It’s no surprise that BBC Worldwide made the list for a second year in a row, having witnessed a 17% increase in profit over the previous 12 months, with revenues spiking 13% to a cool US$1.8 billion. Its popular In the Night Garden licensing program continued gaining traction, and four INTG products from master toy partner Hasbro were enjoying their status on the UK top-20 bestseller list at year’s end. But BBCW hasn’t stopped there. The kids division, renamed Children’s and Licensing, is in the midst of a restructure under the direction of new MD Neil Ross Russell. He’ll have plenty to work with as Little Airplane’s 3rd & Bird! and Harry & Toto from Handle & Spout are on deck. BBCW is also on a roll internationally as sales outside the UK shot up by 56%. www.bbcworldwide.com
Cartoon Network Enterprises
CNE has had a breakthrough year, thanks to the growing success of Ben 10 (left) on the licensing and merchandising front. It’s the licensing arm’s first boys action property, and it’s made some real noise internationally in the last 12 months, cracking NPD’s top-five toy licenses list in the UK and bringing its licensee roster up to 30 in the territory.
CNE also got into third-party distribution in February and wisely snapped up worldwide licensing rights outside of Canada to Spin Master/Nelvana Enterprises/Sega Entertainment’s Bakugan. Spin Master’s related Bakugan Battle Brawlers toy line is on track to do US$100 million at retail this year. Secondary product just rolled out, and CNE is planning a second merch wave for spring 2009. Meanwhile, CNE’s tough and doe-eyed female superheroes The Powerpuff Girls celebrated their 10th anniversary with commemorative merch on tap to launch in Asia-Pacific, Japan, India and select European territories. www.cartoonnetwork.com
It’s been a fine year for Chapman Entertainment, thanks to the widespread success of its preschool powerhouses Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car. Roary zoomed 155% above forecasts in apparel sales this past Q2, and Fifi apparel was up 53% from the same quarter last year. Both properties continue to attract licensees. More than 22 million units of product across all Fifi categories have sold through, while Roary has kept pace, moving 1.4 million toys for UK master toy partner Vivid Imaginations. Licensing rep HIT Entertainment has been busily inking deals to round out the Fifi program in the US, Canada and Japan, while Haven Licensing launched Roary toys and DVDs Down Under this past fall. www.www.chapmanentertainment.co.uk
Since creating Chorion Brand Partners to drive growth in brand promotions earlier this year, the licensor wasted no time in signing a deal with British Airways to make its 50-year-old Paddington Bear character the face of the airline’s children’s travel packs. The company has also been rapidly expanding its international presence, tapping Exim Licensing Group to rep Mr. Men & Little Miss in Latin America, the Caribbean and Hispanic Puerto Rico, and appointing Gorian Consumer Products for Noddy in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Its strength with publishing properties held up when one of its newer additions, the Princess Poppy series, hit the one-million unit sales mark in the UK. Discussions for an L&M program for a Q4 2009 launch are already underway. With expanded publishing programs for Mr. Men & Little Miss with Penguin Young Readers Group and Egmont UK inked this year, Noddy’s 60th anniversary and a burgeoning program for Olivia, Chorion is well on its way to raising the bar further in 2009. www.chorion.co.uk
Now under the leadership of CEO and president Jeff Dunn, HIT continues to exercise its role as a leading licensor by getting into the third-party rep game in the US, rolling out a program for Fifi and the Flowertots and a tween-targeted merch strategy for Aardman Animations’ Shaun the Sheep. As for its own stable of evergreens, HIT is moving full steam ahead with plans for Thomas the Tank Engine’s 65th anniversary next year, having launched a new global program for the untapped infant demo with a softer look and subtle branding this past fall. And according to industry researcher The NPD Group, Thomas is now the number-one preschool property in its native UK. Meanwhile, Bob the Builder is approaching an anniversary of his own, turning 10 next year, and HIT has kicked off the celebration with a new album and DVD. www.hitentertainment.com