Special Report: Movie and Streaming Brand Licensing Trends

License Global reports on the latest happenings at several of the biggest global studios, looks at what’s trending in the sector and highlights some of the big movies and TV series that are on the horizon and the opportunities for licensed products that they present.

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

May 28, 2024

5 Min Read
 “Godzilla vs. Kong” Escape Room, Legendary Entertainment.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” Escape RoomLegendary Entertainment

At a Glance

  • That's Entertainment
  • Trends Shaping Licensed Entertainment
  • Strategies that help Bringing Entertainment Franchises to Life Through Licensing

The entertainment market remains one of the largest in brand licensing and shows no sign of slowing. License Global’s most recent Top Global Licensors report found the entertainment category (including animation, movies and gaming) accounted for $156.5 billion of licensed goods sold at retail in 2022.

While the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with scheduling and studios were unable to generate revenue from releasing movies, the box office is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Barbie” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” all sit comfortably inside IMDB’s top-20 highest-grossing releases of all time and all hit theaters within the last two years.

The licensed consumer product programs for these titles alone stretch across categories and really showcase the value of big blockbuster movies when it comes to product programs.

It’s not just movie theaters that continue to generate a buzz among audiences though. Statistics from Forbes recently highlighted that an overwhelming 99% of U.S. households now subscribe to one or more streaming service. While COVID had a negative impact on the box office, it was a transformative period for streaming video media, with studios pivoting to focus on direct-to-consumer services to reach audiences.

Related:Licensing Expo Issue – May 2024

As is evident over the coming pages, the return to shops post-pandemic has been beneficial for traditional consumer products programs, as has the rise in experiential retail environments, which are bringing fans closer to brands and igniting their fandom like never before. This has led to a growth in interactive gaming, which encompasses everything from escape rooms to theme parks, as fans look for new opportunities to be immersed in their favorite brands.

“I see this trend continuing to build as technology enables us to really innovate and to create immersive environments and products that translate to dynamic shop and play retail experiences,” says Rafael Macias, executive vice president and global commercial officer, Universal Products & Experiences.

The rise of social media has helped studios tap into the minds of their audiences faster and easier than they ever have been able to in the past. The platforms allow brand owners to see how audiences engage with the IP and enable them to meet consumers in that space there and then. Technology and social media have also revolutionized the way brands are able to understand the shopping habits of the consumer and enabled them to adapt quickly to shifts in behavior.

Social media also allows consumers greater access to actors, creators and their peers, allowing them to not just love their favorite movie franchise or TV series, but to live it. This, almost obsession at times, will naturally lead to a greater engagement with any consumer product program linked to the IP.

"Consumers have more content to choose from than ever before,” says Jamie Kampel, head, consumer products and interactive licensing, Amazon MGM Studios. “We believe the most successful consumer products have to feel authentic and fan-driven. We obsess over customers and how they engage with and react to the IP and our products across social media channels.”

Food and beverage has proven to be a very successful crossover category for entertainment brands, such is the creativity it can offer. “F&B gives fans a new way to truly experience the stories they see on Netflix,” says Josh Simon, vice president, consumer products and live experiences, Netflix. “And it’s a global trend. We just launched a very successful line of high-protein snacks inspired by Physical 100 with GS25 in Korea and the products were also integrated into the show and with the participants. Our line of ‘Bridgerton’ coffee creamers with International Delight were a viral and commercial hit.”

Scoops Ahoy Stranger Thnings Ice Cream range, Netflix

Strategies that help Bringing Entertainment Franchises to Life Through Licensing

Franchises are always on, 365 days a year, so bringing them to life in product is an ever-evolving process.

“Authenticity continues to be important and product extensions should be an organic extension – everything should feel like it fits perfectly with the brands,” says Lourdes Arocho, senior vice president, licensing and global publishing, Paramount. “We are working even more closely with our creative partners during film and show development so they can get fully immersed in the unique world of each film. We are fans ourselves, so getting it right is important.

Bringing entertainment to life through licensing is very much about storytelling. “Finding ways to transcend marketing and bleed the IP into culture is key to breaking through the noise,” says James Ngo, executive vice president, franchise management, Legendary Entertainment. “This requires taking risks and being bold rather than middle of the road in messaging and actions.”

“Franchises are also no longer restricted to just traditional entertainment,” says Robert Oberschelp, head, global consumer products, Warner Bros. Discovery. “We’re competing with social media stars and musicians. The space is crowded but we have the brands and franchises to win.”

To delve into this in more detail, read the following individual interviews in full and learn about each studio's upcoming slate.

Amazon MGM Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

Legendary Entertainment Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

NBCUniversal Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

Netflix Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

Paramount Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

Warner Bros. Brand Licensing in 2024 and 2025

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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