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KidScreen’s Virtual Showroom!

Since international licensing markets collectively retrenched in the wake of 9/11, the 2002 licensing landscape bears a striking resemblance to the risk-averse markets of the past two years. That said, a buoyant holiday 2001/summer 2002 box office and signs of economic recovery have begun to plant seeds of confidence in the manufacturing and retail sectors.
June 1, 2002

Since international licensing markets collectively retrenched in the wake of 9/11, the 2002 licensing landscape bears a striking resemblance to the risk-averse markets of the past two years. That said, a buoyant holiday 2001/summer 2002 box office and signs of economic recovery have begun to plant seeds of confidence in the manufacturing and retail sectors.

When KidScreen conducted its inaugural pre-Licensing Show e-poll last year, respondents pegged licensed brands for tween girls as the largest market hole to fill. Licensors responded to that need in droves, flooding the market with graphics-driven tween lifestyle brands. Although licensed brands (67%) and the tween/teen demo (63%) still top respondents’ market dearth lists, this year’s e-pollsters pointed to a growing need for boy properties (33%), particularly on the tween brand side. (See ‘Graphic brand blitz shifts to boys,’ page 31).

Even so, licensed brands for preschoolers popped up on several pre-show wish lists, which could explain respondents’ love-in with Broadway Video Enterprises property Ted’s Bed. The Cuppa Coffee-produced preschool series ranked highest in terms of on-the-record survey commentary. Read on for a full dossier of market intelligence, property by property.

Ted’s Bed

Licensors: Toronto, Canada-based Cuppa Coffee Animation (Canada) and New York’s Broadway Video Enterprises (international)

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: A 2-D animated series (26 x 11 minutes) being developed by Cuppa Coffee and BVE

Concept: Seven-year-old Ted has a magical bed that serves as a mode of transportation for his fertile imagination. Some days, Ted’s bed is a spaceship rocketing into the unknown universe; other days, it’s an elephant tromping through the wilderness.

Demo: Four to eight

Domestic and international categories open: All–program will initially focus on toys, apparel, domestic items and home furnishings.

International territories of interest: the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

At-A-Glance Tempurature Read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: excellent (14%), very good (29%), good (43%), fair (14%)

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

Would respondents consider adding Ted’s Bed to portfolios: yes (86%), no (14%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Robert Solomon, chairman and CEO at Applause–plush, puppets, Naptime Pals and novelties

Germaine Gioia, VP of licensing for THQ–Game Boy Advance and GameCube titles

Ron Kaplan, CEO of Action Products International–toys

Amy Shumway, VP at ABC Development–no-spill cups, bibs and ‘my first plush’ beanies

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 13 (33.3%), 26 (33.3%), 50-plus (33.3%)

Desired time of day series should air: early-morning block (25%), after-school block (75%)

Desired timing for licensing launch (in relation to series launch): in conjunction with (40%), three to six weeks after (20%), three to six months after (40%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: specialty (17%), mid-tier (33%), mass (50%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

Abuzz with panelist traffic early on in the survey run, the Ted’s Bed page sparked the most commentary of all five properties. Respondents pegged toys & games, publishing, apparel, novelty & gift and infant products as the leading categories for this preschool property.

‘Ted’s Bed feels educational, sophisticated and crisp,’ says Applause chairman and CEO Robert Solomon. ‘I think the strategy should be to aim upstairs with plush and gifts.’

In contrast to Solomon’s retail vision for the property, the bulk of panelists deemed Ted’s Bed a mass-market brand, with many noting that licensed success would ultimately depend upon TV placement and a top-10 ranking on a major kids network.

Some, however, questioned the licensor’s demo positioning, envisioning Ted’s Bed as a property for the ‘true preschool’ set. ‘I think the character should be four or five years old, and the property should target the two to five range,’ says Amy Shumway, VP at infant products manufacturer ABC Development. Shumway also cautions that Broadway needs to be careful in how it draws up the property’s toy license. ‘My company sells ‘toys,’ but to the infant/toddler department, and, in many cases, is unable to obtain rights after the master toy deal is signed.’

Hamtaro

Licensor: ShoPro USA

Territory of origin: Japan

Description: An animated series (52 x 30 minutes) inspired by the children’s storybooks created by author Ritsuko Kawai. Produced by Shogakukan (Pokémon) subsidiary Shogakukan Music and Digital Entertainment in association with ShoPro USA, the series is set to air on Cartoon Network in the U.S. (twice a day, Monday through Friday) beginning June 3, 2002.

Concept: A precocious group of too-cute hamsters, Hamtaro and the Ham-Ham gang gather together in the Ham-Ham Clubhouse every day when their owners–10-year-old Laura and her pals–head to school. Though their distinct personalities sometimes clash, the Ham-Hams band together to keep Laura and the gang out of trouble, often finding themselves facing dilemmas of their own.

Demo: Four to 10

Domestic (U.S.) licensees: Hasbro (master toy), Nintendo (video game) and Viz Communications (publishing/home video)

Domestic and international categories open: All other categories open. For licensing opportunities, please contact ShoPro USA directly at 415-371-1422.

International territories of interest: All–Hamtaro’s worldwide rollout will continue throughout the year.

Proposed international agents: International Merchandising (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia), DOCE (Chile), Imagine Action (Brazil), Tycoon Enterprises (Mexico) and Tycoon Latin America (Central America, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador)

At-A-Glance Tempurature Read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (30%), good (30%), poor (40%)

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

Would respondents consider adding Hamtaro to portfolios: yes (50%), no (50%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Sarah Bruntlett, licensing coordinator at Pyramid Posters–badges

Susan Meek, VP of licensing for Hedstrom–balls and slumber bags

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 50-plus

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

Desired timing for licensing launch (in relation to series launch): three to six weeks before (25%), in conjunction with (25%), three to six weeks after (25%), three to six months after (25%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: mass

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

While the international production, programming and distribution community’s interest in anime doesn’t appear to be waning, licensees seem to be tiring of the genre’s look, with some noting a lack of sentiment and feeling in the Hamtaro hamster characters.

That said, most Hamtaro respondents–all from the U.S. and the U.K.–agree that a program led by toys and video games could work if the rights owner manages to break through the category clutter with a substantial (50-plus episode) commitment from a top-four kids network and a five-days-a-week broadcast scenario.

What bodes well for the overall licensed potential of Hamtaro, as Hedstrom’s VP of licensing Susan Meek points out, is that kids are really into small pets. The property may never garner the appeal of Pokémon at its peak (the fact that all of the pet characters are hamsters limits the collectibility scope somewhat), but many respondents ultimately peg Hamtaro and the Ham-Hams as little hamsters with niche potential.

Sugar Hiccup

Territory of origin: North America

Description: The newest creation of California-based Inkmonster–the graphic arts studio behind Mischievous Girls and L’il She Creatures–Sugar Hiccup is an edgy lifestyle brand targeted at tween and teen girls.

Concept: This art brand is all about a single word or thought…along the lines of a ‘hiccup.’ The brand’s main character, Sugar, is a little sweet and a lot sassy. Sugar and her cast of spunky friends are fitting mascots for the ‘l’il rebel’ tween attitude.

Demo: Girls 12 to 17

Domestic (U.S.) licensees: Signature Group (apparel) and C&D Visionary (novelties)

Domestic and international categories open: All–program will focus on apparel, accessories, stationery, cards, housewares, room décor, publishing and animation.

International territories of interest: the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, all European countries, Japan and China

International agents: Trigger Licensing (U.K.) and The Wildflower Group (all other international territories)

At-A-Glance Tempurature Read

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

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (20%), no (80%)

Would respondents consider adding Sugar Hiccup to portfolios: yes (60%), no (40%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Carla Masters, director of licensing at Drew Pearson Marketing–hats

Charles Becker, executive director of marketing and licensing at Millennium Apparel Group–fashion tops

Daryl Newlands, marketing coordinator at Lightbody of Hamilton in the U.K.–cakes and cake snacks

Desired retail channel for merch launch: specialty (20%), mass (80%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

While graphics art studio Inkmonster has built its reputation on developing tween girl properties with edge and attitude, its latest creation received mixed reviews by panelists.

‘We have seen too many of this type of girls property pop up over the past year,’ says Charles Becker, Millennium Apparel Group’s executive director of marketing and licensing. ‘How do retailers distinguish one from the next? What’s driving this…the art?’

Indeed, many licensees question how many graphics-driven tween girl properties the market will support, given that they are typically niche-targeted to specialty retail. Panelists were divided into two camps on the issue–those that favor edge and those that lean towards pink and precious girl properties. Edge is something that panelists claim Sugar Hiccup has in spades, but many U.S. respondents worry that teen-targeted specialty retailers will slap a ‘me too’ label on the property.

However, the fact that the brand has attracted the interest of domestic and international licensing agents could go some way towards boosting licensee and retailer confidence. At press time, U.S. agency The Wildflower Group had signed on to represent Sugar Hiccup in North America, with London-based Trigger Licensing picking up U.K. rights. Wildflower will exhibit the brand at Licensing Show this month, with Trigger launching it at Brand Licensing in London this October.

Pandora & Plato

Licensors: Bradford Licensing Associates (U.S.), Black & White Licensing (Greece), Artoon (all other international rights)

Territory of origin: Greece

Description: A 2-D animated series (26 x 26 minutes) from Greek prodco Artoon, Pandora & Plato is the brainchild of film producer Nikos Vergitis. Set to air in Greece on Antenna TV later this year (with several European broadcast deals pending for 2003/2004), the series focuses on non-violent adventure and the classic struggle between good and evil. An animated film–aiming to indelibly link the property to Valentine’s Day in consumer consciousness–is also in the works.

Concept: Centuries-old Pandora and Plato are the last-living members of the strawberry bird species, whose tears hold magical powers–a tear of sadness from a strawberry bird can cast a spell, but a tear of happiness will break it instantly. Child-hating villain Marilyn and her two fame-craving sons try to keep Pandora and Plato apart and steal their tears in order to fulfill their dreams.

Demo: Two to eight

Domestic licensees: Audio Visual Enterprises (video/DVD), Kedros (publishing), Minoas (publishing), The Coca-Cola Company Hellas (juice promo), Delta Ice Cream, Hallmark (cards/posters), Goody’s (QSR), G.I.M. (back-to-school products), Rammer (apparel), Thera (socks), Mouger (footwear), Pilopoiia (hats), Athanasiou (umbrellas), Mikka (puzzles), La Follie (accessories), P. Kostopoulous Sons (dinnerware/infant feeding accessories), Interlearn Manufacture (CD-ROM)

International categories open: All–the U.S. program will focus on TV, video/DVD, publishing, toys & games, stationery, apparel, accessories, domestics, food & beverage, gifts & novelties, health & beauty, home furnishings, housewares and infant/juvenile products.

International territories of interest: All other European countries, the Balkans, Australia and Asia

At-A-Glance Tempurature Read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (33%), good (17%), fair (17%) poor (33%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: yes (33%), no (67%)

Would respondents consider adding Pandora & Plato to portfolios: yes (50%), no (50%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Felbin Soto, licensing manager for ABS-CBN Consumer Products in the Philippines–children’s apparel and personal care products

Robert Solomon, chairman and CEO of Applause–plush, puppets, figurines, stationery and play sets

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 13 (33.3%), 26 (33.3%), 50-plus (33.3%)

Desired time of day series should air: early-morning block (50%), mid-morning block (25%), after-school block (25%)

Desired timing for licensing launch (in relation to series launch): in conjunction with (33%), three to six months after (67%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: specialty (17%), mass (83%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

As a European property attempting U.S. crossover, Plato & Pandora received a lot of attention from U.S. panelists, ranking second to Ted’s Bed in terms of commentary volume. While respondents were divided on the property’s chances of success in the U.S. market, most agreed that daily national TV carriage and a strong merch presence in video games and publishing are non-negotiable conditions.

‘This is not a concept that can live in product before media,’ says Action Products International CEO Ron Kaplan. ‘The property will need to benefit from consumer awareness via exposure of its core content through media and publishing.’ Applause CEO and chairman Robert Solomon concurs, noting that since Plato & Pandora is character-driven, success depends upon the development of character personalities and attributes in video, publishing and electronics initially. Yet while Kaplan thinks the story line seems overly conceptual, Solomon claims ‘the property hits on several of the emotions and characteristics we look for under the Applause brand–love, magic, happiness, sadness, adventure and uniqueness.’

Looking beyond the U.S. market to other international territories, it seems that success hinges almost entirely upon TV placement and a high cycle of eps. In the Philippines, for example, Plato & Pandora’s current supply of 26 half hours wouldn’t cut it, since market realities necessitate three-times-weekly or daily carriage for TV properties to sustain a licensing campaign for one year. What’s more, ‘the market’s viewing habits indicate that reruns tend to limit a property’s licensed potential,’ says Felbin Soto, licensing manager for the consumer products arm of Filipino broadcaster ABS-CBN. On the upside, Soto notes that a substantial market need for new kids properties currently exists in the Philippines.

Tony Hawk’s Feasters

Licensor: Mainframe Entertainment

Territory of origin: Canada

Description: Presented to international buyers at this month’s MIP-TV market in Cannes, Tony Hawk’s Feasters (26 x 30 minutes) is a 3-D animated action sports series featuring a toon version of popular pro skateboarder Tony Hawk. The series is slated for broadcast in fall 2003 (broadcasters TBD).

Concept: The Feasters are an eclectic bunch of young skaters, who–beneath the scabs and stench of sweaty skate pads–are actually pretty nice kids. Every minute that they aren’t sleeping or at school, the Feasters can be found at Tony Hawk’s skateboard park The Oasis.

Demo: Six to 11

Domestic and international categories open: All–programs will initially focus on interactive, toys, apparel and video.

International territories of interest: North America, the U.K., Australia/New Zealand, France and French-speaking territories, Germany and German-speaking territories, Asia, Italy, Spain and Spanish-speaking territories, Portugal and Portuguese-speaking territories

At-A-Glance Tempurature Read

Overall licensed potential in respondents’ product categories: very good (50%), good (50%)

Similar property already in respondents’ portfolios: no (100%)

Would respondents consider adding Tony Hawk’s Feasters to portfolios: yes (75%), no (25%)

Product respondents would create as hypothetical licensees:

Carlos Herrera, licensing director at Grupo Lorena–candies

Felbin Soto, licensing manager for ABS-CBN Consumer Products–apparel and novelty items

Desired minimum number of eps sold/commissioned: 13 (33.3%), 26 (33.3%), 50-plus (33.3%)

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

Desired timing for licensing launch (in relation to series launch): three to six weeks before (33.3%), in conjunction with (33.3%), three to six weeks after (33.3%)

Desired retail channel for merch launch: specialty (25%), mid-tier (25%), mass (50%)

Expected royalty range: 8% to 12%

While KidScreen prompted a pre-show rumination on the licensing future of extreme sports (See ‘Despite a fingertoy tumble, extreme sports gear and games are still prospering,’ page 80), U.S. panelists weighed in on the issue by predicting a U.S. success story for Mainframe series Tony Hawk’s Feasters. Pointing to pro skater Hawk’s kid cachet and pervasive video game presence, respondents ultimately determined that young boys would embrace a licensing program driven by series-based video games, apparel and novelties.

As a hypothetical licensee, Applause chairman and CEO Robert Solomon says his company would launch Tony Hawk’s Feasters with a grouping of PVC figurines, pencil toppers, drinkware and other novelties to create collectibility through Applause’s roster of specialty retailers such as Blockbuster, Hot Topic, Musicland, Wherehouse and Spencer Gifts. ‘Youth today are looking for relatable heroes to follow,’ says Solomon. ‘Tony Hawk’s Feasters should try to fill that niche.’

While the extreme sports category appears to be gaining popularity in international licensing markets, it has yet to achieve global penetration. According to ABS-CBN licensing manager Felbin Soto, skateboarding is still not a common sport in the Philippines, which could limit Tony Hawk’s Feasters’ potential in that territory. Even so, Soto felt the look and feel was strong enough to support an apparel-driven program if the series garners weekly media carriage on a major broadcast platform.

While extreme sports has been embraced in Mexico, the property’s chances for success there hinge on securing a strong local agent and a broadcast deal with one of the country’s two pubcasters–Televisa or TV Azteca–or with leading toon channel Cartoon Network, says Carlos Herrera, licensing director for agent Grupo Lorena.

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