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License to Thrill: The 2001 Licensing Show.

With the "dotbomb" disaster sending the New Media industry reeling, the 21st annual Licensing Show rolls into New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, June 12-14. "There will be fewer dotcoms than last year, and the ones that do return will most likely be in smaller spaces," said Charles Riotto, president of The International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association (LIMA), the show's sponsor. "While there is huge untapped potential in New Media, the jury is still out on whether or not they are a vital part of the process. It's more likely New Media will complement what licensing companies are already doing, not replace them."

Riotto was candid about the current climate. "Recently, overall it's been pretty flat for the entertainment industry. However, despite that fact there are some eagerly anticipated properties that will be introduced at the show, many of them originating overseas. Years ago, almost every major property evolved in the U.S. But if you look at recent successes like Pokemon, Harry Potter or The Teletubbies, they are all imports. Licensing has become much more of a two-way street.

Diane Stone, director of the Global Licensing Group for Advanstar, The Licensing Show's organizational arm, concurred. "One of the reasons the show is so successful is because it's so international. In addition to the N.Y.C. show, there are now two events in Europe: one in London, the other in Munich. When people in the U.S. use the word "international," they mean outside of the U.S. However, when everyone outside of the U.S. uses the word, they mean everything! That's how we approach this market."

This year, 450 exhibitors will show-case over 4,500 properties. However, the actual square footage of the show has decreased from 340,000 in 2000 to 275,000 in 2001. "Journalists are always obsessed with numbers, but they don't tell the whole story!" Stone exclaimed. "For example, Hit Entertainment recently appropriated Lyric Studios, which means technically we lost an exhibitor, but we really didn't. You cannot judge success by square footage; you have to concentrate on the number of deals made."

In fact, this acquisition makes Hit Entertainment an exhibitor to watch, boasting the new successful series Bob the Builder and classic kiddie hit Barney. "In January, Bob was the highest-rated premiere ever on the U.S. Nick Jr. network, and it has remained a high-rated show," enthused Holly Stein, vp of Consumer Products. "Now that we have Barney, you can expect to see some major changes in the way it is marketed and presented. We are giving the brand a rebirth."

Leslie Levine, vp of Entertainment Licensing for Hearst Entertainment, raved about the new animated series The Ripping Friends, the wacky brainchild of Ren & Stimpey-creator John Kricfalusi. "The show takes place in the future ... exactly five days ahead of us! Kids will love the show because it's funny, while teens and adults will love its cutting edge. Meanwhile, our new management is committed to renewed support of our classic franchises including Casper and Richie Rich."

Jill Jones, executive vp of Creative and Marketing for Universal Studios Consumer Product Group, talked about the upcoming Mummy animation series. "Our 1999 film The Mummy was incredibly successful and with the sequel coming out in May, we are thrilled to launch a corresponding animated series. It's a great opportunity to expand the franchise to a younger age group."

Sitting Ducks, inspired by artist Michael Bedard's popular poster series, is another new property. "The characters are extremely popular in Europe and Asia, and we have already released merchandise in Germany, Japan and the U.K.," Jones continued. "I love this show; it has a different sense of humor and it showcases ground-breaking computer graphics. Usually, our shows debut in the U.S. and the foreign market waits to see how they do. This show will debut abroad, so the U.S. will take its cues from the international market."

The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company tends to be the exhibitor to beat at The Licensing Show. "We are actually relaunching the Teletubbies brand. We'll be raking a lot of new initiatives," Robin Sayetta, president of Off-screen Entertainment explained. "We're thrilled that Teletubbies has become part of pop culture, and we are developing a grassroots, five-year outreach marketing campaign to teach parents the benefits of watching the show with their kids. Nini's Treehouse, a show created by kids for kids, is another focal point for us."

Canada's Nelvana celebrates its 30th anniversary and returns to The Licensing Show with an anime property. Jay Udow, director of Marketing, explained, "Metabot is a Japanese show that takes place in the future when every kid has a pet robot. We're extremely excited about this property as robots are currently very popular. We have secured a leading toy company for merchandising, are planning interactive products and video platforms, and are confident that Metabot will be a big brand. Last year's anime premiere Cardcaptors, also remains an important part of our licensing program. What's wonderful about these shows is that although they are aimed at children, they both have very dedicated adult fans."

Interestingly, while the dotcom crash may have decreased the overall number of exhibitors at The Licensing Show, it doesn't seem to have impacted any of the traditional media exhibitors. The general, consensus from all interviewed was that the Internet is for branding, not, for revenue generation.
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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