Entertainment and brand management company, SMC Entertainment, is making its debut at Licensing Expo this year with a strong roster of properties to showcase.
Founded in 2011 by Sun-Mate Corporation and its president Rami Ben-Moshe, SMC Entertainment may be new as a company, but it's not green in the industry. Ben-Moshe brings more than 25 years of brand management, licensing, merchandising and global retailing expertise, while SMC's senior vice president of licensing, Lisa Streff, has accumulated almost 20 years in the business, working previously with companies such as NBCUniversal, Cookie Jar and John Wayne Enterprises.
Streff sat down with License! Global to discuss SMC's strategy for 2012 and beyond, and to introduce its sure-fire hit properties.
SMC is debuting four brands at Licensing Expo: Teen Nick television series "Dance Academy" and "H2O: Just Add Water," Penguin publishing property Ladybug Girl and the CGI-animated television series "The Jungle Book."
The Jungle Book property is one that appears to be taking the lead at the company. It's SMC's first major program and one that Streff predicts will become an evergreen brand. SMC acquired the property's North American television, home entertainment, licensing, merchandising and promotional rights from DQ Entertainment International in September 2011, and already the company has a major broadcast deal to announce and a full program roll-out on the way.
"The Jungle Book" will premiere on Disney XD this summer, a coup for SMC, and several licensees are signed on in key categories.
"To think that we have a national TV network, a major home entertainment company, licensees and a major QSR in the works in only nine months not only shows the strength of SMC, but the power of 'The Jungle Book,'" says Streff. "The property resonates immensely, and people are connecting with it and want to be a part of the experience. The brand has so much equity and value, and that is helping to drive its success."
The Jungle Book program, targeted to boys ages 4 to 7, has signed deals in the U.S. with Phase 4 Films for home entertainment, Isaac Morris as master apparel partner, Komar will produce sleepwear, Seasons USA has signed on for costumes, Nanco–Nancy Sales Company will make amusement plush and Barnes & Noble is on board for e-books. Other licensees include Insight Editions, Pacific Play Tents, My Idol Pops and The United States Playing Card Company. The series will also receive support online from Disney Online, Disney Stores Online and its own designated website, JungleBook.com. The program will soft launch with home entertainment and digital platforms in time for the holidays, and a major push is expected in 2013. Apparel will debut in spring 2013, with the full program rolling-out by fall 2013. SMC also holds master toy rights in Australia and New Zealand and licensing and merchandising rights in South Africa. Subsequent seasons of the series are already in development.
"Our expectation and goal for this program is to build a long-term business," says Streff.
The series, which is already airing in 160 markets around the globe, is based on Rudyard Kipling's timeless classic, first published in 1893. This is the first new series to be produced for The Jungle Book in nearly 25 years, and is produced by DQ Entertainment and co-produced by ZDG Group Germany, Moonscoop and TF1 France.
But The Jungle Book is not the only hot property for SMC. The company also represents "H2O: Just Add Water," a live action series about mermaids, and "Dance Academy," also live action, which follows the life of a teen dancer at the fictitious National Academy of Dance.
The H2O program is already in full swing, and SMC will look to build its licensing and merchandising categories to include swimwear, apparel, accessories, publishing, gaming and apps, stationery, room décor, novelties and health and beauty. Signed on to the program are Mighty Fine for knit tops, t-shirts and fleece; BSD Brands for beach towels and flip flops; California Costume Collections for children's costumes and wigs; Global Prints for posters; Funky Town for blankets, drinking glasses, straw cups and canvas bags; Global Resources for branded virtual goods; and Kalan for key chains, button sets and individual large buttons. The program will launch at market this fall.
"This is a very focused program," says Streff. "We are really focusing on products that resonate with the target demographic, girls ages 6 to 12. It's smart licensing and smart branding."
SMC will also look to partner with major mid-tier retailers, and is getting great response at the bargaining table.
"The big thing about 'H2O: Just Add Water' is that it has found its audience," says Streff. "It's amazing to go into a meeting and hear, 'My child watches that show all the time.' Girls watch episodes of the series over and over and over again."
The tween/teen series is in its third season on Teen Nick, where it has been on-air since 2009.
The Dance Academy property is a slow build for SMC, says Streff, as it only just launched this past February on Teen Nick. Season two is due out in October, and season three is already on order. SMC will roll-out a full licensing program for Dance Academy in spring 2013 that focuses on fashion t-shirts, dancewear, back-to-school, health and beauty, room décor, publishing, gaming and accessories. SMC will also leverage social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to strengthen the series and build its audience.
SMC's newest property representation is for Ladybug Girl, a Penguin publishing appointment. Based on the books by Jacky Davis, Ladybug Girl celebrates the power of imagination, adventure and exploring. SMC will look to develop the brand across categories including dolls, plush, games, puzzles, party goods, back-to-school, apparel, footwear, sleepwear, accessories, arts and crafts, home furnishings, bedding and Halloween. SMC is the North American licensing agent for the brand and will also represent the TV rights to create a new animated series.
"Our focus as a company is two-pronged," says Streff. "We are brand owners, and we are an agent for properties. Our strategy moving forward is to develop the brands that we have to create the best consumer products available, but we are always seeking additional opportunities within both of our brand models, while staying true to our roots in entertainment and classic entertainment."