Sustaining a slate of mega-properties over years, if not decades, is the stated goal for Robert Marick, the recently named EVP of licensing and merchandising at Twentieth Century Fox. The former Disney exec and VP of sales and marketing at Time Warner has been tasked with fashioning a whole new philosophy for one of the globe’s biggest IP players.
‘The point of difference is how we handle the licensing,’ says Marick from his L.A. office. ‘We are looking at properties not just as a seasonal window of their theatrical release, but in the long-term. We want to keep them top-of-mind for years.’
Marick’s first order of business was to restructure Fox L&M’s internal operations by setting up
specific teams to handle retail, franchises and licensing categories. The franchise team is in place to identify TV or movie IPs with legs as they crop up, while the retail team focuses on liaising with retail partners and evaluating promotional and exclusive deals. The category team is being staffed with execs specializing in key licensed-product categories.
‘We didn’t have a retail team,’ says Marick, adding that Fox is currently in the process of setting up the internal mechanisms and adding staff that will serve his broader strategy.
On the property side, Marick has identified four kid-centric tentpole IPs to serve as the initial subjects of his new longer-term strategy. He’s planning to make Ice Age, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Rio – based on the 2011 CGI film from Ice Age creators Blue Sky Studios – go the distance.
‘Previously we had limited our support to the launch of the film and the DVD,’ says Marick. ‘We are being much more strategic about how we roll out properties now.’ He notes that the three-pronged approach will hinge on ‘introducing, building and sustaining’ programs over a period of three to five years at retail. ‘The first season will have its drivers, the second season we will expand upon that, and then in the third we will be adding new categories and new twists on old ones,’ he says.
The move, to an extent, is a reaction to retailers that have become more risk-averse and have tightened shelf space over the past six or seven years – they want to be sure they’re investing their resources in a sustainable business. ‘Retailers are taking a very selective approach to what properties they are going to support,’ says Marick. ‘So it becomes our responsibility to bring them a comprehensive plan.’
The changes will also be felt by licensees and potential licensees who partner with Fox. ‘Things are going to work differently because we are going to partner stronger, earlier and ongoing,’ he says. ‘We are looking for partners who will be with us for the long haul. We will want to see how their plans and product are going to evolve and change in terms of seasonality, price-point and new products.’
Rio is the first wholly new IP to be shaped by Marick’s vision. The stereoscopic 3-D CGI film is aiming for broad appeal and tells the story of a rare bird who travels from his native Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro to find his avian soulmate, Jewel. Promising relatable characters, humor, vibrant colors, world music and a generous serving of dance, Fox believes it has all the earmarks of a perennial franchise and is lining up licensees sold on the long-term approach.
‘We are going to have the entire gamut – toys and games, video games, accessories, home décor, party goods, publishing,’ says Marick, adding that the specific rollout timetable is still being worked out. ‘Our goal is to bring it all together and make it an event at retail.’