Mind the US$46.5-billion gap

In the wake of Licensing Show—and Comcast's DreamWorks acquisition—Kidscreen editor Lana Castleman ponders what catching up to Disney Consumer Products really entails.
June 27, 2016

In the wake of Comcast’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation, a lot of Wall Street analysts breathlessly declared that the deal made a lot of sense—especially for Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal.

In Kidscreen‘s own coverage, Standard & Poor’s analyst Tuna Amobi stated, “It fills a gap in [NBCU’s] portfolio, specifically as it relates to theme parks and consumer products—areas where it has lagged behind Disney.” Let’s face it—every licensor in the field of entertainment licensing lags behind Disney. In fact, lag does not even begin to describe the US$46.5-billion crevasse between Disney Consumer Products’ annual global retail sales and those of its nearest entertainment-led competitor.

Yep, according to License Global’s most recent edition of its 150 Top Global Licensors ranking, sales of licensed Disney goods generate US$52.5 billion at global retail annually, while number-two in entertainment licensing, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, sits at US$6 billion. NBCU, as noted on the list, counted US$4.5 billion in global retail sales, and its soon-to-be family member DreamWorks Animation racked up US$3.3 billion for the same period. Combined, the pair will vault to the position of second-largest entertainment licensor in the biz with US$7.8 billion in annual retail sales right out of the gate.

So it’s another understatement to say NBCU/DWA has some more work to do to even begin approaching the rarified climes inhabited by Disney Consumer Products. That said, I think NBCU has a much bigger plan in the works than what it has officially articulated—at least when it comes to kids and family properties.

Let’s go all the way back to September 2014. NBCU made moves to set up the division now known as Universal Brand Development (UBD) when it hired ex-Disney Consumer Products veteran Vince Klaseus to lead the venture as president.

Then, just a little more than a year later, UBD announced its first high-profile hire for (and the formation of) Universal Kids Productions, naming ex-Nickelodeon Preschool veteran Teri Weiss as SVP and putting her in charge of developing content based on existing NBCU properties and hatching new ones. And just this spring, UBD put the call out for an EVP (who had not been named at press time) to head up Kids & Family TV and oversee the commercial aspects of its kids and family productions.

To date, UBD has been very quiet about its plans for its new kids and family content and consumer products operations, but needless to say there are a lot of gems in the NBCU portfolio that would be perfect for kids TV.

Take consumer products smash hit Minions. The property has no TV series, but I suspect it might in short order, especially if UBD intends to tear a page from the Disney playbook and turn Minions into a truly evergreen IP. There’s also Jurassic Park, which almost incredibly has never had an animated series. Rumor has it that there was one in the works years ago, but I can only hazard to guess that the oversight will be rectified in the next few years.

So when you start assessing the UBD portfolio with an eye to further exploiting existing NBCU properties, and combine them with DWA’s roster, it’s almost possible to envision the consumer products chasm between NBCU and Disney starting to close, maybe one Minion at a time. We’ll see if I’m right.

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