Judging by the market heat for merch based on Fox’s reborn TV series Family Guy and quirky breakout movie hit Napoleon Dynamite, it looks like Elie Dekel picked the right time and place to make his move back into the consumer products biz after a stint at talent agency CAA.
As the new executive VP of licensing and merchandising for Fox’s consumer products division, Dekel is working on retooling the organization following the May departures of both Peter Byrne (executive VP) and Jennifer Robinson (VP of domestic sales and worldwide publishing).
To address the gaps and grow Fox’s domestic consumer products business, Dekel plans to recruit additional retail development and marketing staff to forge more strategic partnerships and direct-to-retail deals with all tiers of U.S. retail in the coming months.
On the international front, expect to see Fox L&M expand its activities in markets where Fox theatrical releases and parent company News Corp have a presence, including hot spots such as China and India.
Additionally, Fox has given Dekel a mandate to leverage assets from the theatrical, web, home entertainment, TV and mobile divisions in order to create new platforms for exposure and to fuel cross-promotional and marketing efforts. Notably, Fox Television has just hired ex-Universalite Mark Pearson as senior VP of brand and franchise management, and he’ll be collaborating with other divisions on these kinds of broad-reaching business opportunities.
But don’t expect Dekel to abandon traditional theatrical licensing programs entirely in favor of promotional marketing, a path several big studios are taking. While he understands the motivation behind these moves – ‘By their nature, most feature films come into the market loudly, and with few exceptions, leave quickly,’ he notes – Dekel maintains that the promo model won’t fit every property. And it’s particularly unsuitable for those based on established brands or franchises, which can have a longer life at retail.
Dekel expects to take a blended approach. For example, a broad international merch program for Ice Age 2: The Meltdown will take advantage of consumer awareness that’s evidenced by strong video sales for the first movie. But on the other hand, licensing plans for newcomer Eragon (in theaters next summer) include a small, focused program designed to expand if the film takes off and spawns a franchise.