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LIcensInG by The nuMbers

More Preschool Properties Originating Outside U.S.

The $10.6 billion worldwide preschool sector was one of the first within entertainment/character licensing in which properties originating outside the U.S. became part of global culture (see pie chart, below), according to The Licensing Letter’s just-published all-new 2nd edition of “The Global Market for Licensed Preschool Properties.”

Because most preschoolers can’t read, properties that target them are inherently more transferable across cultures than properties aimed at older, literate children or adults. One difference between U.S. and non-U.S. preschool properties is that non-U.S. properties are less likely to stress educational themes. In the U.S. nearly all preschool properties have elements of learning along with entertainment, but elsewhere, TV is not seen as the proper medium to impart a curriculum to young children. This varies by country, of course.

While many of the biggest preschool properties of the last two decades—Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder, and Miffy, among others—originated outside the U.S., it remains difficult to become a global or near-global presence without success in the U.S. That said, some properties have enough success in their home territory and other countries that they do not need the U.S. market to become a top-20 success. Masha and the Bear is considered the top licensed property for preschoolers in Russia and, thanks to Russia’s huge population, rests in the top tier of licensed preschool properties globally, with estimated sales of $100 million in 2013, according to TLL’s “Global Market for Licensed Pre-school Properties.” It is also licensed in Europe.

For the most part, a small group of global properties, including those from media and consumer products powers such as Disney (Doc McStuffins), Viacom/Nickelodeon (Dora), and Mattel (Thomas & Friends), joined by smaller and mid-sized licensors such as eOne (Peppa Pig) or American Greetings (Strawberry Shortcake), tends to dominate store shelves consistently around the world. In each country, these global brands are displayed beside homegrown properties that are often equally popular locally.

Most of the advantages that local preschool properties have in their home market do not transfer easily to the U.S. or other territories, however. For one thing, preschool properties tend to have support from local broadcasters, especially the free TV channels that dominate children’s television in certain countries, and governments often mandate a certain percentage of local programming on preschool channels.

Increasingly, properties are created in the hopes that they will hold global appeal. For example, Iconix Entertainment Co. of Korea developed Pororo the Little Penguin as a universal character meant to have international appeal. Its name, color scheme, and species were selected for their universality, and any traces of ethnicity and cultural specificity were left out. Even so, the property’s success outside of Asia and some other territories has been limited to date, and it has no presence in the U.S. market.

The same factors that perpetuate the top properties globally also sustain local properties within their markets. In many countries, the true classic properties beloved by parents and preschoolers are local properties that retailers and licensees know from their own childhoods. While some properties, such as the Disney characters, have been global powerhouses for generations, others that have achieved classic status in the U.S. or their home territories haven’t crossed borders until relatively recently. Therefore, they don’t have the heritage that local proper- ties have. Conversely, local preschool properties’ appeal to both preschoolers and their parents is an attribute that does not carry over to other territories.

Occasionally, a property will launch outside its home territory first. U.S.-based Henson Productions launched The Doozers, a spin-off of its discontinued Fraggle Rock series that is targeted at young preschoolers, on Europe’s Cartoonito network (owned by Turner) in 2013. The U.S. market followed, with distribution on the online network Hulu and Simon & Schuster among the initial licensees.

The all-new 2nd edition of “The Global Market For Pre-school Properties” ranks 137 dedicated preschool properties by retail sales worldwide. The report also discusses the impact of non-preschool properties such as Star Wars, Peanuts, Disney Princess, and others that have a strong presence in the preschool market, and provides demographic data and analysis of preschool markets in key territories worldwide. For additional information or to order the report, see, or call 212-941-0099.


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