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Universal Signs Content Deal With Starz

By Gary Symons TLL Editor in Chief Universal Filmed Entertainment Group has signed a content agreement with Starz, filling out a network of interlocking agreements that provide a long-term home for its content. The agreement means that Universal films will be streamed first on Peacock, then on Amazon Prime Video, and finally on Starz. Here’s a brief outline on how the interlocking agreements will work. First, UFEG plans to stream movies on NBC Universal’s streaming service Peacock for the first 120 days after the theatrical release of its films. After that point, as reported earlier in The Licensing Letter story below, UFEG has signed a deal with Amazon that will see Prime Video exclusively stream Universal’s 2022 and future live-action titles during the middle ten month period of that 18-month window… . . . read more

Not So Nice: Baron Cohen Sues Pot Shop

Actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has filed suit against a Massachusetts cannabis shop for using an image of his character Borat on a billboard (pictured here) without his permission. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, Baron Cohen alleges the billboard for Somerset-based Solar Therapeutics Inc. showed him posing as Borat with two thumbs up and using the Borat catchphrase, “It’s nice!” The filing goes on to say, “By use of the billboard, the defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr. Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business. To the contrary, Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.” The billboard, located… . . . read more

Kim Boyd Tapped To Lead Hasbro’s Brands & Consumer Innovation Team

Veteran Hasbro executive Kim Boyd has been chosen to lead the company’s new Global Brands & Consumer Innovation division. The formation of the GBCI division is a major strategic goal for Hasbro this year, and the company has opted to go for a leader with in-house knowledge and a track record of success with a variety of Hasbro products. Hasbro says, effective immediately, Boyd will be responsible for driving Hasbro’s brands “cohesively, consistently and globally with consumer-led innovation.” Working across the company’s brand driven toy and game franchises, and in partnership with eOne and Wizards of the Coast, Boyd is now responsible for spearheading global commercial and consumer alignments to stay ahead in an increasingly borderless world. Boyd will be based in Hasbro’s Pawtucket headquarters. She reports to Eric Nyman,… . . . read more

Black Widow Debut Shows Box Office Is Back!

Black Widow Banks $80 Million In U.S., The Biggest Debut Since Start Of Pandemic Is this the sign that the worst of the pandemic is really behind us? Marvel’s critically acclaimed tentpole blockbuster Black Widow has just smashed box office records going back to the start of the pandemic, raising hopes that theater attendance will soon go back to normal, pre-pandemic levels. The film is a long-awaited solo project for Marvel’s Avenger character Natasha Romanoff (aka the Black Widow), who has featured in several Marvel films since Ironman 2, but has never been featured in her own film. Better late than never from Marvel’s point of view, as Black Widow easily outran the competition to place first in the box office sweepstakes with $80 million in US and Canadian ticket… . . . read more

Rolling Stone Launches UK Mag Through Licensing

The legendary music and pop culture magazine Rolling Stone will now distribute a UK version, thanks to an exclusive licensing agreement. Penske Media Corporation owns the rights to Rolling Stone, and has entered into a deal with Stream Publishing, a UK company that publishes the popular LGBTQ magazine Attitude. “The arrival of Rolling Stone in the UK is not only a hugely exciting development for our brilliant team, but also fantastic news for the UK music and entertainment industries which deserve the showcase and platform that this iconic brand will deliver,” said Darren Styles OBE, managing director of Stream.  Styles says the UK edition will be published online and in print this Fall, and Stream also plans to launch a number of live events under the Rolling Stone brand by… . . . read more

Amazon Inks Streaming Deal With Universal, IMDb

Amazon’s Prime Video has signed a key content licensing agreement with Universal giving it access to the studio’s massive catalog of new movie content. In what is rumored to be a 10-figure deal, Prime Video will now have an exclusive window to air Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s live action films in the United States, beginning with the studio’s slate of 2022 releases. Prime Video recently signed non-exclusive deals with Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate, and has also signed some exclusive deals with smaller studios and some larger studios outside the US. However, this is the first deal Prime Video has signed giving it exclusive access to content from a major studio of Universal’s size and heft. That said, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service will have first crack at those films. Peacock gets… . . . read more

LEGO Builds Seinfeld Set For A ‘Toy About Nothing’

LEGO has been on a sitcom roll of late, building out the sets for popular shows like Friends and Big Bang Theory, and now has followed up with a 30th anniversary set for Seinfeld, the “show about nothing.” The classic sitcom, a number one hit in the 1990s, will be immortalized in plastic bricks thanks to a fan-based project launched under the LEGO Ideas program. Brent Waller of Brisbane, Australia submitted the idea and the build design to the LEGO Ideas platform, which is a LEGO program designed to bring in new ideas created by, and voted for, by LEGO fans. Winning projects are then selected by LEGO and turned into a real building kit that is offered for sale with official LEGO status. Waller, the co-founder of a video… . . . read more

Authentic Brands Group Files For $10 Billion IPO

Authentic Brands Group has filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) that values the global licensing giant at $10 billion. ABG owns several fashion and sports brands around the world, and has now filed papers stating its intention to sell $100 million worth of stock at a valuation of roughly $10 billion. However, the number of shares to be offered is likely just a benchmark, required by the New York Stock Exchange, and will probably change prior to the IPO. ABG was founded in 2010 by Jamie Salter, and has grown rapidly to become a behemoth in the global branding and licensing industry. The company now has a portfolio of more than 30 top apparel, sports, and celebrity brands that jointly generate more than $14 billion in retail sales. The… . . . read more

Genius Brands Appoints Kerry Phelan To Key Role

Genius Brands International, Inc., a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has announced the appointment of Kerry Phelan, a 30-year consumer branding executive, to the newly created position of Executive Vice President & General Manager of Global Franchise Management. Phelan will report to both Andy Heyward, Chairman & CEO, and Harold Chizick, President of Global Content Sales, Marketing & Consumer Products. Over a career spanning three decades, Phelan has taken part in some of the most famous and lucrative product launches in history, including Star Wars and the consumer products launch for Pixar’s cars. In this new position, Phelan will report to CEO Andy Heyward and to Harold Chizick, president of global content sales, marketing and consumer products. Given Phelan’s record, the company… . . . read more

Fashion Brands Investigated in France Over Forced Labor in China

By Gary Symons TLL Editor in Chief Global fashion brands are caught in a geopolitical dilemma, as four companies are under investigation on suspicion of profiting from goods produced using forced labor by imprisoned Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China. On the other side of that dilemma is China’s reaction, as the central government has punished several Western fashion brands, like Burberry and Nike, for refusing to use cotton from Xinjiang, and for speaking out about human rights abuses. However, it’s the cost at home and abroad that may have the greater impact on fashion designers in the West. French prosecutors say they have opened an investigation against four multinational fashion retailers, including Uniqlo France; Inditex (owner of Zara and Bershka); SMCP (owner of Sandro and Maje), and the… . . . read more