Home Box Office is the US television network responsible for such great programmes as Flight of the Conchords, The Wire, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Six Feet Under.
A premium TV programming subsidiary of Time Warner, it provides two 24-hour pay television services – HBO and Cinemax – to over 40 million US subscribers. The services offer some of the most popular subscription video on demand products – HBO On Demand and Cinemax on Demand – as well as HBO On Broadband, HD feeds and multiplex channels.
Internationally, HBO branded television networks, along with the subscription video on demand products and HBO Mobile, bring HBO services to over 50 countries. HBO programming is sold into over 150 countries worldwide.
So, the programmes are well-known and, most importantly, well-liked. Ripe for licensing, in fact. Which is where Rob Wijeratna and Charlie Donaldson from Rocket Licensing come in.
“Both Charlie and myself are great fans of HBO programming, as well as being addicts of The Sopranos, so we were keen to work with HBO in the UK,” Wijeratna explains to Licensing.biz. “We first approached them and started a dialogue at Licensing International in New York in June 2007.”
Rocket will be handling the licensing for Entourage, Flight of the Conchords and The Sopranos in the UK market, while it will also be looking at new properties coming down the pipeline which may have potential in the territory.
Originally a six-part BBC Radio 2 comedy series, Flight of the Conchords became an instant success when it moved to HBO in summer 2007 and debuted on BBC Four last autumn. The show follows the adventures of two transplanted New Zealanders, Bret and Jemaine, who have moved to New York, where they split their time between seeking venues where they can perform and awkwardly courting women they meet.
Product is targeted at 16 to 35 year olds and Rocket has already signed up a number of key deals: Bravado International (t-shirts), GB Eye (posters and badges) and Danilo (calendars). Product is performing well in record retailers such as HMV and Zavvi, as well as online on Play.com.
The brand values for Entourage, meanwhile, work well for the core product categories of apparel and accessories, with a target demographic of males aged between 18 and 30.
The show follows the day to day life of Vince Chase, a hot young actor experiencing life in the fast lane of Hollywood, and his friends from his hometown of Queens, NY are along for the ride.
Moving on to The Sopranos, and the show will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2009.
“The Sopranos is such a well recognised and respected brand here in the UK that we see a real opportunity to create a lifestyle range of gift product for men, primarily aged 18 to 30, whether bathrobes, glassware, ceramic cookware, as well as apparel,” Wijeratna continues.
Support for all licences, and licensees, will come in the form of keenly targeted cross promotions with record retail, catalogue and specialist stores.
“HBO’s licensing team is very creative and hugely experienced, so they’re really supportive in helping us to make products work here in the local UK market,” adds Wijeratna.
A number of other US broadcasters already have licensing programmes in place for key brands, so it will be interesting to see if more still decide to enter the market. Wijeratna thinks they will: “We would expect to see more of these kind of deals, with content owners looking to fully leverage their brands in a finely targeted manner. Great content and brands always work.”