TIA trends specialist Reyne Rice presents some of her key highlights from last month's Licensing International show in New York...
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The key difference that emerged from the 2008 Licensing Show, was the significant increase of strong entertainment and media partners offering new properties. There was a greater international presence at the show, both as exhibitors, and in the show aisles. The top tier entertainment studios all had offerings announced for 2009, with multiple new properties being offered for blockbuster movie launches, as were expected. In addition, new licences were being introduced with already produced and ready-to-air episodes for television, streaming digital segments offered for 24/7 viewing, DVD launches, and other viewing options for the new digitally wired kids and Gen Y parents.
These consumers have come to expect viewing on their time schedule and on their portable media devices. The entertainment companies have stepped up their production to meet the needs of these demanding consumers.


The broadened base of media viewing options was an evolutionary aspect of the new media landscape. Pre-schoolers can now expect their programming to be delivered in CGI animation, and teens and tweens will be offered new properties and programmes complete with virtual worlds to enhance their engagement with these properties.
Plus, kids will have the ability to download minisodes on their cell phones and media players, upload their own content mash-ups on YouTube and share their opinion on kid-centric sites offering reviews, chats and more. And this is now standard fare at the top tier of entertainment and production studios such as Disney Consumer Products, Warner Bros, Fox Entertainment, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.


Tweens and teens will also be able to discover new brands, licensed properties and new character favourites via exclusive websites, and new TV properties, tailored to their tastes. Marvel Entertainment continues its superhero push with in nine languages. Newer breakframe properties include Domo and Tokyo Pop (Big Tent productions), Camp Rock (Disney Consumer Products), Sushi Pack and Twisted Whiskers (American Greetings), Ni Hao, Kai-lan (pre-school)and iCarly ( Nickelodeon & Viacom), and Rebecca BonBon (Freemantle), to name a few.


New licensors include a variety of manufacturers who have created their own branded properties. Spin Master has created the Bakugan series, targeted at boys six to 11 years. Launched in Canada in Fall 2007 with enormous success and then in the USA in early 2008, it has been hard to keep up with the demand in North American markets.
Roll-out to Western Europe will begin in Fall 2008. This is Spin Master’s first foray into creating, developing and managing their own brand of licensed property. Likewise, Upper Deck has created its own brand, HUNTIK, Secrets and Seekers, with Italian studio Rainbow, and is targeted at boys six to 11 years.
This property has a full slate of television lined up for immediate broadcast on multiple networks. Launched with trading cards initially, licensing will roll out with additional categories in Fall 2008 and Spring 2009.


A wider choice of master toy licensees continues to be the trend for new properties. Toy Quest has garnered the master licence for DreamWorks new 2009 release, Monsters vs. Aliens. Likewise, DreamWorks has tapped Hooga Loo Toys as the master toy licensee for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, a November 2008 theatrical release.


GI Joe from Hasbro, Sushi Pack and from American Greetings and Banzai from ToyQuest were launching new extensive 2009 licensing programs, and were met with strong interest, evidenced by their packed booths at the Licensing Show.


Pre-school brands continue to be imported from abroad, including Smeshariki from Russia, supported by 4Kids Entertainment, and eco-friendly Fifi and the Flowertots, imported from the UK, and supported by HIT Entertainment. The UK continues to be a hotbed of creation for new pre-school properties. In the Night Garden, by the BBC, has recorded smash number one ratings on the NPD EuroToys hot property charts.


The new Steven Spielberg merger with Bollywood is another new trend emerging from this year’s licensing arena. The global reach into new markets has been propelled by Nickelodeon, Disney Consumer products, Warner Bros, Sesame Workshop and more. Disney has turned this international reach into a core strategy, employing Glocal-ization techniques.
For example, local talent, trends and customs are being incorporated into local versions of High School Musical for selected markets worldwide, including India, China and more. Disney also just launched Camp Rock on June 20th, with simultaneous weekend viewing options on the Disney Channel, the ABC network and Disney online. This TV broadcast and tentpole event launched a new summer camp musical, starring the Jonas Brothers.
Nickelodeon has also developed a strong international division, reaching into India, Russia and China. Sesame Street has developed new characters and television programming over the past few years, with new characters and programming specifically designed to meet local market needs in India, South America and other markets. Sesame Workshop also announced the re-launch of the Electric Company television programming, which has been re-designed with today’s digitally connected kids in mind, with the goal of encouraging children to move from learning to read to the stage of reading to learn, as a lifelong habit.


Alliances between major media companies and major consumer goods companies continue to propel brands into both the media space and the marketplace.
American Greetings has partnered with Sesame Street, Warner Bros has partnered Safeway grocery stores with Looney Toons characters on Eating Right Kids healthy food products, and Mattel and Emerson Electronics have partnered on key brands. This trend will continue to create synergy in the marketplace and to garner strong retailer support.


With the US Licensing Show moving to Las Vegas in June 2009, the dynamics of the event may shift, but it will continue to be a core must-attend show to discover the global entertainment trends of the future.

Reyne Rice is a trends specialist for the Toy Industry Association of America, owners of the October Fall Toy Preview in Dallas and the annual American International Toy Fair which takes place in New York in February.


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