IT is no secret that university and professional sports teams hold a particular fascination for their fans in the U.S. In fact, according to LIMA’s 2006 Licensing Industry Survey, sports and collegiate licenses generated approximately US$1 billion in royalty revenues from related merchandise sold last year.
And Houston, Texas-based entrepreneur Greg Scheinman bet those loyal fans would provide a market for a kids DVD series that aims to instil team pride before kids are even old enough to verbalize it. Using real infants to teach those watching at home the fight songs of their parents’ favourite team, the DVDs caught the attention of ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner earlier this year, and Team Baby Entertainment has been on the expansion trail since.
Scheinman launched the company in January 2005 and shipped the first 35-minute DVDs to various retail outlets across the U.S. that April. Team Baby’s initial roll out included 20 DVDs such as Baby Gator for University of Florida devotees and Baby Badger for University of Wisconsin fans. Although as a private company Team Baby does not release any sales figures, Scheinman says unit sales exceeded expectations.
‘It’s safe to say initial sales have been larger than the crowd at the big house for a Michigan vs. Notre Dame game,’ he says. For non-college football fans that translates to more than 100,000.
Scheinman ended up selling his interest in the company in June to Eisner’s private investment firm The Tornante Company (the terms of the deal were not publicly released). While retaining his position as CEO of Team Baby, Scheinman knew that the new ownership would give the company favorable field position.
‘I’m thrilled that it struck a chord with him,’ he says of Eisner. ‘With his assets and resources and contacts and his ability, it will help me grow this company faster and ideally smarter than I could have on my own.’
After years in the TV and film business in New York and L.A., Scheinman found this hole in the DVD market while searching in vain for a way to pass on his love of his alma mater’s team the Michigan Wolverines to his infant son.
‘I was watching a lot of the DVDs he was being exposed to and none of them were sports-related,’ he says.
This seed of an idea led to negotiations with the University of Texas Longhorns to incorporate the team, its logos, colors and theme song, into the first preschool-targeted DVD. The production took cues from other popular baby DVDs such as Baby Einstein and emphasized the values of teamwork, basic mathematics, shapes and colors. Subsequent videos in the series have followed the format.
Eisner’s involvement has seriously stepped up the company’s output. In July, Team Baby announced deals with NASCAR, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. The strategy is to roll out one NASCAR national release on November 1 and then follow with products based on popular race car drivers. Also in November, Team Baby is expecting to release a Major League Baseball national division DVD featuring all 30 teams to be followed by specific team releases such as Baby Yankees and Baby Dodgers.
On top of the already hectic production slate, consumers can expect to see a couple of NBA titles out before Christmas. And Scheinman is plotting his next move, with an eye to securing the licenses for National Hockey League franchises and, perhaps, professional international soccer teams down the road.
Scheinman says he’s thrilled to bring his passion to the newest generation, especially at a time when professional sports is suffering from a spate of bad publicity.
‘A product like this is raising the next generation of fans and doing it in the most positive manner,’ he says. GR