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37 Entertainment/Character Brands Earned Over $100 MM in the U.S./Canada

Karina Masolova,

This year, a total of 37 properties made TLL’s annual list of entertainment/character brands that generated over $100 million in licensed retail sales in the U.S./Canada for 2017.

Last year, TLL tracked 46 brands that qualified for the list based on 2016 sales. And the year before that, 44 brands made the list based on estimated 2015 sales.

Worldwide, these 37 top brands generated almost $36 billion in global sales. For the first time in recent memory, the top brands were down a combined 11% from year-to-year. In the U.S./Canada, declines were softer at -4% while internationally, sales dropped -15% overall.

This was a year of extremes—nearly a quarter (24%) of properties on the list saw double-digit increases, an equal number (14%) saw single-digit shifts, and nearly half recorded double-digit declines (49%).

Three brands cleared the $1 billion mark in the U.S./Canada alone—Mickey, Minnie & Friends ($1.3 billion), Star Wars ($1.2), and Paw Patrol ($1.1). But just one of these brands is on the upswing.

For the purposes of the $100 Million list, Mickey, Minnie & Friends is a new omni-brand combining previously separate listings for Mickey & Friends, Minnie’s Bow-Tique, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Although it remains the No. 1 brand, the House of Mouse is facing increasing pressure from up-and-comers like Paw Patrol and PJ Masks as well as its own brands like Star Wars and Frozen. TLL estimates that in 2018, Disney’s top two brands will see at least a 10% drop in global retail sales while Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol will continue to grow internationally.

Thirteen lucky brands cleared $1 billion in global licensed retail sales, with Disney nabbing four out of five of the top spots (seven in total).

Despite recording sustained drops in retail sales over the last couple of years, Hello Kitty is No. 1 on the list for international sales outside the U.S./Canada in 2017 at just over $2 billion. With licensor Sanrio focused on developing new character brands and experiential formats, Kitty is expected to continue to fall into 2018.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise Based on $1 Billion Entertainment/Character Properties, 2017
Notes: Figures are for retail sales of all licensed merchandise for calendar years 2016–2017.
Does not include: Content licensing such as DVDs; products created through in-house divisions rather than through licensing agreements with third parties (e.g. toys at Mattel or Hasbro or Pokémon video games from Nintendo); or nonretail products such as touring shows, theme park attractions, cruises, gambling/lotteries, and the like.
N/A=Not applicable. F/A=First appearance. *Restated.
Figures in Millions
RankPropertyLicensorGlobal Retail SalesShare U.S./Canada Sales
1Mickey, Minnie & FriendsDisney$3,23339.9%
2Hello KittySanrio$2,66324.0%
3Star WarsDisney$2,40348.9%
4Disney PrincessDisney$2,13340.5%
5Winnie the PoohDisney$1,64929.0%
6PeanutsDHX Media$1,55829.5%
7Paw PatrolNickelodeon$1,55067.7%
8Frozen Disney$1,40457.2%
10Peppa PigeOne$1,27319.4%
11Marvel AvengersDisney$1,22743.8%
12PJ MaskseOne$1,15885.3%
13BatmanWarner Bros.$1,02446.1%

The top three brands generated 22.5% of all retail sales attributable to the list, or just about $3.5 billion. Most entertainment/character brands that made the list, or 28%, counted $100–199 million in licensed retail sales within the U.S./Canada. Compared to last year, however, there were fewer brands that made the cut.

The cohort that contributed the most in sheer dollar amounts (33.3% of sales) were those brands generating between $500–999 million in licensed retail sales.

Disney, Nick & eOne Drive Sales

Disney properties account for 24% of the number of properties on the $100 Million list and nearly 38% of licensed retail sales in the U.S./Canada at $5.9 billion. In 2016, Disney counted 43.2% of all sales attributable to the list.

Despite counting the second-largest number of brands on the list, Warner Bros. properties contributed to 7.3% of retail sales, or just north of $1.1 billion. On the flip side, eOne counted just 2 properties on the list (5.4% share) but generated 7.9% of retail sales at $1.2 billion. In its annual report, eOne indicated that its “family and brands” unit grew 60% to reach a total of $2.4 billion in licensed retail sales thanks to PJ Masks and Peppa Pig.

eOne, Nick Home to the Fastest-Growing Properties

eOne’s PJ Masks and Nick’s Paw Patrol saw the highest growth rates in 2017, in part because the two children’s brands were starting from low 2016 sales. Growth is expected to flatten somewhat in the U.S./Canada for 2018 as sales level off, but continue to blossom internationally.

Hasbro’s newest acquisition, Power Rangers, had a surprisingly good year in 2017, with the NPD reporting that its branded action figures were No. 1 in that category. Sales are expected to sink like a stone in 2018 before rebounding in early 2019 thanks to the launch of Hasbro-manufactured action figures (which, incidentally, are not counted in this list).

Hasbro’s Transformers and My Little Pony also had a good year, growing 50% and 40% in the U.S./Canada, respectively, thanks to new film releases. The toyco reports that its top two brands generated a combined $2.7 billion in overall retail sales (including toys manufactured by Hasbro), compared to TLL’s estimate of $1.3 billion in purely licensed sales.

Disney Cars also bounced back on the list this year thanks to a feature film, and is expected to drop off (or at least get pretty close) next year. For the House of Mouse, Cars was one of its brightest stars, albeit its fifth-largest grossing property for merchandising.

Moose Toys’ Shopkins is one of the most exceptional properties on the $100 Million this year because it is expected to keep growing at a faster pace in 2018 than it has in 2017. The girls’ collectible property is worth over $1 billion at retail overall, compared to $358 million in licensed retail sales.

As three of the more adult-oriented brands, WWE, Pokémon, and Star Trek had a respectable year in 2017, tracking high single-digit growth. Worth $1.2 billion at retail overall, WWE had a flattish year domestically with sales tracking higher internationally as the brand continues to expand its viewership.

Despite being worth $3.5 billion at retail, Pokémon generates just $473 of that number from purely-licensed merchandise. With 450 licensees globally and Wicked Cool Toys signed on as master toy partner for 2018, TLL expects the video game-based property to catch a few more dollars next year.

On the Down-low

Peanuts observed a flattish year domestically, but nevertheless accounted for nearly $1.6 billion in licensed retail sales worldwide, or $1.8 billion overall. The other publishing property on the list, Garfield, also dipped slightly in the U.S. The property is cited as generating up to $800 million in overall sales a year; in 2017, licensed share was roughly half that at almost $440 million.

Sesame Street saw its merchandise sales drop worldwide; TLL expects its new HBO series to spur some dollar growth going forward.

After sky-high growth (think triple-digits for some licensees), Star Wars is finally starting to fall. Retail sales contracted 21% worldwide to reach $2.4 billion. Star Wars remains Disney’s second-largest source of income for merchandise.

Girl’s brands just can’t seem to catch a break in 2017: Frozen, Barbie, and Disney Princess were down 15%, 16%, and 18% in the U.S./Canada, respectively. Core toy sales have been stagnating for each of the three properties, especially amongst younger children.

Dora & Friends saw an even more dramatic drop domestically of 40%, although she continues to maintain her pace of sales internationally. Similarly, the star of the top holiday toy of 2016, Doc McStuffins, will welcome the last season of her TV show this year, and with it, the end of her blockbuster merchandising program.

After seeing a surprising uptick in 2016 (thanks to its collectibles line), licensed sales of Thomas & Friends merchandise slid 26% worldwide. Another ‘90s powerhouse, SpongeBob SquarePants, observed similar declines but is expected to spring back for 2018 thanks to a new Broadway show and film.

Nick’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saw a steep drop-off at the end of 2017, which will continue through mid-2018 until a new product range gives the property a fresh restart. Unlike the TMNT, however, Warner Bros.’ Scooby Doo will not see a similar rebound in the next year. The gang of meddling kids and their dog will hit theaters in a live action film in 2020.

Falling 80% in 2017 domestically and 75% globally, Universal’s Despicable Me/Minions has reached the end of its movie-driven highs. Don’t bury the franchise yet, though: a sequel film is slated for 2020.

Brands to Watch

While they didn’t make the list this year, TLL has our eye on a number of up-and-coming properties.

No. 41 on last year’s list, Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 missed this year’s cut-off because there was no major product push for half of 2017. The property saw healthy growth in Europe, and is expected to return for 2018’s round-up. In girl’s properties, Nick’s Sunny Day is expected to light up the list in 2018.

Universal’s Jurassic World property has potential to make the list in 2018 thanks to movie-driven sales, as does Disney’s The Incredibles and Warner Bros.’ Wizarding World.

Definitions & Methodology

Note that the $100 Million list doesn’t cleanly adhere to TLL’s traditional entertainment/character segment breakdowns. You can’t compare the sales on this list to our overall entertainment/character segment, for example. Click here to get the complete run-down on our analysis.

See the complete list here.


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