Competition Breeds Creativity

Opportunities for innovative licensing strategies abound in Europe as technology improves and consumer trends converge.

Cbeebies, the BBC's dedicated channel for young children celebrates its fifth anniversary this year and is getting a makeover to keep up with the evolving broadcasting landscape. The changes that have taken place over these past five years have been significant, and hold a variety of implications for the licensing industry. For starters, Cbeebies had almost zero competition five years ago; more than 20 channels now vie for a slice of an ever-decreasing UK children's market share. Five years ago, new media meant that day's newspaper, and social networking involved coffee with friends; two-year-olds now are interacting with computers, and social networking site MySpace boasts more than 100 million users. Five years ago, advertisers were free to market whatever food products they liked, whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted; now, health campaigners, watchdogs, and governments are threatening revenue streams by imposing restrictions. But competition breeds quality and innovation, and, as proof, the BBC is launching three new shows—Tommy Zoom, Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies, and the much anticipated In the Night Garden.

Like the re-branding of Cbeebies, the European licensing industry continues to adapt and evolve to changing market circumstances. As communications improve, consumer trends converge, and brands become global, the world shrinks. In light of this, companies now are expanding their reach. For instance, Kidz Entertainment, the Nordic-based brand marketing agency that represents Hasbro, HIT, and MGA Entertainment, is set to merge with New York-based licensing agency EEMC, which specializes in the Eastern European and Russian markets. This collaboration opens up new markets and specialist knowledge for both parties and will exploit licensing opportunities in the growing Eastern European markets. At the moment, the Central and Eastern European region is the base for some 400 million consumers, and while licensing is still developing, its rapid growth is being fueled by well-known brands and large retailers like Tesco, Auchan, Carrefour, and Leclerc—all of which have a presence in the market. Entertainment Rights, meanwhile, is busy working with new subsidiary Classic Media to promote its bolstered portfolio. The acquisition gives the company a stronger foothold in the U.S. and also provides a means of channeling its mostly U.S. properties to the rest of the world. As the challenges associated with the broadcast platform continue, Jetix is looking at innovative ways to reach out to its key markets. After recently partnering with London's Science Museum for its Science of Spying exhibition, Jetix UK is launching a sponsorship deal with the Scout Association to promote its "TV for Heroes" marketing campaign. Targeting 6- to 8-year-old members of the organization, Jetix will sponsor the Beaver Scout Imagination Badge, encouraging around 120,000 members to interact with the Jetix brand.

And, finally, from a marketing tool to actual tools—London's Victoria and Albert museum has teamed with Wild and Wolf to create a range of DIY and garden instruments inspired by the designs of English artist William Morris. It's about as far away from the Internet and new media you can get, but proof that traditional licensing is producing surprising and innovative partnerships.

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