With instant success in Russia and a rapid expansion into other European countries, "Masha and the Bear" is poised to take the U.S., and the rest of the world, by storm.
Despite a global financial crisis several years ago that affected multiple industries, "Masha and the Bear" powered through and continued to draw strong ratings–as well as strong licensed merchandise sales–achieving a stable level of income and success, according to Vladimir Gorbulya, head of licensing, "Masha and the Bear," and vice president, Animaccord.
The Russian property is considered to be a relatively new project in the Animaccord family, with the first episode of the series only launching in September 2009 and the first season finishing production in 2012 due to the complex quality of the cartoon's 3D animation. However, once the first season was completed, the studio immediately began to work on designing and creating the second season, believing "Masha" would continue to be successful.
"For many of our media and consumer products partners, there was enough to believe in [based on the] huge potential and energy of 'Masha," says Gorbulya. "By 2012, the brand had already partnered with such world-renowned companies as Ferrero, Danone, Simba Dickie, Panini, KIKA, Turner and more."
The "Masha" licensing program kicked off with publishing and toys, but by 2013, the brand had already secured more than 100 licensees for more than 50 product categories in Russia and CIS.
Ferrero featured the brand on a range of its consumables products including Kinder Surprise and Nutella, the Panini Group produced a range of sticker albums for Russia and the Ukraine and Egmont International debuted an expansive line of books, stickers and wooden puzzles in Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Turkey, among others.
That same year, the property also became a YouTube phenomenon. Today it boasts more than 900 million monthly views and more than 6 million subscribers for a lifetime view count of 12 billion over the course of five years.
By 2014, the show's first season was picked up by a number of European countries and began to generate a huge demand for licensed products, particularly in Italy and Germany.
Today the series is stronger than ever and has achieved a stable level of income and success in Russia and the CIS region, says Animaccord.
On a global scale, "Masha and the Bear" is also raking in strong numbers, particularly in Italy where licensed consumer products sales top nearly $60 million. In the region alone, Maurizio Distefano Licensing, the brand's Italian licensing agent, has secured multiple licensees in categories ranging from toys to food and beverage for the brand, including partnerships with licensees such as Perletti for umbrellas, rain boots and ponchos; Denver Bike for children's bikes; Crayola for markers, coloring sets, activity sets and more; Swiss Eyewear Group for sunglasses; Acqua Sant'Anna for fruit juices, iced decaffeinated tea and water; PreGel for a variety of ice cream flavors; and EMA for a live show.
Beyond Italy and Russia, the brand has secured even more deals over the past several years including publishing programs in Europe, Latin America and Asia with Egmont, Panini, Fabbri Editori, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Big Balloon Publishing, Carlsen and KV&H, among others.
As one would expect with so many licensees, the brand's consumer products range boasts strong numbers as well.
The children's series' product lineup currently features more than 2.6 million toys sold in its launch year with Simba Dickie, the brand's master toy partner in Europe, MENA and Turkey, raking in more than €20 million in sales across Europe.
Additionally, the brand has sold 1.2 million stationery items in nine months in Portugal; 1.1 million confectionery goods in Italy in 2015; more than 670,000 games and puzzles in Italy, Iberia, France and the U.K. in 2015; 429,000 party good items in Italy; 86,000 puzzles in six months throughout Europe; and 37 million Kinder Milk Slices in four months.
However, despite the brand's continued success in Europe and rising success in MENA, it is only just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to expanding to the U.S. and Latin America.
"Masha and the Bear" currently airs on Netflix in the U.S. and on six channels in Latin America including Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
Animaccord has already begun its trek into the Latin American licensing market through its TV coverage with Turner and Televisa. The two partners are currently playing a key role in increasing awareness for the brand throughout the region, according to Gorbulya. But once a demand is met, the brand will expand with a larger consumer products lineup in the region.
Meanwhile in North America, the studio is in the middle of selecting additional media partners to support the brand's growth, awareness and popularity.
Animaccord has also tapped Spin Master to be its master toy partner in North America and will debut a soft launch of merchandise at Toys 'R' Us this year, with a larger consumer products line planned for the toy retailer next year.
Furthermore, the studio is planning to continue the brand's global expansion with two spin-off series titled "Masha's Tales" and "Masha's Spooky Stories," and a third season of the original series is in the works for completion by mid-2018, which, according to Gorbulya, will potentially lead to a fourth season or even a full feature film.
The first spin-off, "Masha's Tales," has already been completed and is airing on TV networks; while "Masha's Spooky Stories," is currently in production and will wrap production by the end of this year.