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Publishing, a vital component to licensing programs

Books have become a must-have component in licensing with character and entertainment properties dominating. This is true to a lesser extent in greeting cards where niche licenses offer a point of difference. These categories generated over $4.65 billion in licensed related sales, about 18.5% of total receipts.

Hallmark showed its willingness to develop niche properties with its new exclusive deal with Mattel subsidiary Pleasant Co. for a line of greeting cards and other products due next September. Hallmark also picked up content-driven license Bunnies By The Bay with first products due on shelves in January 2002.

"Licensing is a small but growing business in greeting cards," confides Mike Brown, VP licensing, American Greetings (Cleveland).

Hot for AG is its one-year-old Music Mania program with *NSync, Backstreet Boys and Ricky Martin "experiencing significant sales," says Brown. On tap: seven skus from all-girl band Dream in 1Q 2002. For kids, newcomers include Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius from Nickelodeon, Eloise (The itsy bitsy Entertainment Co.), Cubix (4Kids Entertainment) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (Sesame Workshop).

Consolidation made the news in books with Random House and Classic Media acquiring troubled bookseller Golden Books Family Entertainment in August and HIT Entertainment licensing Lyrick Studios' publishing division to Scholastic Entertainment in February.

Scholastic has been busy securing other licenses like Butt-Ugly Martians (Just Licensing) with a variety of formats planned. The company also acquired the licensing and merchandising rights for I SPY and is the new publisher of Little Suzy's Zoo books.

Simon & Schuster took on Little Bill and Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius plus Bob the Builder (HIT Entertainment). Dora the Explorer books are planned for spring 2002. Chouette Publishing also shipped new Caillou (Cinar) titles last month with expanded formats planned for 2002 and beyond.

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