It may not be easy, but merchandising and licensing can make children’s entertainment big business. Alan Gregg tells us how.
Children’s television is often viewed as the poor relation of prime time – production budgets and licence fees are lower and the business tends to be less star-driven than the rest of the entertainment industry (with notable exceptions like Hannah Montana and Hilary Duff). Unless you have children yourself, you’d probably be hard pressed to name more than a handful of children’s TV shows. But ask a little girl under the age of five who the most famous person in the world is and, more likely than not, she’ll say Dora. As in Dora the Explorer, star of Nickelodeon’s hugely successful pre-school cartoon. It’s a simple enough concept: Dora helps audiences find their way through a little adventure with the help of a talking map and, along the way, teaches them the rudiments of the Spanish language. Simple indeed, but the Dora brand is worth an estimated $1bn annually.
Dora, along with other brands like Star Wars, Marvel and Spongebob Squarepants, stands atop a multi-billion dollar business known collectively as Merchandising and Licensing, or M&L for short. It’s not a new idea (Walt Disney recognised the brand power of Mickey Mouse over 70 years ago) but it’s a business that has seen massive growth over the past 30 years. In 2008, the M&L business was valued at over $22bn in the US alone so it really is the holy grail for producers of kids’ entertainment; with TV licence fees around the world dropping and production budgets tightening, producers are finding their profit margins constantly eroded. But M&L remains an elusive dream for most. Perhaps 1 in 100 kids’ shows become a hit and perhaps 1 in 1000 turn into a ‘merch’ hit.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 129.
Category: Back Issues Articles