Though today’s cluttered kidvid market shows no signs of returning to the boffo sales levels it enjoyed during the late `90s, USA Home Entertainment is banking that there’s still room for it to expand its share of the sector-and the key lies in skewing older. The video studio is launching a new label called Family Features this month that will target kids in the seven to 13 age range.
With a glut of preschool mainstay properties like Teletubbies and Blue’s Clues still dominating the kidvid terrain, the tween market has largely gone underserved, says Stacy Lowe, VP of marketing at USA Home Entertainment. Lowe cites last year’s surprise theatrical hit Spy Kids as evidence that tweens are hungry for entertainment that caters to them specifically.
To distinguish its brand from the mostly animated video fare currently available to kids, USA plans to focus on offering live-action movies starring well-known, if not A-list, talent.
On August 14, USA will release the first two titles, Owd Bob and Nico the Unicorn, separately for rental (VHS only) and as a combo DVD (US$19.95) for sell-through. Then on November 13, the company will release both titles for sale on VHS (US$14.95 each).
Starring James Cromwell from the Babe movies, Owd Bob focuses on the life of a grumpy sheep farmer and his feud with a neighbor. Nico the Unicorn, meanwhile, centers around a young boy who takes in a stray pony that eventually gives birth to a unicorn. USA acquired North American distribution rights for both live-action features from Calabasas, California-based Fries/Schultz Film Group.
Lowe says USA doesn’t plan to establish a merchandising program for its Family Features titles, since, in most cases, she expects the producers will retain licensing rights to their films.
As for marketing, USA will be relying on the savvy of individual stores to get the word out about its FF titles by issuing market development funds (MDF) to those stores that support the titles to a degree that meets the studio’s criteria. ‘Retailers know their audience the best, and if they see that most of their customers are moms, they will target their marketing accordingly,’ says Lowe.
Initially, USA’s release schedule for Family Features films will be modest, with the goal of releasing two to four titles per year. Though USA has yet to finalize its next two FF movies, Lowe says the company is aiming to put them out in Q1 or Q2 of next year.