According to Jakks Pacific’s VP of licensing Jennifer Richmond, the worst royalty check is an unearned guarantee. ‘If a license turns out to be a winner, then both the licensor and licensee should profit accordingly,’ muses Richmond. ‘My personal licensing philosophy is to identify, negotiate and sign licenses that have evergreen potential–and to pay as little in guarantee for them as possible.’
Under Richmond, the Jakks licensing team is trying to break the licensing mold–high risk, high potential–by achieving high licensing success with low downside risk. A tall order, and one that Richmond sought to fill straight out of the gate in February by announcing a license for Comedy Central series BattleBots.
‘It takes research, gut instinct and a little bit of luck to determine the next hot license,’ says Richmond. It also takes looking beyond age demo barriers to spot properties ripe with toy potential. BattleBots and The Learning Channel’s Junkyard Wars (another Jakks acquisition, announced in June) were both adult-focused in their original TV incarnations, but Richmond wasn’t necessarily interested in the entertainment component. ‘You wouldn’t look at [BattleBots or Junkyard Wars] and say, ‘Oh wow, it’s the next Power Rangers,’ ‘ says Richmond. ‘But the concepts behind the shows just made for such great toys that we knew the kid appeal would be there.’
Although several master toy deals followed throughout the year, Richmond pegs the BattleBots acquisition as her division’s greatest 2001 achievement. ‘We jumped to sign the license early and were able to ship product within five months,’ says Richmond, who claims Jakks’ quick turnaround allows the company to capitalize on opportunities that other toycos with longer development cycles miss.
For 2002, Richmond is scouting for new action figure opportunities. ‘We’ll be looking beyond movie and TV properties and going to new places, such as video games,’ says Richmond. Jakks’ girls business is also poised for growth in the licensed activity area, and Richmond is on the hunt for a property in the style of Mischievous Girls and Atomic Babes, but with a unique edge.