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46 Properties Make the $100+ Million Ent/Char List in 2016

Karina Masolova,

A grand total of 46 properties made the $100 million entertainment/character list for 2016 retail sales, with five new faces joining the pack. See the complete list here.

All in all, the top properties generated $43 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide. Globally, that marks a $2 billion increase compared to last year’s list. Compare this year’s crop of top-earning brands to the historical average.

As is the case every year, the key driving factor behind the growth of properties on the $100 million list was the presence of a film. Properties featured on the silver screen saw up to double-digit increases in retail sales.

Finding Dory/Nemo is one interesting example—we’ve combined the two films because the original Finding Nemo had a relatively small merchandising program. For the 2016 sequel, Disney pulled out all the stops with a diverse merchandising program that included the titular clown fish. Similarly, DreamWorks’ Trolls was a surprise hit that remained strong in 2017. (According to the company’s annual report, “for consumer products, it is the largest merchandising program we have ever done to support a film.”)

Other films that remained strong in 2017 from 2016 (but didn’t quite earn $100 million in the U.S./Canada) include Disney’s Moana and Beauty and the Beast as well as Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad.

But the fastest-growing properties were actually based on preschool TV series like Peppa Pig (up 250%), Paw Patrol, and PJ Masks. Peppa’s growth is extreme—for 2015, TLL estimates that she earned $55 million in retail sales for the U.S./Canada, despite clearing almost $1 billion worldwide. Growth for these brands is expected to remain sturdy in 2017; we would not be surprised to record double-digit increases next year.

When we don’t count the dramatic growth rates of the newest properties on the list, the next-fastest growth rates actually came from video game/software brands. While the film component remains a key ingredient to success, it’s not as critical. Transformers toy sales, for example, do well despite poor film reviews. On the other hand, Angry Bird’s comeback is largely thanks to the strength of its feature film.

Top-earning Properties

Disney properties dominated the list, taking up the top four slots—Mickey & Friends (flat at -1% growth) led 2016 sales, followed by Star Wars (3%) and Disney Princess (4%). The top three were also the only properties to earn over $1 billion in sales for the U.S./Canada. Frozen (2%) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (4%) rounded out the top five, while Hello Kitty—which has been slowly descending the ranks since 2013—dropped to number six with a 6% decline in retail sales.

Fourteen properties earned over $1 billion worldwide, with the list led by Mickey & Friends, Hello Kitty, and Star Wars. While the top 10 remained unchanged from last year, Marvel Avengers jumped one spot up to No. 11. Peppa Pig and Batman joined the exclusive $1 billion list, bringing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to No. 14.

Only two properties counted over half of all retail sales within the U.S./Canada—Frozen and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Much of these properties’ future growth is expected to derive from outside the territory. Peppa is the least dependent on the territory, with only 16% of 2016 sales hailing from the U.S./Canada—but her share is expected to grow stateside.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise Based on $1 Billion+ Entertainment/Character Properties, 2016
Notes: Figures are for retail sales of all licensed merchandise for calendar years 2015–2016.
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.
Figures in Millions
Rank, 2016PropertyLicensorGlobal Retail Sales, 2016Share for U.S. & Canada, 2016
1Mickey & FriendsDisney$3,98339.0%
2Hello KittySanrio$3,41826.0%
3Star WarsDisney$3,04944.8%
4Winnie the PoohDisney$2,79130.1%
5Disney PrincessDisney$2,72438.6%
6Frozen Disney$1,59859.2%
8PeanutsDHX Media$1,46831.9%
9Despicable Me/MinionsUniversal$1,32240.5%
10Angry BirdsRovio$1,27724.7%
11Marvel AvengersDisney$1,24241.6%
12Peppa PigeOne$1,18916.2%
13BatmanWarner Bros.$1,10048.2%
14Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesNickelodeon$1,09384.8%

The top three properties accounted for over 20% of retail sales on the list, but the most growth came from the properties generating $300–499 million (adding 3 properties) and $500–999 million (up by 2 properties) in sales.

In a change from previous years, the number of properties in the $100–199 million range remained stable—but quite a few graduated from the $200–299 million range.

Disney, Nick & Warner Bros. Top Licensors

On the licensor front, Disney’s share of retail sales has shrunk to 43.2% after historically taking a full half share of sales on the list. Its share is unsurprising, given that Disney is home to 13 properties on the list (or almost 1/3). Otherwise, the share of retail sales from each of the top five licensors has remained relatively unchanged over the years.

We dropped Rovio off the chart below to make room for up-and-comer eOne, whose two properties generated 2.5% of domestic retail sales on the list.

Pokémon, Minecraft, and Angry Birds Fly High

Video game/interactive/online-based brands took the cake this year, recording the most dramatic rates of growth on the $100 million list in 2016.

Pokémon was the top trend of summer 2016, thanks to Niantic’s AR mobile game. Despite its popularity, however, the property earned just under $180 million in the U.S./Canada, a 40% increase from 2015. While the property could have sold more, the licensor elected to keep its merchandise licensing program limited during its 20th anniversary celebrations. Overall, the Pokémon Company claims that retail sales reached $3.3 million worldwide in 2016—the figure includes trading cards, the DS video games, and other sources TLL does not count.

As noted above, Angry Birds had a healthy boost in sales thanks to the feature film and a revived licensing program. A sequel is set to bow in 2019. Minecraft also did exceptionally well thanks to licensed toy extensions—the video game is fast-becoming a fixture in classrooms to teach children computer skills.

While they are not on the list, other video game properties that performed well in 2016 include classic properties like Sonic the Hedgehog, Tetris, and Capcom. Franchises like Halo and Call of Duty (which have the largest esports tournaments) continued to perform well—and even indie titles like Five Nights at Freddy’s had their time in the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean that all video game properties performed well—Skylanders, for example, joins the $100 million list’s biggest losers below. It is not expected to rebound.

Click here to see new video games in the development pipeline for 2017 and beyond.

The Biggest Losers

On the other end of the spectrum, Disney Cars had the biggest dip in sales at -45%, followed by Monster High (-40%) and Skylanders (-20%).

With a new film in summer 2017, Cars is expected to pick up in retail sales—but based on what we’ve seen, the property seemed to race through retail with a relatively short sales window.

Girls’ properties like Monster High (-40%, despite boasting a film in 2016), Sofia the First (-18%), and Dora & Friends (-11%) continued to lose shelf space. Ben 10 is an interesting story; even as sales declined in the U.S./Canada, they picked up internationally, specifically, in the EMEA territory. A new TV series that began airing this year stateside (Europe saw it in 2016) is expected to pick up sales for 2017.

It should be noted that properties like Dora, Sesame Street, and Garfield saw growth in their overall licensing program in 2016 (for example, in experiential initiatives like live shows and amusement park rides) but nevertheless declined in merchandising.

After just one year on the list, Doctor Who fell off thanks to an apparent collapse in merchandising. With a new doctor in the house as of this summer, the program is expected to rebound.

Definitions & Methodology

Note that our list doesn’t cleanly adhere to TLL’s traditional entertainment/character segment—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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