Licensing agencies that have exceeded their budgets in the last two economically challenged quarters are rare right now, and CPLG CEO Katarina Dietrich surprised those in attendance at the ICCON Creative Fair, held in Seoul, South Korea this past September, with the admission that her company had done just that. So how is the division of Toronto, Canada’s Cookie Jar Entertainment staying ahead of the pack?
‘We have adapted with the support and approval of licensors,’ says Dietrich, adding, ‘We also had to be more flexible in terms of minimum guarantees.’ She went on to comment that if all other deal terms were acceptable, the company would look at a more back-ended structure in its deals. The result was that the company, which has a global reach of eight offices stretching across Europe, Asia and North America, was able to absorb some of the economic fallout, particularly in territories hardest hit by the global slowdown, like Southern Europe.
And beyond relying on perennial properties like Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake to see it through, CPLG also made shrewd decisions on the film front. ‘Truthfully, I think we had a great year because of Fox’s Ice Age 3,’ says Dietrich. ‘As well as it did at the box office [it's grossed US$878 million globally], it did that well in licensing. It was great for promotions, and the quality of the movie – the humor of it – really drove sales.’
Dietrich also points to CPLG’s concentration on the apparel category as being yet another key factor in its success over the past year. While toy-related categories have taken a major hit, apparel has held its ground in most territories. According to Dietrich, apparel royalties now account for between 25% and 40% of the company’s revenues, depending on the region.
‘Apparel is something retailers are most open to in terms of licensed products. Toy retail has diminished, and with the Woolworth’s fallout, that [decline] became more pronounced. Apparel is still moving, though.’
Of course, no company can rest on its laurels. Dietrich and CPLG currently have an eye fixed on spotting up-and-coming IPs to fuel the business over the next five years. ‘Right now I’m looking for licenses that might be workable for us in 2012 and 2013,’ she says. ‘I have to say that there is a more positive feeling coming out of MIPCOM. There are more new properties, certainly more than there were the year before.’