End of day two…it’s the Vegas blog!

Published on: 11th June 2015

Day two of the Licensing Expo is now complete. I have washed my hands next to actor Seth Green, passed Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan in the aisles (I won’t complain about them slowing my progress for obvious reasons), been chastised by Dave Middleton on Facebook for not knowing who the Bella Twins were and generally been encouraged by the positivity which pervades the event. It’s difficult not to feel energised by the passion and enthusiasm of exhibitors: maybe it’s the luck of the draw, but just about everyone I’ve met today had interesting developments to share and was in an upbeat frame of mind.

Rather than discussing specific brands (for fear of leaving anyone out), I thought I would mention a couple of trends that have cropped up repeatedly during conversations. Firstly, how the traditional broadcast system is being massively disrupted by new media channels such as YouTube, Netflix, Awesomeness TV and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Amazon Prime. Gone are the days of hanging around waiting for TV stations to make up their mind over broadcast plans and then neglecting to share them with anyone until the last minute: there are now numerous – more immediate – ways to reach consumers, and I’ve been told repeatedly that the viewing figures and impact can be staggering. One British licensor told me that their show ended up gaining a huge audience via the You Tube app, leading to a flurry of enquiries from American licensees. The Talking Tom animated series has accumulated over 25 million viewers across four editions online. Everywhere I go, new series are being launched on Netflix or You Tube because there is a firm belief that this is where the kids are going in their droves. This is a development which toy retail buyers are going to need to get their head round pretty quickly, but at the same time it certainly presents a major challenge for children’s broadcasters around the globe, many of whom have been struggling with the economics of their business models for a while.

Another challenge – this time for licensing companies – is the increasing power of Disney. I have even had a couple of people suggest they should be subject to anti-trust investigation. While I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to endorse that perspective, it is a sobering statistic that over 50% of the entertainment retail space in the UK is now estimated to be occupied by Disney brands. I had always understood that retailers were reluctant to let the amount of their turnover held by individual toy companies rise over a certain percentage for fear it would give that company too much power, so one wonders how whether they are entirely happy for that level of turnover to come from a single licensor. Nevertheless, Disney clearly provides what the retailers are looking for: powerful brands, minimal risk and , crucially, money (of the cold hard cash variety). On that topic, I understand that one UK retailer recently gave a presentation to an invited group of licensors where the first slide asked “What do we want from you?” and the second slide replied “Money.” On one level you have to admire their honesty and ability to cut to the chase, but whether this approach leads to the right product mix from a consumer’s perspective is an interesting point to debate.

Just a couple of things for everyone to think about to balance up yesterday’s Blog’s reliance on cheap gags at the expense of poor defenceless costume characters (although a couple of people have said today that they agree with me, so at least I’m not the only one they’ve wound up).