KidScreen‘s put a licensing twist on its popular broadcaster pitch guide in an effort to connect hopeful property owners with some of the most influential kids product licensees in the US. Read on and find out what in-bound licensing execs are looking for over the next 18 months.
Adam Beder, VP of Global Licensing, Spin Master
What’s in the portfolio now: Yo Gabba Gabba!, Olivia, Bakugan
Looking to pick up:We don’t take a portfolio approach to acquisitions. We only want to partner on projects and properties we love within any segment. We look for quality, uniqueness and the sticky wow factor, along with characters that break through, reach children’s hearts and inspire and expand children’s imaginations, and properties that make children smile, laugh or fulfill a fantasy.
Preferred approach: Visual materials are preferred for the initial pitch. Please contact Kristin Andersons (416-364-6002 x410) before sending.Market circuit: Toy Fairs, Licensing Show, MIPCOM, KidScreen Summit
Emily Brenner, VP and Publishing Director, HarperCollins Children’s Books Festival Division
What’s in the portfolio now: Fancy Nancy, Transformers and Spider-Man are all performing very well for us right now. There is solid licensing support in other categories, which I know helps keep the licenses front-and-center in the consumer’s mind. Another great new performer is Marley, which originated as a bestselling book on the trade side, but has been a great success on the kids side as well.
Looking to pick up: Our portfolio is pretty complete, so we’re not looking to fill any holes at this point. And because we are limiting our licensing going forward, we are only looking for strong preschool character-driven properties.
Preferred approach: I like to review materials before meeting with a licensor in person. This saves time as many of the licenses I’m pitched are not necessarily appropriate for publishing. Once I am interested, I usually set up a face-to-face meeting to discuss the license. Send a hard copy of a Power Point or other presentation materials via mail to my office (10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022). Keep in mind that we don’t publish licenses that aren’t already very successful in some other arena. If there isn’t a feature film distribution deal, a successful toy line or a TV deal already signed up, we probably won’t be interested.
Market circuit: Gift Show, Licensing Show, Book Expo America, Toy Fair
Kim Cauley, VP of Licensing, Freeze
What’s in the portfolio now: Our newest acquisition is Marvel and we have been granted rights for all Marvel Classic Characters, the new Super Hero Squad animated series and the next four movies – Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and The Avengers. In addition, we are lucky to have several properties that haven’t run out of steam despite the number of years we have been shipping them to the marketplace. Notable mentions include SpongeBob SquarePants,
Star Wars/Clone Wars, Ben 10, Mr. Men and Little Miss, Peanuts and Disney.
Looking to pick up: We are looking to increase our video game licenses for boys and men’s categories and are keeping an eye out for the next tween girl properties. We are also excited about the initial sell-in for iCarly, but are still keeping a close eye on emerging properties/brands for this lucrative demo. Due to the fact that we cover kids and adults and sell to every channel of distribution, we are open to taking a look at EVERYTHING – movies (old and new), TV series (old and new), book properties, art brands, music-related, traditional game and video game brands.
Preferred approach: We have relationships with all the major studios. When one has a new movie or TV series on the horizon, it is usually shared electronically and then the deal is closed over the phone. For those more unique/niche properties that may require more of a ‘sell’ to retailers, a face-to-face meeting is encouraged and welcome. I handle all new acquisitions (email@example.com or 212-764-9011 x 221).
Market circuit: We exhibit at Magic bi-annually and LA Market in April and October, plus attend Licensing Show and Comic-Con.
Stan Clutton, SVP of Licensing & New Business, Fisher-Price
What’s in the portfolio now: Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street and Handy Manny are some of the biggest licenses we have.
Looking to pick up: We don’t have a specific hole that needs filling, but are always looking for shows that have toyetic elements, aspirational characters and well-written storylines. Educational elements are often a plus. There are lots of good ideas out there and we are open to taking a look as soon as a series has lined up broadcasters in some of the larger markets.
Preferred approach: We like to get involved early on and then be kept up to date as things progress. A call or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) will get things going. The more material the better, including character descriptions, story outlines, scripts, show bible, pilot episode, etc.
Market circuit: Licensing Show, ABC Show, Brand Licensing, MIPCOM, UK Toy Show, Nuremberg Toy Fair, KidScreen Summit, Toy Fair
Jeffrey Fisher, EVP, F.A.B. Starpoint
What’s in the portfolio now: There is a mixture of solid entertainment-driven properties from Disney, Nickelodeon and Hasbro. From Disney we have Princess, Tinker Bell, Cars and tween properties like Jonas Brothers, Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana. SpongeBob and Dora continue to be strong and Transformers is doing very well. Marvel properties remain consistently strong, and new and emerging brands like Project Runway and Paul Frank are making significant inroads.
Looking to pick up: We are looking at more long-term lifestyle brands to serve older consumer niches, as well as ensuring we have the strongest portfolio of core girls and boys properties for kids ages four to eight. We are currently speaking to a number of non-traditional companies to bring a new sensibility to the boys market via gaming and extreme sports as well as exploring core teen brands.
Preferred approach: We have a simple formula of what we call ‘connecting the dots.’ We need to ensure that a licensor has a strong and well-positioned marketing and creative plan, has strategically identified why their brand makes sense to the market and to F.A.B. and can show us that there is retail interest. Without retail support, we won’t buy into the brand as quickly. As such, I do not mind receiving an email pitch (email@example.com). But setting up a face-to-face meeting is essential, as the working relationship is as important as the brand.
Market circuit: We travel to shows internationally to stay on top of all global trends and brand and license opportunities. For example, we attend Magic, Licensing Show, Stationery Show, Ambiente, Bread and Butter and Paper World.
Valerie Garfield, VP & Publisher of Novelty and Licensed Publishing, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
What’s in the portfolio now: We’re lucky to have a strong core of preschool licenses right now, including Dora and Yo Gabba Gabba!, and are excited about the upcoming book launches of Ni Hao, Kai-lan and Olivia later this year. We also have some fantastic movie tie-ins coming up based on G.I. JOE and Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs.
Looking to pick up: We’re always looking for strong licenses that can be developed into great stories. There are a lot of great brands, but sometimes those don’t necessarily translate to books. With the tough retail market right now, we’re particularly looking for partners who can work with us to develop brands and retail opportunities.
Preferred approach: We prefer a written pitch. Email is fine as long as – and it’s a pet peeve of mine – it doesn’t come with a very large attachment (those crash our inboxes). A written pitch gives us an opportunity to review the proposal, gather some ideas and questions, and allows us to bring in the right people to review it. We have different editors, for instance, who work on preschool and young adult brands. Having something in-hand allows us to make sure the right people are in the room for our in-house discussions. If the brand seems viable
to us then we’ll reach out to the licensor for a conversation. All initial brand pitches should come through Alyson Grubard, S&S director of brand management (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Market circuit: We attend the major shows, including Licensing Show, Book Expo America, MIPCOM, KidScreen Summit and Toy Fair.
Toys & Games
Cathy Meredith, SVP of licensing, Hasbro
What’s in the portfolio now: We have Disney, The Simpsons and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? for games, Marvel and Star Wars for toys and games, and Sesame Street for jigsaw puzzles, to name a few.
Looking to pick up: Looking at everything is my job. I look at what is coming and what is available and then I take it to the appropriate Hasbro group. We want to be sure that we have the opportunity to take the best of what is out there. We look at a lot of preschool properties because there are a lot of good ones available, and are always looking for the next hot game show. We had a terrific run with 5th Grader and are still selling those games. We have had great success with Hannah Montana and High School Musical products too, and are always looking to fill that void with girls and tweens; they are pretty high on our list.
Preferred approach: Obviously the best way to be pitched is to sit down with someone and have a face-to-face meeting, but that’s not always possible. We do look at anything that might come our way through the mail or email. If we think it’s worthwhile, we’ll then set up a face-to-face meeting. Email (email@example.com) seems to be the best way to get in touch initially.
Market circuit: Licensing Show, Toy Fair
Jennifer Richmond, SVP of Licensing and Media, Jakks Pacific
What’s in the portfolio now: We have many licenses to be excited about in terms of their potential across various categories. Some of these include Hello Kitty, Disney Fairies, Disney Princess, Cabbage Patch Kids, UFC, TNA, NASCAR and Discovery Kids.
Looking to pick up: We are always on the lookout for standout properties in any of the categories that JAKKS makes products… girls and boys toys and dress-up/role-play, pets, stationery, costumes, kids furniture and interactive.
Preferred approach: I like to be given a brief description via email or phone and then follow up with an in-person presentation. Initial contact should be made through the licensing group’s assistant, Tami Keaton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Market circuit: Toy Fair, Licensing Show, Comic-Con, Halloween Show
Lynn Smith, Director of Licensed Publishing, Scholastic
What’s in the portfolio now: Right now we are having major success with our boy brands: Bakugan, Ben 10 and Pokémon, as well as one of the hottest preschool licenses, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!
Looking to pick up: We are about to launch books for two new hot tween girl properties and are looking at a few new preschool shows. We would also like to see more for the four- to six-year-old age range and Scholastic is looking to acquire brands that have staying power in the marketplace, as well as complement our current portfolio. With the school market channel, we are able to reach kids, parents and teachers in a way that no other publisher can. Our licensed publishing division looks for great shows, movies and brands that can easily translate into books, but we also value great partnerships with licensors and their other licensees. I am always looking for the next big movie for kids, familes and tweens. In the past, Scholastic has had success publishing against a variety of films, from big features like Harry Potter and Shrek 2 to smaller ones like Firehouse Dog and Nim’s Island.
Preferred approach: I like to hear about the brand, target age group for the property, other licensees, marketing, available assets, and the plans the licensor has for the brand beyond year one during a pitch. I also like to know why a licensor believes books are appropriate for their property. Anyone interested in pitching Scholastic should send an email to me (email@example.com) with information on the property. The email or follow-up package should include artwork/design, a DVD if necessary, and a packet or one-sheet about the brand (synopsis, characters, other licensee partners, broadcast partners, launch dates, etc.).
Market circuit: Licensing Show, Book Expo America, KidScreen Summit, Toy Fair
Holly Stein, VP of Licensing Acquisitions, Mattel
What’s in the portfolio now: All of the acquired licenses in our portfolio are strong and complement one another. We focus on the right mix of licenses to balance our portfolio and partner with best-in-class licensors for best-in-class properties. For 2009 we’re particularly excited about some of the new additions to our portfolio such as Toy Story (1 & 2), Wizards of Waverly Place, The Princess and the Frog, Secret Saturdays, the Indy Racing League and James Cameron’s Avatar, as well as all of the evergreen licenses we continue to grow year over year.
Looking to pick up: We’re always open to evaluating strong properties for our girls, boys and games portfolios. For 2010 we have some exceptional new additions to our licensed roster, including WWE and Toy Story 3, and we’re already starting to look at properties for 2011 – particularly those that are aspirational, toyetic and provide an emotional connection to kids and collectors. We’ll look more seriously at properties that have a strong platform for content delivery and are well-supported by licensors.
Preferred approach: After we initially review the property and determine that the materials are a good fit to our portfolio strategy, we find it’s most effective to set up a presentation where relevant stakeholders from our marketing and design teams can also attend and become part of the evaluation process. Mattel has a formal submission policy for unsolicited third-party properties. An email to our department coordinator, Ken Van Fossen (firstname.lastname@example.org), will get the process underway.
Market circuit: Licensing International, Brand Licensing, MIPCOM, KidScreen Summit, Toy Fair
Careen Yapp, VP of Licensing and Business Development, Konami Digital Entertainment
What’s in the portfolio now: Ben 10, American Idol, Disney brands and Yu-Gi-Oh!
Looking to pick up: Konami is looking to license strong brands for games on console, handheld, online, console downloadable and mobile platforms. As a result, we are continually looking for new brands that target any and all demographics. Entertainment properties that are successful in other media/categories or new entertainment properties that have significant licensor marketing, promotion and consumer product support at launch are of interest.
Preferred approach: I prefer to schedule a meeting for a conference call or in person via email (email@example.com). Presentation materials should include specific information that shows the strength of the brand/launch in each of the major territories.
Market circuit: MAGIC, Licensing Show, E3, Comic-Con, NY Comic-Con, Fall Toy Preview, CES, Brand Licensing, London and Nuremberg Toy Fairs