Ben Brings It On
Pressman Toy Corporation signed a multi-year licensing agreement with Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) to create games, puzzles, and card games in the U.S., UK, and Canada based on action series Ben 10. The first in the line—a Ben 10 3-D puzzle—will be available on UK retail shelves in June; followed by a Ben 10 "Total Transformation" board game and a "Master Your Powers" interactive DVD game in fall and winter, respectively. "The deal with Pressman Toy will complement Bandai's Ben 10 toy line and complete this key category," says Moira Rodger, director of licensing, Cartoon Network Enterprises UK. "Pressman Toy has a strong track record creating innovative, well-designed action-adventure games for the boys' market, and its expertise should be a perfect fit for our series."
Meanwhile, CNE also signed an exclusive, long-term partnership with Hallmark Cards Inc. for the social expressions category. Under the agreement, which covers all Cartoon Network original properties for ages 6 to 11, Hallmark will have licensing rights in the U.S. and Canada for a range of everyday and seasonal products including greeting cards and party supply items.
VIZ Media, LLC, acquired the U.S. download to own (DTO) and download to rent (DTR) rights for Japanese anime series Death Note, via a deal with Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV).
The deal marks the first time a well-known Japanese anime property is being made legally available to domestic audiences for download to own while the title is on-air in Japan. "With the agreement to bring Death Note to the American market, we will establish a new benchmark for bringing our audience the content they want when they want it," says Daniel Marks, senior vice president, strategy and business development, VIZ Media. "The success of the Death Note manga has created tremendous anticipation for its anime counterpart, and we are committed to delivering the best content through a variety of platforms to our tech-savvy fan base." VIZ will seek to make the series available to consumers through a number of online providers to reach the widest audience possible.
Nielsen Media Research plans to debut a new ratings service in May that will determine how many people actually watch the ads attached to their favorite programming. The technology also will offer data regarding the use of digital video recorders; in this case, the idea is to expand statistics on shows that are being stored by viewers for access at more convenient times, thus quantifying the "time-shifting" phenomenon. As a result, advertisers may look to reshuffle their ad dollars based on program-specific performance.
It's a Hoot
German children's rights owner and producer TV-Loonland recently secured deals for animated short series The Owl. Swedish broadcaster SVT picked up the multiplatform series, along with South African pay-TV operator M-Net and Thailand's UBC subsidiary Cineplex Company. The Owl, a CGI co-production from TV-Loonland, Paris-based Studio Hari, and French public network France 3, follows the humorous mishaps of a pink owl.
TV-Loonland also secured a string of broadcast and home entertainment sales for animated preschool program Little Princess (65 x 11 minutes), with Anchor Bay Entertainment picking up the home entertainment rights for both seasons one and two, and Australia-based Madman Entertainment acquiring the DVD and video distribution rights. In addition, the show's European presence will increase, with TVP (Poland), Minimax (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania), RTV (Slovenia), and RTP (Portugal) purchasing the first season, and S4C Wales, A-list Scandinavian broadcasters, and UBS Thailand agreeing to acquire season two, currently in production.
New episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Fast Forward recently launched on ITV Network (UK), RTVE (Spain), and Media Set (Italy), among others. These deals come on the heels of several international broadcast acquisitions, says 4Kids Entertainment Executive Vice President Brian Lacey, including SIC (Portugal), Ten Network (Australia), Cartoon Network (Australia and New Zealand), DR TV (Denmark), and Mediacorp TV12's Kid Central (Singapore).
Canadian production company Breakthrough Films & Television started production on its newest factual programming project, Shaye. Set for a Canadian broadcast premiere on CH Television, followed by a run on Global Television and Country Music Television (CMT), the new documentary series follows a female musical trio on the road to stardom. "Breakthrough has experienced tremendous growth over the last year, and we anticipate continued success with our increasing number of global partners," says Tanya Kelen, head of distribution, Breakthrough Entertainment, Inc.
Decode Entertainment followed a slew of recent international sales and a second season commission for Planet Sketch with a major U.S. deal. Nicktoons Network picked up all 26 11-minute episodes of the Aardman Animations co-production, which will premiere on the network this spring.
Nick Jr. preschool series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, produced by Bolder Media Inc. and Starz Media LLC, readied the launch of its consumer products program by securing 14 partners in a variety of categories. Fisher-Price signed on as master toy licensee with a line of preschool toys due August 2008. Other products due on shelves at the same time include a DVD/video from Starz Home Entertainment, games and puzzles from Hasbro, publishing from Scholastic Media, coloring and activity books from Simon & Schuster, sound storybooks from Meredith, apparel from Children's Apparel Network, footwear from SG Footwear, sleepwear from Dream Apparel, party goods from Unique, headwear/accessories from Berkshire, wholesale cake decorations from Bakery Crafts, over-the-counter fabric from A.E. Nathan, and mylar balloons from CTI Industries.
The Canadian version of Bravo fashion series Project Runway will premiere on the recently rebranded Slice channel this fall, via a deal between FremantleMedia Enterprises, Alliance Atlantis, and Insight Production. In addition to the Canadian format, Slice also will be the exclusive broadcaster of the U.S. and UK versions of Project Runway. To date, Fremantle has sold the original U.S. version of Project Runway to more than 100 countries worldwide.
United Media and Bruce Barry's Wacky World Studios entered into a joint venture to represent the North American licensing rights for children's CGI series Bug Rangers. United Media will build a licensing program that targets boys and girls ages 4 to 7 with age-appropriate products that focus on the storyline, while continuing to nurture Bug Rangers' existing licensing partners, which include Word Distribution for music, Zonderkidz for publishing, and Dayspring for gift and stationery. An interactive Website at www.bugrangers.com also will support the program.
"Bug Rangers is a wholesome brand with a positive message that not only captures the attention of families but consumers and retailers alike," says Joshua Kislevitz, senior vice president of domestic licensing for United Media. "With its distinct combination of CGI, music, and a dedication to arming kids with basic principles and values, Bug Rangers resonates with children and their parents."
Gabba Gabba Do
This fall, Nick Jr. will launch Yo Gabba Gabba!, a new half-hour live-action preschool series produced by The Magic Store and W!LDBRAIN. Starring host DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and a cluster of puppet characters, the 20-episode live-action, magazine-style series will use beat-driven music and songs to highlight simple life lessons and universal experiences in the lives of preschoolers.
Buena Vista International Television-Asia Pacific (BVITV-AP) recently launched a daily Disney-branded block in Vietnam on terrestrial broadcaster Ho Chi Minh Television (HTV7). The deal for Toon Disney was inked between BVITV-AP and Vietnamese distribution agent Q.net Co. Ltd. The animated programming block is airing daily on HTV7, from 6 to 6:30 a.m., and features a wide range of animated series from Disney including Mickey Mouseworks, The Adventures of Mickey & Donald, Timon & Pumba, and Disney/Pixar's Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
Big Tent Entertainment appointed Breyer Animal Creations the master toy partner for girl-skewing 'tween series The Saddle Club, which launched on PBS last fall, and continues to be a popular series on Discovery Kids. Big Tent plans to create and market a range of products based on the TV series characters, horses, and storylines, including model horses, playsets, and craft activity sets.
The company also is building a comprehensive licensing and marketing program for The Saddle Club, establishing relationships with core products to promote equestrian lifestyles for 'tweens, including fashion apparel and accessories, stationery, and additional arts & crafts.
Nickelodeon recently launched a kid-targeted multimedia Website that offers gaming, video, and social interaction. Nicktropolis, which is available at www.nicktropolis.com or through www.nick.com, offers kids their own virtual community playground, where they can design their own avatar; watch videos of Nick programs; interact with other kids or Nickelodeon characters in real-time; and create their own personalized 3-D rooms at Nicktoon Boulevard, which features branded environments such as SpongeBob's Bikini Bottom and Jimmy Neutron's Retroville. Visitors also can play games in the Pier section and collect Nickpoints, which then can be used to purchase items for personalizing their rooms. For added safety, the site allows parents to limit their child's chat settings and control peer-to-peer interactivity.
"Virtual worlds like Nicktropolis are part of our strategy to bring immersive, relevant entertainment experiences to our audiences wherever they are, and to build communities around our content across every kind of platform," notes Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO, MTV Networks. "The virtual worlds we've been building across our networks give the fans of our brands the high level of interaction they want with one another and with the content itself."
Who Wants to Be a Kabillionaire?
Kabillion, a new multiplatform kids' program service—available both as a free online broadband site (www.Kabillion.com) and a free video-on-demand (VOD) channel—recently went live courtesy of Taffy Entertainment. Developed in conjunction with Remix Entertainment Ventures, the service offers high-quality animated and live-action kids' series entertainment. The VOD platform currently is available to digital cable subscribers nationwide on Comcast Cable systems, with additional systems to be added in the near future. Plans also call for offering mobile, gaming, and wireless platforms.
Kabillion's initial programming lineup includes a variety of options—from CGI comedy Pet Alien to anime trading card-themed Mix Master: King of Cards. To help guide viewers through the new service, Kabillion will offer "Kablab," a comedic, live-action preview show intended to entertain and inform kids about other available programming and content choices. The network is advertiser supported and already has several key sponsors on board.
Easter with Max & Ruby
Nelvana Enterprises' preschool animated television series, Max & Ruby, will debut new episodes and merchandise timed with the Easter season. Nick Jr. will launch the new episodes starting April 6, and Noggin April 7. Lots of products are on tap, including DVDs, beanie babies, a bowling set, character bouncers, and hollow Easter chocolate. The pair also will star in a stage show in fall 2007 produced by TheatreworksUSA with stops in more than 1,800 venues and a small-format stage show and meet-and-greet appearances in the U.S. from Paquin Entertainment. In Canada, a stage show and live appearances produced by Sphere Entertainment continue to tour the country.
Bob the Builder Says Cheese
HIT Entertainment signed a licensing agreement with The Good Food Village for the launch of Secret Shapes cheese in the UK. Bob the Builder will be the "shape" of the first product line due in stores this month. The launch will be supported by TV and print advertising, a sampling campaign, PR, and competitions, with Bob lending a hand at key locations throughout the UK.
Repped by KKM Global Brand Strategies, The Weather Channel recently rolled out its first-ever licensed toy, a remote-controlled vehicle called StormTraxx. The vehicle is being produced as part of the new WeatherKids line, a joint venture between The Weather Channel and Excalibur Electronics. The Hummer-like design is intended to replicate the type of vehicle used by The Weather Channel when meteorologists go into the field to cover storms, hurricanes, and other severe weather.
"We wanted to couple young people's natural fascination about weather with the wonderful imagination and creativity they have and turn it into an opportunity for them to explore the world of weather a little deeper," says Shari Pace, vice president of licensing and merchandising, The Weather Channel. "For years, The Weather Channel has partnered with teachers and schools to supplement education about the weather and the science behind it in the classroom. Now, through products such as StormTraxx, we can reach children in the home, as well."
South Korea's Cake Studios formed a co-production partnership with UK's Allegra Publishing to produce animation based on children's books (for ages 4 and up) by Felicia Law.