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Interview: Daniel Tiger Roaring Into New Licensing Categories

Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood remains a hit after 10 years, and recently seemed to explode with new licensing deals prior to Licensing Expo.

This year at the show I caught up with Matthew Shiels, who last year was promoted from director to VP of Business and Legal Affairs at Fred Rogers Productions.

As a major part of that promotion, Shiels now takes on the responsibility of overseeing licensing activities for the Fred Rogers brands. Those include not just the iconic show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, but also the Emmy Award-winning PBS KIDS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Odd Squad, and Peg + Cat, along with the just-launched Donkey Hodie and upcoming Alma’s Way.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is expanding rapidly, with 10 new deals that raise the number of its licensing partners to more than 40.

While all of those shows are seeing success, it was the lasting popularity of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood I wanted to talk about.

Why?

Well, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is now distributed in 180+ countries and has expanded beyond the screen to include more than 40 licensees, two live-action stage shows, and an amusement park ride plus award-winning web games, top-rated apps for parents and children, and outreach events with public television stations across the country.

In February 2022, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was the #1 PBS KIDS show for kids ages 2-8 across broadcast and digital with over 47 million streams on the PBS KIDS Video app.

The show recently finalized several contract renewals with licensees like master publishing partner Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, as well as current licensees Cottage Door Press (sound books), Happy Threads (apparel), Komar (pajamas), Playmonster(Colorforms), and University Games (games).

As well, just before Expo, Shiels and team announced an impressive slate of 10 new licensing deals. That list includes:

  1. CreateOn – Magnatiles magnetic toys
  2. Glo – Sensory toys
  3. Good2Grow – Consumables, drinks
  4. Isaac Morris – Apparel
  5. PACT – Apparel
  6. Pioneer Life Sciences – Vitamins
  7. Spirit – Kohl’s Cares plush
  8. Tonies – Audio toy
  9. Waloo Products – Sporting goods
  10. Weatherman – Umbrellas

Matthew Shiels

I caught up to Shiels – looking a tad exhausted after days of non-stop meetings – at the Fred Rogers’ booth. While a bit worse for wear, he and the team were elated by the success of Daniel Tiger’s success both before and during the Expo.

“As the brand has aged, it has continued to grow in the licensing space,” said Shiels. “We’ve reassigned a number of our kind of core licensees.

“We still have Simon and Schuster for publishing and our soft line and we’re still with Jax for toys,” Shiels added. “We’re still doing all that, but we’re starting to expand into new areas where we haven’t been before, so one of the big categories that we’ve entered into this year, I call them screenless audio devices, so tonies or story pods, and yeah, we have both of those out right now. Those are exciting. New, there’s hours of Daniel content on them. It’s a way for kids to interact with Daniel more when they aren’t in front of a television.”

Shiels says he’s been particularly excited with the early success of the company’s collaboration with tonies, the audio storybook platform.

We’re excited that Tony’s put us forward for the spring and summer 2022 influencers’ choice list by the Toy Association,” he said. To make that list was great, but I personally am just as excited about the fact that tonies chose our brand to put forward for the list in the first place. It shows that even though the brand is 10 years old, it’s becoming a staple of the children’s licensing world; basically an evergreen property, and it shows that people really value the character after 10 years on air.”

So, what’s next for Daniel Tiger? According to Shiels, the Fred Rogers and 9 Story team are looking very hard at the food and beverage category, which he says is lucrative, but also an area in which to be careful. Shiels says their first priority is to make sure brand partners echo the show’s emphasis on healthy choices.

“We’re also branching into food and beverage a little more than we ever have, but food and beverage is tricky for our brand,” Shiels says. “We want to make sure for very young kids that it’s healthy and that it fits our brand and PBS’s is brand.
“For example, we partnered with Good2Grow, who make healthy juice beverages for kids with a Daniel Tiger topper on the package, and an interesting thing about that license is that they’ve included rights to sell them in stadiums, so if you’re at a ballgame with your kids and you don’t want them to drink sugary soda, right, there’d be an alternative that’s at least appealing for kids to look at.”

In a related development, Shiels says Daniel Tiger is pushing carefully but quickly into the health and wellness sector for children.

“Another kind of related area where we’re venturing into licensing now is small children’s multivitamins,” he said. “My predecessor at our company used to always say, ‘what is Flintstones?’ because it’s not a show anymore, it’s a vitamin!

“So yeah, if you can get in to a license like that it’s going to be good in the long run. 9 Stories been working on it for us for a long time and now we’ve partnered with Pioneer Life Sciences, which is a vitamin company to make children’s multivitamins. There’s no launch date yet, but you know, we’re working on the right shapes and designs right now.”

There’s a lot of excitement at Fred Rogers about the lasting success of the Daniel Tiger brand, and its ability to generate new licensing activations, but Shiels says he’s also very focused on maintaining the show’s current relationships, and not sacrificing current partners to chase after every new offering.

“It’s all about maintaining the strength of your core relationships,” he argues. “Simon and Schuster is a great example. We’re always working closely with Simon and Schuster, always thinking about what the next book can be. You know, when we launch a new season, which of these episodes would make a great Simon and Schuster book?

“So, yes, we are always looking for new opportunities, but at the core, it’s about working collaboratively with the partners you have and making sure those are a success.”

Daniel Tiger Signs Nine New Licensing Deals

 

 

 

 

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