|Tony Lisanti, editor-in-cheif|
"2014: A Year in Review," which begins on page 26, identifies the top stories of 2014 and provides a glimpse into 2015, which is the Year of the Sheep, according to the Chinese Zodiac. In the business of licensing, 2015 may be the Year of Star Wars as Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits the big screen in December and one of the most successful franchises in history kicks off a new trilogy.
Here's a breakdown of 15 trends to watch this year–five licensors, five categories and five properties.
Five Licensors to Watch:
- Disney Consumer Products: new franchises–The world’s largest licensor is in an unparalleled cycle of new content that is driving merchandise sales worldwide with its powerful franchises Frozen, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars.
- Iconix: diversification–Since it formed its entertainment division with the acquisition of Peanuts almost five years ago, the new movie, which is scheduled to release in November, will reflect not only the viability and popularity of the venerable brand worldwide, but also dictate if Iconix continues to expand its entertainment portfolio or stick to its core DTR apparel business.
- Mattel: reorganization–With the resignation of its CEO Brian Stockton, the continued sales decline of its Barbie franchise and the loss of the Disney doll business, this toy company faces an uphill battle to right the ship. It must effectively integrate or perhaps spin-off its divisions and figure out what its future strategy and market position will entail.
- DreamWorks: acquisition–With its recent downsizing to two films per year and the elimination of 500 jobs, DreamWorks is not only an example of an overly aggressive growth plan, but it remains a major acquisition target as well.
- DHX Brands: expansion–Now that it has acquired Nerd Corps, this licensor has assembled a strong portfolio of global brands that includes “Slugterra,” “Yo Gabba Gabba!,” “Caillou,” “Teletubbies,” “In the Night Garden,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Johnny Test” and the “Degrassi” franchise. And while its television library offers strong sales potential, it could also make some noise in brand licensing.
Five Trends to Watch:
- The new superheroes–While Marvel is planning its next phase of superhero characters, Warner Bros. has also announced its slate of 10 superhero films like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Justice League through 2020, clearly indicating this genre will remain strong.
- Multi-channel networks–This sector will produce unlimited new content and stars that will offer strong licensing potential. AwesomenessTV is a major bright spot for DreamWorks, and it has already inked several deals for its content creators.
- Retail stores–As retail shelf space becomes more elusive and e-commerce continues to grow, brand licensors are getting more aggressive with their own retail initiatives, such as Nickelodeon which has plans for several stores worldwide.
- China–Overall revenue for the North American box office was down about 5 percent to $10.4 billion in 2014, but China’s grew significantly. It posted a 36 percent increase to $4.76 billion lead by the No. 1 film Transformers: Age of Extinction. The key here is that where there is a strong awareness of top global brands such as Hasbro’s Transformers, there’s opportunity for brand extension.
- Wireless accessories–From watches to health monitors to home security, this popular category continues to offer strong licensing opportunities.
Five Brands to Watch:
- Mr. Men Little Miss–Sanrio recently signed a deal with Fox animation for an animated film that will have a significant product component and reinforces its commitment to entertainment.
- Mambo–Saban Brands continues to grow and diversify as it recently created a lifestyle group and added this iconic Aussie apparel brand to its portfolio. More acquisitions are likely.
- Touch by Alyssa Milano–This brand underscores the importance and growth opportunities for sports licensing. (See story "The Live Experience".)
- Pokémon: As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, this popular franchise has a new platform and potential for growth in the hot gaming category.
- The Limited–Beanstalk is planning to expand this brand into other retail channels with new products like apparel, jewelry, footwear, home and optical.