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Pre-Market reality check

As licensors delve into their arsenals in preparation for Licensing 2001 International in New York, it seems that those with girl properties in hand will be well armed for the barrage of potential licensees descending on the Javits Center this month....
June 1, 2001

As licensors delve into their arsenals in preparation for Licensing 2001 International in New York, it seems that those with girl properties in hand will be well armed for the barrage of potential licensees descending on the Javits Center this month.

When asked to identify in which gender, genre and demo there is a dearth of licensable properties and quality licensed merch, licensees resoundingly answered: girls (87%), six to 10/11 to 14/14+ (each 32%), and licensed brands (47%). And with girl-skewing book properties and TV series and brands for preschoolers and tweens popping up on several panelists’ wish lists, it appears that licensees are searching for a `Harriet’ Potter at the show.

It’s hardly surprising then, that Link Licensing’s tween girl brand Love Hearts and Sesame Workshop’s girl-skewing preschool series Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat ranked high in terms of survey commentary, page views and average viewing time. Read on for a dossier of market intelligence, property by property.

Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat

Licensors: Sesame Workshop and CinéGroupe

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: An animated series inspired by Amy Tan’s children’s book The Chinese Siamese Cat. Produced by CinéGroupe in association with Sesame Workshop and IF/X Productions, the series (40 x half hour/80 x 11.5 minutes) will broadcast daily on PBS in the U.S. and is slated to debut during the caster’s 2001 Labor Day Marathon in September. The series will also air in Canada this fall on TVOntario and Radio-Canada.

Concept: Featuring a cast of humans, cats, bats and mice, Sagwa follows the escapades of a spunky young feline of the same name. Amidst the culture of long-ago China, Sagwa sets out to explore the world and her place in it, even when it involves taking some mischievous risks.

Demo: Kids five to eight

Domestic licensees: Simon & Schuster (books), Warner Home Video (videos)

Domestic and international categories open: All. Programs will initially focus on apparel, toys, books and video.

International territories of interest: CinéGroupe’s territories-Canada, France and French-speaking countries, Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries, Germany, Dutch-speaking countries and territories, Spain (and Spanish-speaking territories in Italy), Switzerland, Greece and Africa (excluding South Africa). Sesame Workshop’s territories-U.S., German-speaking countries (other than Germany), the U.K., Ireland, Asia, Eastern/Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East (including Israel), Australia/New Zealand, U.S. military bases.

Proposed international agents: TBD

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (25%), good (37.5%), fair (37.5%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (57%), no (43%)

Would respondents consider adding Sagwa to portfolios: yes

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Catherine Meredith, VP of licensing for Hasbro-games and puzzles

Jaak Jarve, marketing and product development manager for The Okee Dokee Sticker company-stickers

Brett Freeman, VP of High Point Knitting-socks

Kendra Hull, marketing assistant for Warren Industries-My Size puzzle formats, 100-piece puzzles

Felice Stolzberg, licensing and marketing director for Global Design Concepts-backpacks, lunch kits and other accessories

Randy Meredith, creative director for Brighter Child Interactive-software and console games

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 26

Desired time of day series should air: early-morning block (67%), after-school block (33%)

Desired time for licensing program launch (in relation to series launch): three to six months before (29%), three to six weeks before (14%), in conjunction with (14%), three to six weeks after (29%), three to six months after (14%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (33%), mass (67%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

The Sagwa page of our Virtual Showroom was abuzz with panelist traffic and commentary early on in our survey run, receiving the most responses and ranking second in page views behind Tiny Planets. Respondents ultimately checked off toys and games, apparel and accessories, stationery and paper goods and video games and software as the leading categories for this property.

‘Launching in apparel and accessories with a corresponding toy launch will make a strong statement to the consumer, open up great boutiquing possibilities, and give the property the exposure it needs,’ says Felice Stolzberg, licensing and marketing director for Global Design Concepts. ‘Many licensees and retailers like to see who the major partners are in these specific categories before they get on-board. Sagwa seems to be a sweet, girlie TV property, so apparel is a good place to start.

‘After the success in apparel and toys, the property is seen as more viable, and the following categories will have an easier time selling in and further expanding Sagwa’s reach,’ Stolzberg adds.

Brighter Child Interactive’s creative director Randy Meredith agrees with Stolzberg that the toy category should be among those initially launched, but couples toys with publishing and video games as the categories that ‘raise awareness among the target audience and make the property seem hot.’ Meredith claims that when these categories are followed with apparel and other categories, the property will be perceived as one of importance and says its potential in Brighter Child’s product category is very good. ‘Children’s software buyers are excited by known properties. Any series that appears on PBS or other high-profile television outlets tends to do well in the category.’

Love Hearts

Owner/Licensor: Swizzels Matlow/Link Licensing

Territory of origin: the U.K.

Description: Love Hearts began as a candy brand in the 1950s. Since then, 3.5 billion rolls of Love Hearts have been sold in more than 50 countries worldwide. The brand was voted a 20th Century icon by the British public and is featured in two exhibitions at London’s Millennium Dome.

Concept: Link is looking to develop the brand as a fashion-led property for girls who are too old for Barbie and too young for mainstream fashion labels. All products in the line will reflect Love Hearts’ brand values-fun, quirky, cute, girly and funky.

Demo: Girls seven and up

Domestic licensees: BrandBase (apparel), Gemma (greeting cards), Blue Print (stationery/bags), Pyramid Posters (posters), Kinnerton (chocolate confectionery), Think Pink (clocks, radios, resin products), Ceazaro (hair accessories, jewelry), Euromark (phone accessories, toiletries, cosmetics, fashion jewelry), G. H. Warner Footwear (footwear), Golden Bear (plush), Poplar Linens (towels), Spearmark (lunchboxes), Susan Prescot Games (puzzles), Totes Isotoner (umbrellas), Zap (bedding)

International categories open: All. International program will begin with apparel and accessories, greeting cards and gift wrap, stationery, toiletries and cosmetics and home furnishings.

Initial territories of interest: U.S./Canada, Australia/New Zealand. Link expects a Japanese launch to follow soon after.

Proposed international agents: The Sharpe Company (U.S./Canada) and Gaffney International (Australia/New Zealand).

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (14%), good (58%), fair (14%), poor (14%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (14%), no (86%)

Would respondents consider adding Love Hearts to portfolios: yes (86%), no (14%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Felice Stolzberg, licensing and marketing director for Global Design Concepts-mini-backpacks, plush backpacks, funky handbags, small leather goods

Stephen Chernin, VP of licensing for Play by Play Toys & Novelties-plush and novelties

Charles Becker, director of marketing and licensing for Millennium Apparel Group-jeans, tops, jackets

Nancy Golden, VP of licensing at WestPoint Stevens-decorative pillows

Thomas Witthuhn, Fruit of the Loom VP-juvenile and tween girls underwear and T-shirts

Kelli Brayton, Timex senior brand manager-watches

Desired retail channel for merchandise launch: mid-tier (43%), mass (57%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

As a licensed brand for tween girls, Love Hearts fills the top three market voids identified by our survey, and as such, garnered much attention and on-the-record commentary. Panelists pegged apparel, accessories, novelty and gift, stationery and paper goods, toys and games, furniture and home furnishings and housewares as the tent-peg categories of a program based on this tween property.

‘This brand appears to have equity in its heritage, and that should be leveraged as a first step,’ says Fruit of the Loom VP Thomas Witthuhn. ‘The categories that follow need to extend the brand with the young girl consumer at a price point they can afford.’

The majority of Love Hearts respondents (all U.S.-based) earmarked competition and limited retail space as market realities to consider in exploring the British property’s State-side crossover potential. ‘Price point will be key,’ says Timex senior brand manager Kelli Brayton. ‘It has to compete with private label/no-name brands at a lower price point for similar styling.’

Market realities aside, respondents predict a rosy future for Love Hearts as a lifestyle brand. As the one thorn in the bunch, High Point Knitting VP Brett Freeman asks: ‘Why would a retailer pay more [royalties] for fashion that’s readily available through generic resources?’ He also points to an absence of associated media for Love Hearts as a factor that could affect its licensed potential.

Bill & Ben

Owner/Licensor: BBC Worldwide/Ben Productions

Territory of origin: the U.K.

Description: Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men, famous for their unique ‘Flobbadob’ language, are back. The pair originally appeared in the 1950s, starring in the Watch with Mother series on BBC. Bill & Ben have since been relaunched with a new image and, along with their old friend Weed, a range of new characters join them in their garden of fun and games.

Concept: The Bill & Ben brand’s USP is the magical garden setting, and where possible, the product range will reflect this outdoor orientation. Products developed will also convey the key brand values-fun, cheekiness and the friendship between the primary characters.

Demo: Kids two to five

Domestic licensees: Hasbro (master toy), Martin Yaffe (garden toys, wheeled toys), Asia Trade (planted pots, pots with seeds, vases), Wesco (watches, clocks), Dekkertoys (playsuits, playhouses, masks), Aykroyd & Sons (nightwear), Kinnerton (confectionery), St. Ivel (yogurts, chilled desserts), Heinz (pasta shapes), Ravensburger (puzzles), Portico (greeting cards), Character Options (stationery, bags), Trademark Collections (umbrella, wallets, novelty bags), Blues Clothing (leisurewear), Samuel Eden (socks), Zak Designs (melamine plates, mugs, bowls, lunch boxes), Zap (bedding)

International categories open: All key categories are open for discussion-plush, bean toys, garden toys, watches, bags, apparel and accessories, confectionery and stationery.

Initial territories of interest: TBD-property launched internationally at MIP-TV in April.

Proposed international agents: TBD

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (25%), good (25%), fair (25%), poor (25%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: no

Would respondents consider adding Bill & Ben to portfolios: yes (50%), no (50%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Keith Johnson, president of Elope Hats-themed hats based on the characters in the show

Desired time of day series should air: mid-morning block (50%), after-school block (50%)

Desired time for licensing program launch (in relation to series launch): a year to six months before (33.3%), three to six weeks before (33.3%), three to six months after (33.3%)

Desired retail channel for merchandise launch: mid-tier (50%), mass (50%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

As a relatively unknown property outside the U.K. and attempting to edge in on the competitive and crowded international preschool market, Bill & Ben received mixed reviews. While divided in most respects, our panelists clearly earmarked publishing, toys and games, video games and software and health and beauty as the leading categories for the herbaceous Bill & Ben.

‘This is a cute property, but the target audience is quite young and has their entire decision-making process done for them by parents,’ says Fruit of the Loom’s Witthuhn. ‘If the story line is strong enough, this could make a good book for mom to read to child.’

Claudia Forrester, administrative assistant at JHB International, concurs, and says that when applied to the above-mentioned product categories, the property has ‘good teaching possibilities for young children,’ However, it may not translate well to JHB’s category as manufacturer of buttons and pins since ‘the designs might be too complicated for very small product.’

What can’t be ignored, and certainly what bodes well for the overall licensed potential of Bill & Ben-even in crossover-is that it, as Action Products International chairman and CEO Ron Kaplan says, ‘sounds like a property that has significantly impressed major licensees’ in its domestic program.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files

Owners/Licensor: Fuji Creative Corporation/Studio Pierrot/

FUNimation Productions

Territory of Origin: Japan

Description: Yu Yu Hakusho follows the adventures of a 14-year-old rebel who sacrifices his own life to save a child from a traffic accident and is given a second chance. Armed with powers that must be used for good if he wants to live again, Yusuke and his companions defend an unsuspecting world from monsters lurking in the shadows. Between October 1992 and January 1995, 112 episodes of this action-adventure anime series aired in Japan. With sales of more than US$273 million in video games and US$72 million in trading cards in Japan alone, Yu Yu Hakusho is now poised to expand internationally.

Concept: Produced, distributed and licensed for North America by the same company that brought Dragon Ball Z to the U.S., Yu Yu Hakusho captures the same target audience and will follow the same marketing/licensing strategy in specialty and mass.

Demo: Boys seven and up

Domestic licensees: Various licensees, including Sega (video games), Tommy (Game Boy), Bampresto (trading cards).

International categories open: All. Broadcast deals in discussion with two networks. International licensing program will initially focus on video games, a collectible card game, action figures and apparel.

Initial territories of interest: U.S./Canada, Australia/New Zealand

Proposed international agents: Gaffney International (Australia/New Zealand)

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (13%), good (29%), fair (29%), poor (29%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (29%), no (71%)

Would respondents consider adding Yu Yu Hakusho to portfolios: yes (33%), no (67%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Richard Bradley, Indigo Worldwide-floor mats

Debby Coles-Dobay, president of Creative Marketing Impact-kids health and beauty product

Jaak Jarve, marketing and product development manager for The Okee Dokee Sticker company-stickers

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 26

Desired time of day series should air: after-school block

Desired time for licensing program launch (in relation to series launch): a year to six months before (20%), three to six months before (20%), three to six weeks before (40%), three to six months after (20%)

Desired retail channel for merchandise launch: mid-tier (20%), mass (80%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Yu Yu Hakusho’s presence in our Virtual Showroom evoked speculation on the licensing future of anime properties in the wake of the Pokémon phenomenon, although most respondents were in agreement over the leading categories for this type of property-video games and software, toys and games, publishing and apparel.

‘Pokémon was huge, but when will that happen again?’ asks Indigo Worldwide’s Richard Bradley. ‘Animated programs like this can be very hit or miss.’

Echoing that sentiment is Debby Coles-Dobay, president of Creative Marketing Impact. ‘I believe that there is a saturation of this type of property. How many can coexist?’ asks Coles-Dobay. ‘I think we need to move on to something more unique.’

In order to avoid a ‘me too’ property label, Yu Yu Hakasho’s U.S.-based licensor, FUNimation Productions, must be willing (and able) to put together a strong marketing program, says Fruit of the Loom’s Whitthuhn. ‘This category is already cluttered, and success would depend on being able to stand out in the crowd.’

Tiny Planets

Licensor: Sesame Workshop

Territory of origin: the U.K.

Description: A 3-D CGI-animated series (65 x five minutes) produced by Sesame Workshop and Pepper’s Ghost Productions. The series has been sold for varied broadcast rights in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Korea, Malaysia, Israel and Iceland. At press time, Sesame Workshop was closing negotiations with Italian caster Mediatrade.

Concept: The series is set in the picturesque and unpredictable universe of Tiny Planets, where a world of surreal planets and characters is united with a preschool curriculum. The main characters, Bing and Bong, travel via their ‘space couch’ to explore and investigate six planets: light & color, sound, technology, stuff, self and nature.

Demo: Kids three to five

Domestic and international categories open: All. Programs will initially focus on apparel, toys, books and video.

International territories of interest: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Africa, the Caribbean, U.S. military installations, Canada, Asia and Latin America.

Proposed international agents: TBD

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (40%), good (40%), fair (20%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (25%), no (75%)

Would respondents consider adding Tiny Planets to portfolios: yes

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Brad Lesher, product manager for Riegel Consumer Products-blankets, sheets

Debby Coles-Dobay, president of Creative Marketing Impact-kids health and beauty product

Richard Bradley, Indigo Worldwide-door and wall plaques

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 40 twice-monthly slots

Desired time of day series should air: early-morning block (40%), mid-morning block (20%), after-school block (40%)

Desired time for licensing program launch (in relation to series launch): three to six months before (50%), three to six weeks before (25%), three to six months after (25%)

Desired retail channel for merchandise launch: mid-tier (40%), mass (60%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

The Tiny Planets page of our Virtual Showroom received the highest amount of traffic, racking up 86 page views over the five-week survey period, and was the most well-received property among respondents, with over 80% rating its potential as `good’ or `very good.’ Categories pegged to lead the Tiny Planets program are typical for a preschool property with an educational focus-toys and games, publishing, video games and software, apparel and infant products.

Creative Marketing Impact’s Coles-Dobay claims Tiny Planets has a good chance of market success because it ‘targets an age group that could use something fresh.’ Since broadcast scenarios are important to the preschool market, Coles-Dobay identifies Nickelodeon, Disney, Fox Family and Cartoon Network as the U.S. casters of choice for Tiny Planets.

Across the pond, Indigo Worldwide’s Bradley claims that U.K. success for Tiny Planets would depend upon its landing one of the following four channels-BBC1, BBC2, ITV or Channel 4. Bradley echoes Coles-Dobay’s prediction for the property’s potential, adding: ‘Space has always conjured up a mystical unknown that is especially attractive to boys.’

The Mummy

Licensor: Universal Studios Consumer Products Group

Territory of origin: the U.S.

Description: Based on Universal’s feature The Mummy and this spring’s sequel The Mummy Returns. Produced by Universal Cartoon Studios, this animated TV series (13 half hours) will air on Kids’ WB! at 9 a.m. on Saturdays beginning this fall. Set in the 1930s, the show follows the adventures of 11-year-old Alex O’Connell, who travels the globe with his parents, excavating ancient ruins. . . and fleeing for his life from a hostile mummy. When the ‘Manacle of Osiris’ locks onto his wrist, Alex’s family is sent on a race around the world to find the sacred Scrolls of Thebes-the Manacle’s instruction manual-before they are found by Imhotep, the mummified spirit of an evil Egyptian high priest.

Concept: As the next installment in Universal’s Mummy property, the toon series expands the franchise to a younger demo, opening up opportunities for new licensees to create products specifically for kids.

Demo: Kids six to 11

Domestic categories open: Initial categories open for discussion include toys, apparel, gifts and stationery, animation art, candy and beverage, health and beauty, and promotions.

International territories of interest: TBD

At-a-glance temperature read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (20%), good (40%), poor (40%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (40%), no (60%)

Would respondents consider adding The Mummy

to portfolios: yes (40%), no (60%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Germaine Gioia, VP of licensing for THQ-PlayStation 2 and Gamecube game versions. . . possibly Game Boy Advance.

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: According to Ron Kaplan, chairman/CEO of Action Products International: ‘As many as possible-carriage is everything.’

Desired time of day series should air: early-morning block (33%), after-school block (67%)

Desired time for licensing program launch (in relation to series launch): a year to six months before (20%), in conjunction with (60%), three to six months after (20%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mid-tier (20%), mass (80%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

While girl-skewing properties and an interesting preschool concept overshadowed the rise of The Mummy in the survey ranks, respondents spent more time unraveling Universal’s plans for this animated follow-up than any other property-averaging nearly six minutes in the first two weeks of the assessment period and 44 seconds for the remaining three weeks.

The top product categories earmarked by our panel to lead the program for this decidedly boy-skewing property are toys and games, apparel, publishing, video games and software, and accessories.

‘The Mummy is not yet fully established as a hot or lasting property in the media,’ says Action Products’ Kaplan. ‘Video games and software, publishing and apparel would serve to build a following for the property.

‘Also, this property seems to be more appropriate for older children to tweens, and most toys are purchased for young children. The exception is action figures and collectibles, which seem appropriate in this case.’ Action Products’ line of Egyptian and mummy’s tomb excavation kits may also be appropriate to the property, and Kaplan describes its overall licensed potential as ‘good.’

Getting the series broadcast internationally will be critical for a worldwide video game release-a tent-peg category for this property that respondents deemed best-suited to older boys. ‘Developing great action-adventure gameplay around such a property that also has substantial support in various categories at retail and consistently delivers strong, stable TV ratings could translate to solid video game sales,’ says Germaine Gioia, VP of licensing for THQ.

Licensee wish lists

Ron Kaplan, chairman/CEO of Action Products International

Published properties for girls, preschool to 12 years old

Brett Freeman, VP of High Point Knitting

Branded or entertainment property geared toward teenage boys and girls

Kendra Hull, marketing assistant for Warren Industries

‘Classic evergreen properties that can draw in little girls. Everything seems to be geared toward boys. There’s a lack of available preschool properties that aren’t already swept up in the larger manufacturers. We need something affordable and popular for the smaller players.’

Brad Lesher, product manager for Riegel Consumer Products

Greeting card company licenses

Germaine Gioia, VP of licensing for THQ

‘THQ is looking for properties that have a promising, if not already substantial acceptance amongst the demographic they target and come with a strong retail awareness and support in various merchandise categories.’

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