Nickelodeon and Viacom's Nick Jr. preschool business is on fire with some of the hottest kids' properties currently on the market and a strong pipeline of content that will keep the excitement growing.
Nick Jr. is dominating the preschool market in the U.S. with six top 10 shows. Around the world, Nick Jr. is also a growing phenomenon.
"We've significantly expanded our Nick Jr. household penetration internationally in the past 12 months," says Ron Johnson, executive vice president, Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products, Viacom International Media Networks. "In the U.K., through a partnership with Channel 5, we own the preschool space. We've grown 20 percent in Mexico, we're up significantly in Brazil, and we're adding several million households in Columbia."
And that's just part of the success story.
Johnson says Viacom has re-invested in platforms in Germany to get more eyes on its properties and is working with partners in Spain and France to expand there, as well.
"We've taken advantage of our great preschool content to foster deals and increase our distribution, and that's driving our consumer products business," he says. "Internationally, we've had our best year ever in 2016 driven by the series 'Paw Patrol,' 'Blaze and the Monster Machines' and 'Shimmer and Shine,' and we're currently at double-digit (23 percent) organic growth for our business, including recreation, home entertainment and our core licensing business. We're on track to deliver double-digit growth over last year's revenue. We're really hitting on all cylinders."
Johnson says Nick Jr.'s record revenue is driven by three engines: its core consumer products licensing, promotions such as retail loyalty programs and on-pack promotions and on-ground, real world recreational experiences that take the Nick Jr. brand to hotels and amusement parks worldwide.
Retail activations are also a crucial component.
"We have great tie-ins with partners like Walmart, Target, Tesco and Toys 'R' Us," says Johnson. "The amount of money, time and effort we spend in assets, exclusives and marketing programs is critical for our brands. Our retail partners do a great job, so we make sure we continue to support them."
The company's approach is certainly working. Product sales for "Paw Patrol" are up 60 percent, and DVD sales for the brand are stronger than ever.
"'Paw Patrol' is the No. 1 DVD franchise around the world, and we're pacing to sell more than 1.5 million units in fiscal 2017," says Johnson.
Nickelodeon International's publishing division saw more than 50 percent growth from 2015 to 2016, and its current second quarter estimates are predicting triple-digit publishing growth for "Blaze and the Monster Machines" and "Shimmer and Shine."
"Paw Patrol" also remains hugely popular worldwide.
"The show continues to be a worldwide phenomenon on TV, in consumer products and off-channel with wide cross-gender appeal," says Pam Kaufman, chief marketing officer and president, consumer products, Nickelodeon. "'Paw Patrol' was the No. 1 show for kids, ages 2 to 5, on all of TV for the first quarter of 2017 in the U.S., and the 'Mission Paw: Quest for the Crown' episode delivered an 18.9 rating, drawing 4.2 million total viewers."
The show is taking off in Germany where it's the fastest-growing preschool brand and is expected to be the No. 1 toy brand next year. The brand ranks in the top five in many other countries.
"It's one of the rare properties in the preschool space that appeals to both boys and girls, and it's been a huge licensing success," says Kaufman.
The brand's products enhance its appeal. "Paw Patrol" was the winner of the Toy Industry Association's Toy of the Year and License of the Year awards, and the Toy Award Winner for Best Preschool Toy of 2016 in the U.K.
Licensees are also showing their support for "Paw Patrol." TY has taken on its first-ever license for its Beanie Boos range, and the brand will have some new CPG and food deal announcements in the near future.
On the live events front, the "Paw Patrol Live Tour" has "performed beyond expectation," says Johnson, selling out across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The tour has been extended through the remainder of this year.
"Shimmer and Shine," Nick Jr.'s girl-focused property, recently launched in more than 10,000 retail stores with soft lines (bedding and home accessories from Franco), a toy line from Fisher-Price, role play products from Just Play and Halloween costumes from Rubie's Costume Co. Expansions of the Fisher-Price range and new construction from Mega Bloks are planned. The brand has more than 300 international partners, including 10 global publishing partners. A magazine partner is yet to be announced. The property will be significantly expanded to a broader category base this year.
"Blaze and The Monster Machines" continues to gain ground through on-air story arcs, consumer product tie-ins and increased off-channel marketing. The show is a top 10 preschool program around the world including in the U.K., Hungary, Poland, Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada and India, according to NVCP, and has launched on free-to-air channels in more than 20 markets.
Consumer products in the U.S. have expanded "Blaze" into new categories including bedding, home décor, accessories, oral care, gift sets and social expressions. Key product rollouts for this year include CPG categories such as fruit snacks, bandages and more.
NVCP/VIMN recently launched another key property, "Nella The Princess Knight," an animated series about an 8-year-old who possesses the royal qualities of a princess but also the courage and determination of a brave knight, in February, and will soon begin an international rollout in English-speaking markets.
"Nella" is one of the first properties Viacom has developed in the U.K. with its newly acquired Channel 5 partners.
"Nella is our first true princess, and what an awesome princess she is. She comes from a multi-ethnic family and is a princess by day and a strong action figure by night who solves problems with great collaborative solutions. We're excited about the toy and role-play possibilities of this property," says Johnson.
NVCP/VIMN named Vivid Group as the exclusive international master toy licensee for "Nella" in all countries outside of the U.S. Categories include dolls, figures, play-sets, plush and role-play toys, all set for a spring 2018 international launch. A U.S. launch will follow later.
Another new show is "Rusty Rivets," an animated TV series produced by Spin Master Entertainment for Nickelodeon, that is inspired by elements of the maker culture and will move into toy licensing later this year.
"The show has tapped into the DIY movement and is a natural for toy licensing," says Kaufman. "Our other new property, 'Sunny Day,' is launching in the U.S. this summer, with consumer products coming in 2018 and international to follow at a later date."
With a full schedule of hits and more properties launching soon, Viacom is making sure Nick Jr. holds its leadership position.
"This is the most robust pipeline we've had to-date," says Kaufman. "Nick Jr. will be keeping the momentum going with new consumer product partnerships, more character appearances and many other ways for consumers to interact with their strong stable of characters."