So much for taking a year off. The prospect of leading Super RTL’s consumer products efforts as head of merchandising proved to be too tempting for John Morris, who initially intended to travel and take a bit of an employment breather after leaving his senior VP of international home entertainment position at HIT Entertainment in October 2002. So what wooed him right back into the kids entertainment business at the end of March? ‘The management team was high on my list,’ says Morris, who worked with the Super RTL crew on properties like Bob the Builder while at HIT. ‘They’ve got a great strategy that’s very well worked-out, and they’re capable of doing it.’
Since launching its consumer products division two years ago, Super RTL has stepped into the role of licensing agent for many of the strong preschool and tween properties on its airwaves, including Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Blue’s Clues and Decode’s Angela Anaconda. Because it can cost-effectively support merch programs via TV advertising and its TOGGO touring show, Super RTL presents an attractive integrated package to licensees and retailers in the German-speaking territories it works in.
Besides meeting with Super RTL’s many partners and improving his ‘school German,’ Morris is working on launching a home entertainment label called TOGGO Production this fall. The plan calls for the unit to team up with German video distributors to produce and market vids based on Super RTL’s licensed properties, starting with Tiny Planets.
Morris has also started to explore new business opportunities for Super RTL properties in the realm of food licensing, a top category in the U.K. and the U.S. that remains virtually untapped in Germany. He finds the country’s kids licensing market to be a bit less developed in other ways too. ‘Germany has a strong tradition of producing high-quality kids toys that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years,’ he says, which makes German licensees seem a bit more conservative that their British and North American counterparts. But he adds that this tradition jibes with the fact that 80% of mothers don’t work, so their constant presence in the home means they wield a much bigger influence on kids’ entertainment choices than in a lot of other countries. ‘It’s simply the nature of the environment we’re working in.’