Licensing Show looks ahead a year


NEW YORK -- Licensing Show opens Tuesday amid concern that there are few, if any, major blockbusters slated for 2008 that can match the enormous merchandising success of this summer's megahits "Spider-Man 3," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Shrek the Third" as well as the highly anticipated "Transformers."

But with CBS hosting its first booth ever at Licensing Show and increased primetime offerings from NBC and ABC, the major networks are making their strongest showing yet, with more opportunities for primetime licensing. Fox, which through 20th Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising has had a strong presence at the show for years with "The Simpsons," is back in full force as "The Simpsons Movie" opens in theaters in July.

"It's going to be very, very difficult across all product categories to match the (retail) numbers against this year," said Jonathan Samet, publisher of the Licensing Book and the Toy Book. "There are just not that many 'Spider-Mans' and 'Pirates' out there. A lot of the studios really just don't have anything new on the horizon from a merchandising standpoint. With the lineup that's coming out next year, I don't see anything that's going to match the merchandising numbers from this summer."

One sign of the less robust film merchandising slate for 2008 is the decline in studio ads in the Licensing Book, he said. "I don't have as much movie advertising in my publication. Our advertising is up, but it's not from the same big studios that used to take four, six and eight pages at a time because they don't have the properties to be promoting at this time."

Charles Riotto, president of LIMA, the licensing industry's worldwide trade organization and sponsor of the Licensing Show, said he was expecting 2007 to be "the biggest year ever for sales of entertainment-based licensing merchandise because of all the blockbuster movies we've had this year and all the ones that are still to come like 'Transformers,' 'The Simpsons Movie,' and 'Ratatouille.' I don't think we've ever had a year like this where we've had so many great movies with such significant licensing sales potential."

Riotto is also set to report at the show Tuesday that U.S. retail sales of licensed product were up 1.5% in 2006 to $108.7 billion, a slightly smaller increase than the 1.8% rise reported in 2005. Entertainment licensing fared better but still experienced a bigger percentage gain in 2005. U.S. retail sales of entertainment-based licensed product rose 2% in 2006 to $48.2 billion, up from $47.3 billion in 2005, when sales rose 2.4%.

Of all the major studio offerings, the two films drawing the most interest so far are both from Warner Bros. –- the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" and "Speed Racer," a live-action movie based on the TV series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida. The film, set for release in May, marks a reunion for directors Larry and Andy Wachowski and producer Joel Silver, who last worked together on the "Matrix" trilogy. But with the "Batman" sequel being described as a bit dark, there was concern it could limit sales among younger children who may not see the film. "The Incredible Hulk" from Marvel also is attracting some interest going into the show.

But for the most part retailers and licensees will be working very hard at the show this year to figure out the best bets for boxoffice and merchandising success in 2008. "I think retailers are going to be looking to figure out how to anniversary some pretty significant sales they had in 2007," said Vince Klaseus, senior vp franchise development and marketing at Disney Consumer Products. Added Samet, "There are no surefire blockbuster titles or slam dunks like there were this year."

Among the many possibilities for 2008 are Disney/Pixar's "Wall-e," Disney/Walden Media's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and Disney's "Bolt," "Space Chimps" from 20th Century Fox, "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar 2: The Crate Escape," from DreamWorks Animation, "Inkheart" and "Journey 3D" from New Line Cinema, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" from Sony Pictures Animation, "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from Warner Bros., "Indiana Jones 4" from LucasFilm, "The Tale of Despereaux," "The Mummy 3," "Coraline" and "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" from Universal Pictures," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" from Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount Pictures and "Sweeney Todd" from Paramount.

While the original "Indian Jones" trilogy in the 1980s had no major licensing program, Lucas Licensing on Monday announced a broad merchandising and promotional campaign for the film with Hasbro, LEGO, Hallmark, Random House, Scholastic and DK Publishing signed on as licensing partners. "Nothing is in the league of 'Star Wars,' but we think this film has enormous potential," Lucas Licensing president Howard Roffman said. "We have 19 years of pent-up demand since the last film. We're taking a different approach now because of the legacy of 'Indiana Jones."

The Licensing Show -- which runs Tuesday-Thursday at the Jacob Javits Convention Center -- kicks off with the Radio City Rockettes and Warner Bros. unveiling the new Batman vehicle from "Dark Knight" and the Mach 5 vehicle from "Speed Racer."

Immediately afterwards, Miley Stewart, star of Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" will unveil a fashion line based on her show. Disney Channel Worldwide President Rich Ross and Disney Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney will announce other new extensions to the "Hannah Montana" brand, including youth electronics, and disclose details about Miley's upcoming CD and concert tour. Then there will be a meet-and-greet with the Naked Brothers Band from the hit Nickelodeon series and the three girls who voice the "Wonder Pets" Nick Jr. operetta series will perform live accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra during a screening of a new episode.

At a briefing later in the day Tuesday, Mooney will announce that Disney Consumer Products has doubled in size in just five years from $13 billion in retail sales in fiscal 2002 to a projected $26 billion in fiscal this year, an increase of $3 billion over 2006. He also will report that the girls' tween business is the fastest-growing segment of DCP and is expected to generate $400 million in retail sales in fiscal year 2007 from "Hannah Montana," "High School Musical," "That's So Raven" and "The Cheetah Girls." Disney also is expected to announce a new line of electric and acoustic guitars inspired by "Hannah Montana," marking the company's first official entry into the musical instrument business.

Also during the show, the winners of this past season's reality series "The Amazing Race: All-Stars," "Survivor: Fiji" and "America's Next Top Model" will make appearances at CBS' booth.

For the first time in four years, Paramount will have its own licensing booth while Universal Studios handed responsibility for licensing its films to the Beanstalk Group licensing agency in a rare move for a major studio. On Monday, Paramount announced it will be the North American licensing representative for the Smurfs brand. "To have the Paramount name front and center in the licensing world again is very exciting for us," said Mike Bartok, executive vp of licensing for Paramount Pictures. Previously Paramount films were represented by Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products.

The global presence at the show is also expected to be stronger than ever, with networks and studios bringing in more of their international licensing executives and an increased number of international retailers and manufacturers attending the show.

"We have our international people coming in from all over the world, and it's a much bigger group than we've ever had," said Leigh Anne Brodsky, president of Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products. "I think people are looking for growth, and I think they see it in international."

Led by Nickelodeon and Disney, there is also expected to be more discussion about the licensing of entertainment brands for healthy food items and healthy lifestyle products. "I think it's great that a lot of people are starting to be aware that the power of these characters can be used in some of these categories that up until now have not had licensees," Brodsky said.

There is also expected to be an increasing number of agencies seeking licensing partners for celebrities at the show this year. Among the celebs expected to be represented are Paris Hilton, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Salma Hayek, Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff, Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears, Halle Berry and Quincy Jones.

In addition to focusing on their new properties, most studios are working on turning some of their hit films into evergreen brands or on building momentum for already established evergreen brands by creating alternative forms of content. Lucas Licensing will be looking for more "Star Wars" partners ahead of the early 2007 release of its next generation video game "The Force Unleashed" and to an even greater extent for the anticipated fall premiere of its new CGI-animated series "Clone Wars," which will mark a "brand new phase" in the ongoing 'Star Wars' licensing program, Roffman said.

Disney is launching a number of new DVDs for "Cars" and a new series of video games and books around "Pirates of the Caribbean," developing a new theme that is based on one of the story lines in "At World's End" -- calling together pirate lords from all over the world. DreamWorks is building up the "Shrek" brand around the "Shrek the Third" DVD release, an ABC holiday special called "Shrek the Halls" and a new Shrek Broadway musical in the spring of 2008. Hasbro will be talking to licensees about ways to extend the "Transformers" brand. And Sony will be seeking to build up its licensing and retail programs around the fourth quarter DVD release of "Spider-Man 3."

With its presence at Licensing Show for the first time, CBS will be seeking licensing partners for the "CSI" franchise, "Criminal Minds," "Numbers," "Ghost Whisperer," "Survivor," "Amazing Race," "America's Next Top Model" and the "Star Trek" franchise. NBC will mostly be represented by the JTMG LLC licensing agency at the show for "30 Rock," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "House," produced by NBC Studios.

JTMG will also be seeking partners for shows from Bravo, USA, Sci Fi Channel and CNBC. Universal Consumer Products, which handed most of its own licensing over to the Beanstalk Group, will actually be handling licensing for NBC's new hit "Heroes." ABC, which will be at the Disney booth, will be launching new licensing programs for "Ugly Betty," "Dancing With the Stars" and "Bingo" as well as seeking additional partners for "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives."

FremantleMedia will be seeking partners for "American Idol," "The Next Great American Band," "America's Got Talent" and its new syndicated game show "Temptation." Through its licensing agency Brand Central, Mark Burnett Prods. will seek partners for "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

Fox will be talking about its plans for "The Simpons" brand following this summer's theatrical release including a new video game, the film's DVD release and a new theme park ride at Universal Studios. It also will be seeking partners for "Family Guy," "24" and "Prison Break."

Fox Licensing also will announce that it will handle all licensing for Walden Media films. At the show it will be seeking to license Walden titles "The Dark Is Rising," "City of Ember" and "Nim's Island."