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Paramount Global is betting on a new e-commerce platform, ParamountShop, to be a unified direct-to-consumer shop for fans of its content brands across its film and TV operations. Creating one shopping window for products representing more than 125 content brands is designed to move the consumer products business to the next level by offering people “a mountain of merch.”
Pam Kaufman, Paramount Global’s president and CEO, int’l markets and global consumer products & experiences, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the goals behind the push, what fans of Top Gun, Yellowstone, Garfield or Paw Patrol can find in the store, what it changes for the entertainment conglomerate’s relationship with retailers and licensees and cross-promotion between the e-commerce platform and Paramount+.
Why did you decide to launch the unified online shop that provides an umbrella for merchandise across your brands and content franchises now?
One year ago, we became Paramount (Global), which is a really exciting consumer-facing name. And we this amazing IP, from SpongeBob to Star Trek, South Park to Yellowjackets. Prior to that, we had a variety of shops or e-commerce shops. Now we have an opportunity to unify it into one e-commerce shop and put all of our IP and thousands of products under one consumer-facing brand.
How big a change is that from your previous approach? How many stores have you had?
Before, we had individual brand shops, we had a South Park shop, a Yellowstone shop, a SpongeBob shop, an MTV shop, a Star Trek shop. We had 11 individual IP-focused e-commerce shops. Before, we just didn’t have the name or the umbrella for all of our IP.
Now we do. And just like Paramount+, we now have one area where the consumer can get everything they love from our library and our company, so it truly is a great place for people to find fan favorites. We don’t just have Star Trek and South Park and SpongeBob, but we’re going deep into the library. So if you’re a fan of Grease or a fan of Beavis and Butthead or Rocko’s Modern Life, this is a place where you can really get everything.
Do the consumer products in the new online store differ from what is available in brick-and-mortar and online stores so far and how?
Retail has limited space, physical retail and even e-commerce retail. So if you’re a fan of Survivor, Dexter, SpongeBob or The Daily Show, on this shop you can get a much wider assortment of your fan favorite products so we are really covering everything and going deep into our products.
Does ParamountShop in any way change the relationship you have with retailers or the companies that license your content to make consumer products? Do they see you competing with them more now?
That’s a great question and the number one question we are getting across the company. And the answer is it’s not competition for retail. First of all, this site will include what I’ll call elevated or differentiated products. So this is product that you will probably not be able to buy at regular retail. So let’s take SpongeBob, for example. Retail will always carry the SpongeBob yellow sweatshirt, but might not be carrying Mr. Krabs and Sandy and they might not have a whole cooking assortment of items. So this site provides the consumer with more products than retail really can buy.
The second thing is this site has an ability to help retailers guide their purchasing assortment. What do I mean by that? Even though Walmart has a lot of different products in shop, we had a really cool vest that was selling incredibly well, and retail is looking at that and going “wow, we should carry that vest.” And so we’re able to advise our retailers on products that are doing well on the site.
And the third thing is, yes, we are creating unique products for the site. So we’re also partnering with licensees. So for our licensing partners, we’re giving them a big opportunity to also sell in two different places.
How global is the reach of the new e-commerce site at launch and in what countries do you localize it?
From launch, the site has the ability to ship worldwide and there will be localized experiences in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Germany. There will be a phase two coming with additional market launches. And in many cases, not everything is coming from the U.S.; we’ll be working with local distributors as well.” And then we have a phase 2 coming with further market launches. For the most part, we will be able to ship to virtually 70 percent of the world. And in many cases, not everything is coming from the U.S.; we’ll be working with local distributors as well.
In addition to having our global franchises translate, we can also customize the site for fan favorites in local markets and do product for our local hits, for example if there is a show that is really hot in Argentina or Germany.
Do you also have any plans to promote product tied to events or factors other than geography?
In 2020, around the VMAs, we had a partnership of Lady Gaga and The Weeknd with MTV. And Stephen Colbert has a lot of charity-based merchandise. So we will offer product around events and topical and seasonal themes, for example around Mother’s Day, Independence Day or Father’s Day
How key a consideration is price in selling consumer products in an age of high inflation?
We will make sure that we are priced competitively. But there is such a strong fan base for the Star Treks, SpongeBobs and South Parks of the world, and the fans really want elevated, differentiated product. So we’re going to be offering some really beautiful items that I know people won’t mind investing in.
Are there any current bestsellers in your consumer products business that you could highlight?
The performance of the IP fluctuates, but I can tell you right now, Yellowstone continues to outperform. We have a full-size (cutout) standee of the character Rip (Dutton). That is one of our top-selling items. People have this in their homes. We are selling Yellowstone Monopoly and a Yellowstone hoodie that are super popular.
The next big item comes from Star Trek and is a Bluetooth Communicator, and that’s not an inexpensive item. And Stephen Colbert does a lot of product around charity work. He recently created a potato shirt for humanitarian efforts, and this T-shirt, which is just a potato, is benefiting Ukraine. And that became one of our top-selling items, which is really exciting.
There is also product tied to Garfield…
Garfield just continues to be an ongoing class property. It’s interesting that for whatever reason, Garfield overindexes in the Brazil market and also in parts of Asia. So those are probably our top-selling markets. So we will continue to develop product there.
Online, Paramount cites consumer products retail sales of more than $6 billion a year. The annual License Global’s list of top licensors for 2021, led by the Walt Disney Co. with $56.2 billion, ranked Paramount 10th. Any targets for growth in the consumer products business in the coming years?
What I would say to you is that it is our goal in the next few years to become a top three licensing, consumer products organization in the world. And so that’s our goal. And I absolutely feel confident that with the content we have the pipeline we will achieve that. So it is our goal to become a top 1, 2, 3 player in the market.
Any cross-over or promotion opportunity for the online shop with Paramount+ or other opportunities?
We do have the ability to also sign up people for Paramount+ on the shop. And it goes both ways. Paramount+ subscribers will receive offers for discounted or limited merchandise, and people shopping on the site can also receive offers for Paramount+. And there are a lot of plans for expansion of that in the future. I’m really excited about that synergy.
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