Comic-Con Is Forum for Dealmaking
There was lots of news coming out of last week’s Comic-Con. Actor-director Ed Burns is creating a new series of comic books with Virgin Comics titled Dock Walloper. The series debuts in comic shops and online comic retailers in November with the complete 144-page book due in May 2008 at all major book sellers. A new site, DockWalloper.com will host additional information, previews and pre-orders of the comic art and books. The comic series will be written by Burns, along with comic book legend Jimmy Palmiotti. Cover and interior art for the series will be created by Virgin Comics’ in-house illustration studio.
In other news, Exodus Film Group signed a comic book deal with IDW Publishing for Exodus’s CG-animated feature film Igor due Oct. 24, 2008. The publishing program will include a series of full-color prequel titles leading up to another series of books taking fans through the film and beyond. These will be followed by a full-color paperback, collecting each miniseries.
Chips Fit for a King
Burger King will let potato-chip fans have it their way this fall with snacks in Ketchup & Fries and Flame-Broiled burger flavors. According to a report in USA Today, the fast-food chain has licensed its brand for a line of chips to Inventure Group. That company manufacturers and distributes snacks under a variety of labels, including a dozen varieties of T.G.I. Friday’s-branded chips that alone are a $100 million retail business.
“It’s a fun fit,” says Russ Klein, BK chief marketer. “This makes great sense for us. When you think about the sheer impressions of our trademark that this will create, the value is gigantic.”
Earnhardt Maintains Control of Name, Brand
The future licensing rights to Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be negotiated by Earnhardt’s own company, JR Motorsports, not Hendrick Motorsports, for whom he’ll drive next season. Earnhardt will be the only NASCAR driver whose personal company controls the licensing of his team’s merchandise and apparel. Jeff Gordon at one time had his own company that handled his team licensing, but that operation has since rolled into HG Licensing, a joint venture between Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick. HG handles licensing for Hendrick’s other cars as well, but will not have control over Earnhardt’s licensing, which is believed to generate $30 million or more in revenue annually. Earnhardt’s licensed goods account for about a third of all NASCAR merchandise sales, experts in the industry say.
Microsoft, EA Sign Sports Game Ad Deal
Microsoft Corp. will pipe advertisements into a slate of popular sports video games from Electronic Arts Inc., including its best-selling Madden football franchise. The deal, which also covers EA’s NASCAR, Tiger Woods golf, NHL hockey, and upcoming Skate skateboarding games, is a significant one for Microsoft as it tries to build an early lead over rivals such as Google in putting ads into video games.
Peikoff Promoted at Fox
With more than 20 years of entertainment licensing, marketing, business development and communications experience, Michael Peikoff has been promoted to senior vice president, licensing and merchandising for 20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising. The announcement was made by executive vice president, licensing and merchandising, Elie Dekel, to whom he reports.
Formerly vice president of licensing, Peikoff’s role will be expanded to include management of all internal and external communications for the licensing division as well as overseeing the company’s retail marketing and licensed promotions initiatives in the United States. Accordingly, Jeff Shapiro, vice president, retail marketing, and Howard Nelson, vice president, worldwide promotion, will report directly to Peikoff.
“Michael has been an integral part of the success we’ve experienced in our Licensing & Merchandising division,” says Dekel. “His insight, strong relationships, and tenacity have helped propel licensing programs for ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy,’ and Napoleon Dynamite, among others, to new levels while also helping to launch new business development initiatives for the division. We’re looking forward to more of the same results in the future.”
More Licensors Commit to Brand Licensing Europe
Seven companies in 14 days have signed up to Brand Licensing Europe, joining the likes of Twentieth Century Fox, Disney Consumer Products, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mattel, The Licensing Company, Jetix, Hit Entertainment, Entertainment Rights, Granada Ventures, and BBC Worldwide.
The new additions bring the total of confirmed exhibitors to 165—30 percent ahead of the same time last year—and include Upper Deck Entertainment, (Not so) Scary Monsters, Squiffy, Lunartics, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, sponsors of the Brand Licensing Europe Advice Centre, the essential destination for visitors to find expert advice on all aspects of licensing. Brand Licensing Europe will be held Oct. 2 and 3 at London’s Olympia Hall. For a full exhibitor list and to register for a free visitor pass, please click on www.brandlicensingeurope.com.
“Heroes” to Hit Retail
Universal Studios Consumer Products Group banned together its first group of partners for TV series “Heroes.” DC Comics, Random House, Mezco Toyz, Topps, and others will come to market with an extensive publishing program, trading cards, apparel, stationery/social expression, action figures, and an interactive game timed with the season launch on Sept. 24, and shortly after the launch of Season 1 on DVD and HD DVD on Aug. 28. The consumer products program will capitalize on the rich storylines seen in the popular series, and in some instances, extend the story beyond what is seen on television.
Dark Horse Lassos Indiana Jones
Dark Horse Comics acquired the comic-book rights to Indiana Jones with the first of two Indiana Jones Omnibuses in February collecting Dark Horse’s previous entries in the saga. In April, volume one of Indiana Jones Adventures, a digest-sized graphic novel, will hit shelves. The Indiana Jones Adventures volumes and the Omnibuses will continue on a quarterly basis—including Omnibuses for the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the original Marvel run of Indiana Jones comics. A comics adaptation of the film will be released simultaneously with the yet-to-be-titled fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series in May 2008, followed immediately by an all-new Indiana Jones comics series.
MIPCOM Junior Issues a Challenge
In partnership with License! Global, MIPCOM Junior will be hosting “The Licensing Challenge,” a pitching session designed to showcase the TV property with the highest licensing potential. An international jury (to be announced) will select a winner during the MIPCOM Junior show, to be held in Cannes Oct. 6 and 7, from a shortlist of five entrants. The winner will be offered advice on how to hit the international stores, plus receive prizes designed to establish the contestants’ global presence. For more information and to enter a submission, go to http://www.mipcomjunior.com/ licensing.htm.
Aardman Goes Interactive in WebbliWorld
Aardman Animations—creator of Wallace and Gromit, Flushed Away, and Shaun the Sheep—and digital agency Enable Interactive have created an interactive portal for children. Called www.webbliworld.com, the Web site features animated films starring new characters as well as interactive games and adventures, and a whimsical world for children to explore.
WebbliWorld was conceived and is owned by Justine Maunder and Camilla Whitby, both with years of experience in the TV and advertising industries in the UK.
Heather Wright, head of Aardman’s TV commercials division, said WebbliWorld will have tie-ins to advertising clients, who will sponsor different sections of the site, in addition to two initial sponsors, Puffin Books and The World Wildlife Fund.
Noah’s Ark Bears Head for Woolworths
UK retailer Woolworths is trialing Noah’s Ark Bear Factory concessions in seven of its larger stores in a bid to capture a share of the booming toy customization market. A similar concept to retailer Build-A-Bear, Noah’s Ark Factory gives customers the opportunity to select a teddy bear and customize it with clothes and accessories.
Cardiff, Wales-based Noah’s Ark Factory already has a presence in over 50 theme parks in the UK, including Legoland and Butlins’ holiday camps. This is its first tie-in with a retailer. Two bear options will sell at £9.99 and £19.99, plus a range of clothing and accessories.
Taffy Sells Eight New Shows to Northern Europe
Paris-based distribution, brand management, and entertainment company Taffy Entertainment sold eight titles to key broadcasters and cable channels in Scandinavia. The shows are “Dive Olly Dive!, ” “Fantastic Four,” “SamSam,” “Growing Up Creepie,” “ToddWorld,” “Pet Alien,” “Insectoscope,” and “Waiting For Christmas.” Five have been sold to Norway’s NRK, SVT Sweden is taking two and TV2 Denmark, Finland’s YLE, and DR Denmark have bought one each.
On cable television, Cartoon Network in Scandinavia has obtained broadcast rights to “Fantastic Four” and season two of “Pet Alien,” while Nickelodeon will air the “Growing Up Creepie” series.
First Choice Takes HIT to Kids’ Clubs
First Choice holidays and HIT Entertainment signed a three-year licensing deal for HIT Favourites for its First Choice Kids’ Academies children’s clubs from May 2008. HIT Favourites is the multibrand “umbrella” licensing strategy that the company launched at the British Toy Fair in January this year featuring its core properties—Bob the Builder, Thomas & Friends, Pingu, Angelina Ballerina, Fireman Sam, and Barney & Friends. The characters will appear across all First Choice Kid’s Academies from spring 2008. The academies are located at a range of resorts. The holiday firm’s new Families brochure features the HIT characters and the Academies will be fully branded with the characters.
In the United States, HIT is building its relationship with Chick-fil-A, Inc., with a promotion featuring Bob the Builder through Nov. 15. The restaurant chain will offer kids age 3 and under a choice of five different board books free with the purchase of a Kids’ Meal. The individual book titles include Let’s Find Colors, We Can Do It!, Let’s Count!, Let’s Find Opposites, and Let’s Find Shapes.
4Kids Stakes Claim on Di-Gata Defenders
4Kids Entertainment licensed the television broadcast and merchandising rights from Nelvana Enterprises for “Di-Gata Defenders,” due to air on 4Kids TV (Saturday mornings on Fox affiliates nationwide) beginning July 28. A consumer products program is due in spring 2008 that will include dice, trading cards, and action figures as well as a handheld game for the Nintendo DS by The Game Factory. 4Kids Entertainment is currently working on a licensing and marketing program for the property.
Adult Swim Joins with Shocker Toys
Adult Swim is partnering with Shocker Toys to provide fans of the series “Metalocalypse” the opportunity to collect their favorite band members from the late-night series. Launching in spring 2008, Shocker Toys will develop “Metalocalypse” action figures featuring the band’s main five members and accessories from the series, as well as additional figures under the Shockini line of collectible block figurines.
Postal Service Gives Superheroes Stamp of Approval
Superheroes have a new crusade these days: helping people send letters with the help of the U.S. Postal Service. A set of 20 stamps honors the creations of Marvel Comics, and include Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Sub-Mariner, The Thing, Captain America, the Silver Surfer, the Spider-Woman, the Invincible Iron Man, Elektra, and Wolverine. In addition, 10 of the stamps highlight covers of comic books featuring the characters.
Rubie’s Gets Contract Extension
Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC Comics, extended its relationship with Rubie’s Costume Co. to manufacture costumes, costume accessories, and boxed costume sets based on Batman. This agreement also grants Rubie’s the rights to produce costumes and accessories inspired by the summer 2008 release of The Dark Knight.
That Caps It All
Copyright Promotions Sport (CPS) has brokered a deal for West Ham United with New Era Caps to be its major licensee for apparel and headgear. The deal covers T-shirts, polo shirts, fleeces, sweat tops, casual shirts, casual jackets, casual tracksuit trousers, casual shorts, sailing jerseys plus scarves, headwear, and gloves.
SimplyFun Horses Around with New Games
SimplyFun signed its first license with Hidden City Games for the new board game Treasure Trot, The Bella Sara Board Game. The double-sided game, for girls ages 5 and up, features the four main characters introduced in the Bella Sara line of horse-themed trading cards brought to the United States in March 2007. The game also includes the exclusive Bella Sara horse card Apuni, a one-of-a-kind foil-printed card available only in the game. The company also debuted several other games including Let’s Chat Conversation Ring, Walk the Dogs, Ribbit, and Sneaks.
‘Difficult Quarter’ for Sports Direct
The UK’s 400-plus branch Sports Direct chain issued a profits warning last week, refusing to give same-store sales, but stating that the first quarter of this financial year had been exceptionally difficult. The retailer, which also owns brands including Dunlop, Slazenger, and Lonsdale—and is in the process of buying boxing brand Everlast—reported profit before tax up 38 percent to £151 million, on sales up 13 percent to £1.35 billion for the 12 months to the end of April. The group’s licensing business grew by over 22 percent in the same period. Analysts and investors are upset that the company refused to give a picture of current trading, despite respectable increases in profit and sales.
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing announced a series of hires and promotions including Anica Rissi joining the Simon Pulse team as editor, Alexandra Penfold being promoted to associate editor, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers/Paula Wiseman Books; Cecilia de la Campa being promoted to coordinator; and Carolyn Pohmer being promoted to associate publicist.