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ANALYSIS

Can Movie Give a Lift to Angry Birds Licensing?

By Marcy Magiera

Mobile game maker Rovio is counting on a new 3D animated movie to create a licensing lift beneath the wings of its Angry Birds franchise. The Angry Birds Movie will open May 20 in the U.S. and China, following its May 12 debut in other international markets.

Angry Birds counts more than 3 billion downloads and 100 million-plus monthly active users, according to Rovio. It is legitimately an international phenomenon that, upon its release in 2009, expanded the then-fledgling business of casual mobile games—last fall the original Angry Birds game ranked third on App Annie’s list of Top 10 Games by Global Downloads since 2010 and its 2011 installment, Angry Birds Rio, was eighth. In the last several years the franchise has lost much of its cachet as a licensed property, however, as casual gamers have become increasingly engaged with other games such as Minecraft.

Rovio’s clipped licensing revenue has been apparent in its financials: In 2015 the company saw revenue fall to 142 million euros ($161.9 million) from 158 million euros ($180.2 million) a year earlier, and posted an operating loss 13 million euros ($14.8 million). It was the third consecutive annual earnings decline, even while the company reported that its games business grew each year.

Industrywide, sales of licensed merchandise in the video games/online/interactive property type fell 4% in 2014 to $574 million, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey, largely as a result of declining sales of Angry Birds branded goods. The property type bounced back with 2% growth in 2015, however, as popular properties with relatively small but growing licensing programs like Minecraft, Halo and Call of Duty surged.

With The Angry Birds Movie flying to screens, Rovio is predicting that 2016 will be a “transformative” year for its business. The company says its first quarter is already profitable, and the outlook for the rest of the year positive, due to the release of The Angry Birds Movie and other activity around the property, such as the August 2015 launch of game Angry Birds 2 and the availability of Rovio’s ToonsTV service on AppleTV.

Licensees signed for The Angry Birds Movie include LEGO Group (construction sets), Spin Master (action figures, vehicles, play sets, plush), Hasbro (games), Amscan (party goods), Commonwealth Toy & Novelty (plush), HarperCollins (books), Centum Books (books), IDW (comics) and National Geographic (books).

These are in addition to a promotional campaign announced by the movie’s distributor, Sony Pictures, encompassing 100 partners worldwide and valued at an estimated $250 million in exposure through such vehicles as McDonald’s Happy Meals, Ziploc sandwich and snack bags and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt stores.

“More than 300 licensees globally across all product categories have joined us to help tell the Angry Birds story,” Alex Lembeek, Rovio’s Chief Commercial Officer and leader of the company’s consumer product business, said in announcing the movie licensing program earlier this year. “Together with our partners we can bring the Angry Birds storyworld to life in our fans’ imaginations, in a spirit of play and mischief. That is how we will win together and build a sustainable business around an evergreen brand.”

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