Finding Revenue Beyond the Screen

Apr 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal’s new TV, DVD, music and consumer products group is turning to its broadcast network’s “Heroes” to broaden revenue streams, striking licensing deals based on the program.
Beyond a soundtrack released last month, the NBC Universal licensing division is adding samurai swords, action figures, trading cards, stamps and a book to its stock of wares.
The group, announced in February, is charged with developing product lines associated with TV brands including NBC, Universal Media Studios, USA Network, Sci Fi Channel, Bravo, CNBC and Telemundo.
“We formed the company because we thought there was a need to put focused attention to our television programming whether it’s from the network or cable front,” said Kim Niemi, the senior VP overseeing the division. “In addition, keeping these properties under one roof gives us a centralized focus that would allow us immediacy to react to the shows and develop more products.”
Ms. Niemi’s group has a roster of shows from which to cull ideas for products that includes “Battlestar Galactica,” “Top Chef,” “30 Rock” and others.
“NBC has done a good job with shows such as ‘Heroes’ and ‘The Office,’ and these demonstrate that there is an increasing amount of activity in the past year in the licensing of live-action television programming that is targeting a more adult audience,” said Michael Stone, co-founder, president and CEO of licensing agency the Beanstalk Group. “Television licensing for kids has been around for a long time, but there’s a trend there for non-
animated adult-style shows, whether it’s ‘Heroes’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ or ‘CSI.’”
Mr. Stone noted that while dollar figures for licensing revenues have continued to trend upward in recent years, more competition has entered the field. The potential for boosting a show’s profile with consumer goods is drawing companies into the field, he said.
“Consumer-product companies are facing the issue of consumers being able to block out commercial messages, and the old ways of reaching them are not as effective as they used to be,” said Mr. Stone. “Licensing is a way to build that brand and reach out to them in order to build brand loyalty. The generated revenue is a nice addition to that, but that runs second to driving consumers to the core brand.”
Previously, the licensing and merchandising for NBC Universal television properties was handled by the Universal Studios Consumer Products Group. That division will continue to handle all licensing and merchandising for the company’s film properties, including the “Curious George” and “The Land Before Time” franchises.
That division generated $1 billion for the company last year, according to License Global magazine.
In addition to assuming responsibility for all NBC Universal television properties, Ms. Niemi’s group will continue to oversee all new business development for music, e-commerce sales, the NBCUniversal.com store group and third-party home entertainment licensing.
NBC Universal selected Joy Tashjian Marketing Group as its exclusive consumer-products agency, extending a long-term licensing association.
“Heroes” in particular has been a gold mine for the Consumer Products Group, with the sci-fi/adventure series scoring not only with critics and audiences, but with merchandise companies as well. So far there are approximately 20 licensees who have reached deals with NBC for the property, some with a number of platforms on which to use the characters.
NBC Universal declined to disclose how much revenue the show has brought in from licensing deals.
“Our goal with ‘Heroes’ and with any program is to look at what the connection is to the viewer and the audience,” said Ms. Niemi. “When we look at ‘Heroes,’ it’s great for us because there are a lot of fan connections that can happen.”
Licensing deals for the show include:
– “Saving Charlie,” a Random House novel released at the end of the year, which extended a plot line with the characters Hiro and Charlie.
– Mezco Toyz will produce “Heroes” action figures that will appear in stores in June.
– Topps Trading Card Co. is releasing character cards that are hitting stores now.
– “Heroes” collectible stamps from Stamps.com.
– United Cutlery is producing a samurai sword, playing off the Hiro storyline, that will be carried in specialty knife shops, catalogs and by Internet dealers. It will available in mid-June, retailing for around $200.


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