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Property Types

Entertainment/Character Leads Worldwide Growth of Licensed Sales in 2015

The following is an excerpt from TLL’s feature story on worldwide licensing. See the complete run-down here, including retail sales breakdowns by territory, product category and property type.

Sales of goods based on entertainment properties grew 6.3% in 2015, by far the highest of any property type, according to The Licensing Letter’s Annual Licensing Business Survey. By gaining $1.7 billion, entertainment increased its worldwide share from 17.0% to 17.6% in a single year.

The narrative is best described by a single phrase Survey respondents uttered over and over again: “Disney dominance.” The 2015 roster of dominant Disney properties included a potent combination of perennials including Marvel, Mickey & Friends and Princesses in addition to blockbuster films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Frozen, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But there were also plenty of non-Disney properties in the 2015 success mix, including Minions, Ninja Turtles, Paw Patrol and SpongeBob. A growing number of non-U.S. entertainment properties are also challenging Disney’s worldwide dominion, including Hello Kitty (Japan), Peppa Pig (U.K.), Masha the Bear (Russia) and Purple Turtle (India). One of the big stories of 2015 was the expanded licensing of Japanese anime properties, most notably Pokémon and newcomer Yo-Kai Watch. Another source of growth is adult products based on U.S. TV show properties like “Game of Thrones,” “Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” and gameshows (particularly from the U.K.).

The concern with entertainment licensing is that it has become top-heavy. “Retailers are increasingly risk-averse and willing to invest only in established brands,” laments an Italian licensee. “These are good times for licensors and licensees of ‘A’ properties,” adds a U.K. consultant, “but if you’re trying to license an emerging property, especially one tied to a movie, good luck.”

Fashion, the largest segment of the market with a 24.1% share, was the only other property type to outgrow the general industry in 2015—from 3.5% v. 2.7%. All other property types were below not just the 2.7% industry rate (other than sports which matched it), but also world GDP growth of 2.4%. Sports did well in the U.S./Canada (4.8% growth) but was flat in Europe and Asia. Among the remaining property types, the massive trademark segment performed the best with 2.2% growth. Art was down for the second year in a row with a loss of 6.8%. “Although the volume of art deals remains great, cycles, royalties, and margins are being compressed,” comments one licensing agent.


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