"Smeshariki" sets out to invade Europe and beyond.

European Perspective In the February issue of License! Global, I wrote a feature about the expansion of western licensing into Central and Eastern European and Russian markets. This was very much about taking western properties

April 6, 2018

European Perspective

In the February issue of

License! Global

, I wrote a feature about the expansion of western licensing into Central and Eastern European and Russian markets. This was very much about taking western properties and brands into those markets. However, Stockholm-based agent Plus Licens pointed out that there were homegrown properties to be acknowledged in Russia and the Czech Republic particularly, which both have highly developed animation industries.

So it was with special interest that I went to the stand of "Smeshariki" at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. "Smeshariki" is a Russian animated family television series that started life in St. Petersburg in 2003. The family of comedy characters each has an area of knowledge, and its own story. Today, more than 200 people work in the St. Petersburg headquarters and licensed product spans toys to food and cosmetics.

The numbers are impressive. By the end of 2009, more than 200 episodes of the series will be completed; it has been broadcast over 3,000 times

on Russian channels; the daily TV shows have an audience of 5.5 million; the daily radio show has an audience of 500,000 people; over 5 million Smeshariki book titles have been published; the Web site has been visited by more than 4 million visitors; over 2 million DVDs and CDs have been sold; and upwards of 600,000 computer games have been sold. In all, there are more than 1,500 licensed Smeshariki products being sold in Russia.

Western-based global licensees—Chupa Chups and Egmont among them—already supply some of the Smeshariki consumer products.

Now the property, backed by the Russian ministries of cultural affairs and education and by local authorities, is looking to bring more international licensees into the Russian market at the same time as moving across the globe through FunGameMedia, its own licensing company based in Germany.

Vladimir Dmitriev, who heads up the Munich office, says, "This is a clear win-win situation for both sides. Our partners are catapulted into the Russian market due to the 80 percent brand awareness in the Russian population, and we have a great opportunity to learn from their worldwide experience."

And a rollout across television screens in Europe, Asia, and South America is in the cards as FunGameMedia has already signed a broadcast distribution deal with Studio 100 Media.

It's great to see that licensing in the emerging markets is not going to be a one-way street, and new faces can emerge from unexpected places. But it is yet to be seen how the series will be accepted in the western broadcast markets: Competition for air-time is fierce, and the toy market, in particular, is already saturated with properties struggling to maintain margins at retail.

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