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WWW.TVKIDS.WS OCTOBER 2018
BRAND LICENSING EUROPE SPECIAL REPORT
L&M Strategies / Scholasticâ€™s Caitlin Friedman
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Toys from TV Online retailer Amazon recently released a list comprising the top 100 toys and games for this year’s holiday season. Not surprisingly, many are based on properties from the world of kids’ television.
Ricardo Seguin Guise Publisher Anna Carugati Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani Editor Kristin Brzoznowski Executive Editor Joanna Padovano Tong Managing Editor Sara Alessi Associate Editor Victor L. Cuevas Production & Design Director Phyllis Q. Busell Art Director Simon Weaver Online Director Dana Mattison Senior Sales & Marketing Manager Nathalia Lopez Sales & Marketing Coordinator Andrea Moreno Business Affairs Manager
Ricardo Seguin Guise President Anna Carugati Executive VP Mansha Daswani Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Kids © 2018 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website: www.tvkids.ws
Included in the top 25 is the Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck inspired by Nickelodeon’s hit animated series PAW Patrol, which follows the adventures of a group of heroic pups. The truck comes with an extendable two-foot-tall ladder as well as water cannon launchers— how fun! (I wonder if it’s socially acceptable for a 31year-old to play with this toy? I mean, the product description does say that it’s intended for ages 3 and up!) Also on Amazon’s list are various items tied to such TV shows as Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street, Entertainment One Family & Brands’ PJ Masks and SUNRIGHTS’ Beyblade Burst Evolution. This list helps confirm that youngsters around the world continue to enjoy merchandise featuring their favorite characters from the small screen and beyond. Kids want to play with a doll that looks like one of the magical creatures from the Studio 100 Media and m4e show Mia and me, hug a stuffed animal based on Mercis’s Miffy or put together a puzzle featuring characters from the action-packed R obot Trains, which is represented by both CJ ENM and Mondo TV. The variety of plush, plastic and powered toys inspired by television brands is enough to make you appreciate the comparative simplicity of cats. You can spend money like there’s no tomorrow on playthings for them, but they’re usually more intrigued by the packaging than the actual products. Children, however, are a bit more challenging to entertain since they are less interested in hopping in and out of boxes and bags. Instead, they want engaging merchandise that they can rip out of boxes and bags. That’s where Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) comes in. In the lead-up to BLE 2018, this issue of TV Kids includes an article in which rights owners share their thoughts on the strategies needed to catch the attention of licensees and retailers with products that children will fall in love with. We also have an interview with Caitlin Friedman, the VP and general manager of Scholastic Entertainment, who discusses, among other things, licensing and merchandising plans for the reimagined book-based animated series Clifford the Big Red Dog. —Joanna Padovano Tong
FEATURE 4 RETAIL BATTLE Ahead of BLE, rights owners outline the strategies needed to get products onto retail shelves and into consumers’ hands.
12 Scholastic Entertainment’s Caitlin Friedman The VP and general manager of Scholastic Entertainment discusses how Clifford the Big Red Dog has been refreshed for contemporary audiences and reveals what’s in store for the property’s new licensing and merchandising campaign.
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Studio 100 & m4e’s Arthur and the Minimoys.
In the lead-up to BLE, rights owners outline the L&M strategies needed to get products onto retail shelves and into consumers’ hands. By Sara Alessi ids do seem to still be getting what they want these days, even with the shuttering of Toys“R”Us earlier this year. Toy sales reached $18.4 billion in the first half of 2018, up 4 percent over last year across Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.—the 13 international markets tracked by The NPD Group’s Global Toy Market Report. In the U.S. alone, toy sales were up 7 percent to $7.9 billion. And the collectibles market continues to be strong, with global sales increasing by 26 percent. In fact, collectibles now account for 11 percent of dollar sales in the overall toy industry. That’s music to the ears of com-
panies like 4K Media, which manages the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise outside of Asia for parent company Konami Digital Entertainment. Collectibles are high up on consumer wish lists, says Jennifer Coleman, the VP of licensing and marketing at 4K Media. “Offering bespoke and limited-edition collections is something retailers and consumers all around the world are looking for.” Two different Yu-Gi-Oh! collectible ranges—one from Funko and the other from GameStop—recently launched to the mass market. “We’re also excited to be working with the high-end collectible company First 4 Figures, which is going to be doing a beautiful resin statue for Yu-Gi-Oh!,” Coleman continues.
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For 4K, the popularity of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s lead character has been key to its L&M success. Peter Kleinschmidt, the international commercial director of Studio 100 Media and m4e, believes that brands such as Maya the Bee, Mia and me, Arthur and the Minimoys and Wissper also lend themselves so well to toys and other consumer products because they all feature “likable key and secondary characters” that work well for a “wide toy range.” Marie Congé, GO-N International’s head of sales and business development, notes that as both boys and girls Toys is a major category for GO-N International’s preschool property Simon. can relate to the titular character in Simon, the property should be a home run in the Story, the tale of an intelligent, thoughtful and creative fox L&M market. Simon is “an adorable little boy who who in each episode comes up with a new invention, is toylooks like a rabbit, but he also makes mistakes,” just oriented, most obviously through the various inventions and like young viewers, she says. “Kids can see themthe tools used to build them, as well as the memorable charselves in him, and children and parents love him.” acters in the show,” she explains. Kleinschmidt echoes La Macchia, noting that the basis of the licensing and merchandising of Studio 100 and m4e’s brands lies in “continually adding more content to Yet, it’s not just the characters themselves that can strike a the series in the form of new seasons or feature films.” chord with young viewers. For Joseph Kim, head of the Storytelling is also a vital pillar of the L&M strategy for global business team of the animation division at CJ ENM, SUNRIGHTS, which represents the Beyblade franchise. the messaging behind brands also makes them appealing “The very essence of the Beyblade Burst brand sets it up for and can help drive the licensing program. success,” says Natasha Gross, the director of TV sales and “Pucca has been a huge hit in the past across the world, licensing at SUNRIGHTS. “The brand is a continuing rollout and we are rebooting this outstanding brand soon,” Kim of new, relevant stories wrapped around highly collectible says. “With love and passion as themes, Pucca will be toys, all lending themselves to further merchandising appealing to every consumer group, regardless of age or opportunities.” gender.” The same goes for the girls’ property Rainbow Gross adds, “The key to keeping the brand fresh is Ruby, which “delivers the message that children can making sure its television content and merchandise are become anything they want with their passion and dreams.” relatable to today’s young, active consumers from Valentina La Macchia, Mondo TV’s licensing director, also around the world.” Thus, the company is ramping up the believes that the nature of a property and the storylines in a brand’s digital and social media presence. TV show can drive licensing and merchandising. “Invention “We have worked on creating a more robust social experience for the Beyblade Burst brand through our GEN BEY campaign [offering fans new products, sneak peeks, giveaways and more] and new partnerships with WildBrain and BeybladeGeeks for a global YouTube experience and new, original social content,” Gross explains. Once the content message is in place, rights owners must then convince licensees and retailers to support a property. Kleinschmidt notes that the current focus for Studio 100 and m4e is on “signing licensing agents for important markets. Our strategy on new brands is to first get the classic, contentdriven categories in place in order to create awareness and acceptance within the target group.” Food and beverage, home and living, and personal care are top-of-mind at the moment. “Regarding Arthur and the Minimoys and Gormiti, we are still looking for licensing partners in several categories,” he says. For Mondo TV, La Macchia says the goal is to expand its brands’ L&M programs to “any and all territories where our shows are available.” Similarly, CJ ENM’s Kim states that the company is keen to “enter into every available L&M category for all of our
Invention Story is one of Mondo TV’s key properties for BLE this year.
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properties, which includes toys, publishing, apparel, accessories, back-to-school, shoes, housewares, food and beverage, promotions and events.” 4K started working with a new subagent in France in the past year for Yu-Gi-Oh!, Coleman says. “We’re still looking to get further penetration for Yu-Gi-Oh! in Europe, including the U.K.” The company also wants to continue the momentum it has experienced in North America and hopes to expand further in Latin America as well. “We are talking to a couple of agents there, so Latin America is probably going to be our next big push following Europe.” Getting the attention of retailers is never an easy process. It’s one that can be helped along if a property has some level of brand awareness already.
BACK IN STYLE
4K Media is focused on driving the L&M program for Yu-Gi-Oh! across Europe.
“For retailers, the awareness level is one of the most significant factors to building trust in a brand,” Studio 100 and m4e’s Kleinschmidt explains. “Every buyer wants products on shelves with a strong turnaround, and we deliver this from the bottom up to marketing campaigns. To work more closely with retailers, we created the position of retail manager last year. This enables us to focus even more strongly on the needs of every retailer and create tailormade promotions.” It’s also important to work with licensees to ensure that everyone is on the same page as far as where to take the brand and its L&M program. “In general, our licensing department works closely with the production staff in order to produce a TV series that is not just a good production in terms of quality and content, but that can also translate into appropriate merchandise,” explains Mondo TV’s La Macchia. “We back up our merchandising work with strong graphical material and the rich style guide we try to provide every time we work on a new show. Character-based graphics as well as logos, patterns, icons, backgrounds and any materials that can aid in the development of good merchandise are part of this process.” “Finding like-minded partners has always been and continues to be key to our long-term success around the world,” says Mark Teunissen, senior project manager at Mercis, which owns the rights to the classic Miffy property. “We truly relish long-term partnerships and find it very important to grow the business and global footprint together. Our task is to stay extremely focused on what collaborations or other initiatives fit the DNA [of the brand] and will further build on the rich heritage it already enjoys. This not only means finding partners but also sometimes saying no to deals that are commercially very lucrative but not in line with our core values.” Coleman says that 4K Media works with its licensees as much as possible to leverage opportunities in the retail space. And it helps to have partners that are aware of the brand and what fans want. “The partners that we’re working with are staying on trend. Therefore, the designs that they are then able to create from the style-guide materials that we’re providing them are spot-on.”
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CJ ENM’s portfolio of animated kids’ brands includes Rainbow Ruby.
To stay true to a brand like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Coleman notes that it is critical to work with partners that aren’t necessarily looking to “stock the next Frozen or Moana. You need to try to embrace your difference, own it and figure out where you can make it work in the market.” Indeed, in this crowded L&M landscape, it is difficult to be “an independent Nickelodeon, Warner or Disney,” she acknowledges. “It’s an uphill battle. That’s why opportunities with specialty chains such as FYE, Hot Topic and GameStop are so valuable.” It’s retailers like these that tend to recognize the value of niche brands.
KNOW YOUR BRAND “You have to respect your fan base,” Coleman adds. “It stems from that: be true to your brand, give fans the quality they’re looking for, give them the designs they want, because at the end of the day, if you don’t have them, you don’t have a basis for your business. Respect their knowledge, respect the investment that they’ve made in the brand, and they’re going to come back for more, especially with a brand like Yu-Gi-Oh!” “The key to standing out lies in keeping your brand connected to its target audience of consumers, knowing what they want and what motivates them into action,” SUNRIGHTS’ Gross maintains. “To that end, we have looked to form licensing, merchandising and promotional deals that keep Beyblade Burst in sync with young fans.” But rights owners agree, it’s still not easy. “The most difficult thing right now is the distribution of products,” GO-N’s Congé says. “It’s not only limited to dealing with the licensee; it’s getting your licensed product onto the shelf.”
“There is more competition than ever [vying] for less retail shelf space than ever,” says Lloyd Mintz, the senior VP of global consumer products at Genius Brands International, which represents the new girls’ preschool property Rainbow Rangers and the genderneutral, book-based brand Llama Llama. The company has seen success with Rainbow Rangers, which it created from the ground up in “response to a market void in the girls’ preschool segment.” Yet, bringing an entirely new property to retail can pose quite the challenge. “While everyone is interested in something new and different, at the same time, everybody is afraid of sacrificing shelf space from the triedand-true for that ‘something new and different,’ so it’s a bit of a catch-22 for the retailers and the licensors to position their property as that ‘something new and different,’” Mintz explains. “The biggest challenge is that the market is overcrowded and a property’s life can be very short,” La Macchia of Mondo TV states. “This means we need to make our properties stand out with lots of supporting marketing activities.” For example, Rocco Giocattoli, the toy distributor in Italy for Robot Trains’ master toy licensee Silverlit, planned a marketing campaign to support the range. Similarly, the Italian launch of Heidi Bienvenida was supported by social media campaigns, competitions, cast interviews and appearances by the show’s star, Chiara Francia. “Our challenges are to never become complacent or follow what others do, but always rely on the intrinsic strength of the brand and the people working with it,” stresses Mercis’s Teunissen. Mondo TV’s La Macchia concurs, but notes, “Maintaining momentum is another challenge. We always work on long-term plans to renew the content and the brand constantly in order to keep awareness high and allow licensees to work on a long-term program.” “It ultimately comes down to a brand’s relevance, collectibility and demand,” adds SUNRIGHTS’ Gross. “You not only have to know and stay in sync with the needs of your target consumer base, you also have to find ways to keep them hungry for and gobbling up the newest iterations of your brand.”
SUNRIGHTS has a broad range of licensees for Beyblade.
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TV KIDS: What new elements does the series incorporate? FRIEDMAN: The essence of who Clifford is—his sweetness, his childlike behavior and his loyalty—are qualities that are absolutely still there. We decided to reimagine Emily Elizabeth—who adopted Clifford when he was a puppy—after spending a lot of time talking about how she could be brought forward to drive more of the story. She’s now a modern girl who comes up with her own adventures with her best friend, Clifford. To further build upon their friendship in the new show, Emily Elizabeth and Clifford now speak to one another. Clifford still talks to his dog friends and Emily Elizabeth still speaks to her friends and family, but they have these special moments in every episode together. We’ve also added a diverse cast of new characters that help make for a richer and more exciting world on the island; that was very important to us. In addition, each episode features an original song, which is something completely new for the show. Similar to the previous series, the new show features Clifford stories that are focused on friendship, family and adventure, but with the added layers of literacy moments and an emphasis on empathy as well as some fun imaginative play.
CAITLIN FRIEDMAN SCHOLASTIC ENTERTAINMENT
By Mansha Daswani
Clifford the Big Red Dog has been beloved by children (and their parents) for over five decades. Penned by Norman Bridwell, the book series helped establish Scholastic as a preeminent children’s book publisher. PBS Kids successfully broadcast a TV adaptation from 2000 to 2003 that became a fixture on preschool schedules worldwide. Next year, the cuddly, oversized canine will be back in an all-new production from Scholastic Entertainment. Caitlin Friedman, VP and general manager of the company, tells TV Kids about the reboot. TV KIDS: How did the new Clifford the Big Red Dog series come about? FRIEDMAN: Clifford has continued to be a favorite character of kids and caregivers everywhere. While we haven’t been airing new shows, we have continued to hear from viewers asking if we’re going to make more episodes and if Clifford still lives on the island. Happily, we know Clifford fans are still engaged, and with the first book having been released in 1963, we also know they are multigenerational. From the engagement we see on the Clifford Facebook page, it’s clear that it has become a brand that represents kindness, loyalty and friendship. We have always thought about bringing him back, and after speaking with both PBS and Amazon about it, they saw our vision and Scholastic Entertainment is now in production on the new series.
TV KIDS: What about the look of the new series? Is that being updated? FRIEDMAN: Yes, the upcoming series will have a brandnew look. We are working with 100 Chickens to help us create a fresh, modern Birdwell Island. Emily Elizabeth still has blond hair, but her clothing, her expressions and the way she jumps and climbs and moves around her world is very current. Clifford looks very familiar with the addition of more facial expressions since he now talks a lot and is on a more emotional journey with Emily Elizabeth. The island itself is quirkier and brighter with an almost classic children’s book look. TV KIDS: What are the qualities that have made Clifford such a beloved property for so long? FRIEDMAN: Part of it is wish fulfillment. Kids engage with the brand because of how amazing it would be to have a giant dog as their friend. Just imagine having a dog who could carry you around, lift you high, open up the world to you while keeping you safe. Beyond just the fun of having a big red dog as a best friend, Clifford has always been written as accessible and relatable to a young demographic. He’s not perfect; he is always growing and learning while also trying his best and being kind to everyone.
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Clifford the Big Red Dog is heading back to screens in 2019 with a new TV series.
TV KIDS: And the brand has remained prominent with the continued book-publishing line. FRIEDMAN: Even though the show has been quiet, the Clifford publishing program has continued strongly. We just released a line of Clifford fairytales and we’re doing a refresh of the classic Clifford books. We’re also kicking off a publishing initiative in spring 2019 to support the new show with books featuring art from the series, and we’ll be launching a big book inspired by the show next fall. We are focusing on our global publishing as well, with new programs launching around the world in conjunction with the series’ international rollout. TV KIDS: Tell us about the L&M strategy you are devising for the new production. FRIEDMAN: We have a plan for domestic L&M and are working with 9 Story to manage our international program. The strategy has a couple of pieces to it since, as we talked about earlier, our Clifford fans are all ages. We will be looking to develop a line for girls inspired by the look and design of the new Emily Elizabeth. The designs and patterns in the style guide will be more nautical because we’re building stories around Clifford and Emily Elizabeth living on an island and all of the fun and adventures that offers. In the future, we will be developing a line for babies, as so many moms today grew up with Clifford and want to share him with their kids. We are also developing a vintage line featuring Norman’s original art targeted to adults to give them a new way to engage with their favorite big red dog. TV KIDS: How are you mining your library for content? FRIEDMAN: The exciting thing for us is we have lots of legacy brands. We were just going through our library and found properties from 15 and 20 years ago, one of them a
series with ten books with ten stories to tell. The amount of great content and stories we have is amazing! We are also in an exciting time with so many different platforms on which to tell these stories—Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu, traditional kid-focused broadcast, YouTube, feature films. And since we have and are always coming out with such great content, we can build off of things that readers have loved or recently discovered. TV KIDS: What are your overall goals for Scholastic Entertainment in the 12 to 18 months ahead? FRIEDMAN: Producing the new Clifford series tops our list as well as finalizing our global plan, both for new publishing and L&M. We look forward to working closely with 9 Story, which will be helping us on the animation of the new series as well as taking on the global distribution of the show and international L&M. The new Clifford live-action hybrid movie with Paramount Pictures is also a priority and we have six or seven other projects now in development at studios and broadcasters to push forward, too. And we’re always looking at what’s coming up next. TV KIDS: In general, when you’re rebooting a classic property, how do you retain the charm of the original while still engaging with a new set of audiences? FRIEDMAN: With Clifford, we took a step back and looked at what people originally fell in love with, which was his heart, his loyalty and his humor. There are aspects of Clifford’s personality that are core to the viewing experience, so we made sure that they were all incorporated into the new series. And we added on layers, including original music, a stronger Emily Elizabeth and a fresher world that appeals to kids. But with children, it doesn’t matter when they were born—they respond to love, friendship and family. Those core values are universal.
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