunday viewing.
Yet another merger: This time Vivendi, Seagram and Canal+ announce a US$100-billion marriage. People start wondering about Universal themed channels and whether Canal+ product would fly in the U.S.
Pubcos Scholastic and Bloomsbury Publishing release the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in the U.S. and U.K. respectively. Thousands of kids and parents don wizard garb and camp out at book retailers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Taco Bell sends shockwaves through kid agencies around the world by suddenly dropping TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, California-the creator of the wildly successful talking Chihuahua. The dog was still popular, but Taco Bell’s sales were suffering.
The proposed merger between Carlton Communications and United News and Media (an over US$11-billion merger, announced in November 1999) falls through following a report from the Competition Commission. The report stipulated Carlton had to give up Meridian, one of ITV’s leading licenses. Had the merger succeeded, it would have birthed the U.K.’s largest commercial TV broadcaster.
Pokémon the Movie 2000 opens in the U.S. and bombs compared to last year’s Pokémon the First Movie. The original feature opened with a US$31-million first-weekend gross, whereas 2000 pulls in just over US$500,000.
The NPD Group reports that year-to-date sales of scooters topped the US$20-million mark, bettering the category’s total 1999 sales of US$500,000.
Hasbro announces it will sponsor Nelvana’s Bookworm Bunch block on PBS to push the toy company’s Playskool brand.
After spending months highlighting the inferiority of each other’s site, archrivals Amazon and Toysrus.com announce that they’ve joined forces to sell toys over the Net. The organizational flow chart for the new on-line entity finds Amazon overseeing site development, fulfillment and customer service, and Toysrus.com handling buying and managing inventory.
Mattel alerts shareholders that a scarcity in the world’s supply of electronic chips could affect its second half sales by US$100 million. The next month, Sony reveals that due to the chip shortage, it will ship only 500,000 PlayStation 2 consoles, half the number it had promised for the product’s North American launch. Within weeks, several other toycos announce that shipments of their chip-dependent toys will be reduced or delayed until after Christmas.
Action Man premieres on Fox Kids and averages a 1.5 rating from August to November.
Action Man debuts as a 12-inch action figure at FAO Schwarz. Action Man has been the top-selling action figure line in Europe for several years and predates Hasbro’s ownership of the brand.
The Netherlands gets a new kids channel called Z@ppelin. All of the kids programming previously available over the three public channels (Nederland 1, TV2 and Nederland 3) will be broadcast on the new channel over Nederland 3.
Harvey Entertainment and Classic Media announce plans to merge. On November 1, after due diligence, Classic backs out because the two sides can’t agree on investment amounts and the conversion price.
It’s… another merger: Canadian prodco Nelvana is acquired by media conglom Corus in a US$373-million cash-and-stock deal. Corus now owns one of Canada’s largest kid producers along with a bevy of specialty, pay and conventional TV channels, including YTV and Treehouse.
Electronic Arts wins the much-coveted Harry Potter video game license for all console platforms and AOL web games.
Marking the first foray into console-based on-line gaming, Sega launches SegaNet, a subscription-based Internet game network that’s accessed via the Dreamcast system.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission report on Marketing Violence to Kids is released. Studio heads are berated in front of the Senate Commerce Committee, and eventually promise to change some of their marketing practices.
The Granada and United News and Media merger is approved.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces that an Oscar for Best Animated Feature will awarded annually.
Nelvana’s The Bookworm Bunch debuts on PBS. Nelvana practically gives away its programming in exchange for the national U.S. platform, causing much worry about declining license fees.
TV-Loonland continues its global expansion by acquiring Sony Wonder and Salsa.
Germany-based EM.TV’s stock plummets, losing around 30% of its value. CFO Florian Haffa resigns.
The Internet community is shaken by the failure of Pop.com, a pet project of Steven Speilberg, Jeffrey Katzenburg and Microsoft’s Paul Allen.
Much-awaited Game Boy Color titles Pokémon Silver and Gold make their State-side debuts, breaking the U.S. record for first-week performance with sales of 1.4 million units.
Despite a shortage of units, Sony’s PlayStation 2 system hits the North American market with a vengeance, racking up US$150 million in sales in one day.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rugrats in Paris hit movie screens, followed by Disney’s 102 Dalmatians on November 22. There’s only just enough QSRs to go around, with Dalmatians snapping up McDonald’s, Rugrats nabbing Burger King and Grinch settling for Wendy’s.
Canal J launches Mini J in France to mark its 15th birthday. The new channel targets two- to seven-year-olds and complements Canal J’s current programming.