THE BIG INTERVIEW: Maura Regan, VP & GM, Global Licensing, Sesame Workshop

In the first of a series of special interviews with big name US licensing companies exhibiting at Licensing International, Samantha Loveday finds out what we can expect from Sesame Workshop this year and beyond?
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“Like everyone else, the last 12 months have been challenging for us,” Maura Regan, the vice president and general manager of global licensing for Sesame Workshop, admits to Licensing.biz. “But we’re fortunate to have strong long-term partnerships with licensees and manufacturers who are positioned to effectively manage through difficult times.”

And, of course, the power of Sesame Street as a brand is phenomenal. A quick history lesson: for almost 40 years, characters including Big Bird, Elmo, Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster have been teaching children, not only about letters and numbers, but also fostering their imaginations, building social skills and teaching them about different races, genders and ethnicities. It was one of my favourite programmes as a kid.

“We offer tremendous educational value supported by great characters,” Regan explains. “Consumers see the value proposition with our products. As such, we have been able to weather this economic downturn and are poised for growth for 2010 and 2011.”

Big recent success stories for Sesame Workshop include, of course, Elmo, which is a major success across the world thanks to some innovative products in categories such as toys, apparel, DVDs, books, gifts and stationery. Regan also highlights Abby Cadabby – Sesame Street’s resident fairy in training – as building up a strong following and being one to watch.

At Licensing International, the company will be unveiling its plans for its 40th anniversary. Regan is tight-lipped for the most part, only revealing there will be promotional tie ins, great product and promising that consumers will be excited.

As well as the anniversary, another major focus for the firm going forward will be The Electric Company.

“The website has generated one million visits and had more than five million video clips played on the PBS Kids Go and The Electric Company video players,” says Regan. “Since premiering on January 19th [in the US], 79 per cent of visitors have returned two times or more and over 54 per cent have returned five times or more. We also have a YouTube channel for the show which is updated weekly and gives viewers a sneak peek at new episodes, and soon we’ll be delivering The Electric Company ringtones and wallpaper to mobile phones.”

Despite her confidence, Regan knows that the economy has been a game changer for everyone, including the licensing industry. “No one has been immune to the effects of the economy. That said, it is in times such as these that a strong licence can generate excitement at retail, garner consumer attention and drive market share. Sesame Street has been fortunate to remain a ‘must-have’ brand even in this market.

“For us, we’ve made certain strategic changes that have positioned us to be even stronger in 2010. Classics or evergreen franchises will continue to bring value and excitement to consumers and remain the direction at retail.

“The major challenges [over the next six to 12 months] will be the global economy, manufacturing issues and consumer confidence. However, in spite of all we are up against, I am confident in the power of a strong brand such as Sesame Street to give the consumer a reason to purchase,” Regan concludes.

Sesame Workshop can be found in Suite 8 at Licensing International Expo, which runs from June 2nd to 4th at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center, Las Vegas.

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