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Preschool: A Passport to the Worldwide Market

By Karina Masolova

As one of the first categories in which properties originating outside the U.S. became part of global culture, the worldwide preschool sector essentially provides licensors with a passport to the global licensed consumer products market. The trend is only accelerating as the over-$10 billion market for licensed preschool products expands. See the complete list of preschool-geared properties with some licensing activity here.

The preschool market is remarkably stable compared to other product categories; while all-ages brands like sports-based properties and Star Wars have made inroads into licensed preschool merchandise, preschool-based brands still made up the bulk of extensions on shelves.

Look forward to our upcoming The Global Market For Licensed Preschool Properties report, to be released later in 2017, where TLL calculates 2016 worldwide retail sales data for all of the 200+ preschool properties listed here.

Increasingly, properties are created in the hopes that they will hold global appeal. For example, Iconix Entertainment 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.

Origin Stories

When TLL last compiled our list of preschool properties with active merchandising programs in 2014, 42% of properties originated from the U.S., followed by 28% from the U.K. Today the breakdown has a greater global spread—although the two countries still lead, the U.S. counts just 36% of properties and the U.K. 27%. Note that some properties count more than one origin, such as the British/Arabian Driver Dan’s Story Train and Canadian/British Mike the Knight.

For the most part, a small group of global properties—including those from media and consumer products powerhouses such as Disney (Doc McStuffins, Frozen), Nickelodeon (Dora & Diego), and Mattel (Thomas & Friends) and 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. This year saw the expansion of previously regional properties like Peppa Pig, which broke $100 million in retail sales worldwide in 2015.

The top five licensors collectively manage 28.9% of all preschool properties with some licensing activity worldwide—and while they don’t necessarily dominate preschool licensed sales, the lists are overlap. Disney reigns as the number one owner of preschool properties worldwide, followed by Nickelodeon and BBC Worldwide.

Typically however, there are always domestic properties that are so localized that they do not transfer easily to the U.S. or other territories. Examples include Teddy & Chick/Bamse og Kylling (Denmark), Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (China), and Postman Pat (U.K.). One reason that they boast a significant presence at home yet not internationally is that preschool properties tend to have support from local broadcasters—especially the free TV channels that dominate children’s television in certain countries—and governments may mandate a certain percentage of local programming on preschool channels.

But as social media platforms like YouTube and SVOD providers like Netflix and Amazon become the go-to source for preschool programming, it is becoming easier for properties to cross borders without facing the limitations posed by traditional broadcasters.

Property Type

While most preschool brands are entertainment/character-based (65.7%), some orginated as publishing properties (30.9%), and a smaller portion as toys/games (2.9%). Note that while some series, such as Franklin and Friends or DC Super Friends, have arguably outgrown their source material with TV or film adaptations, they are still considered publishing- and toy-based brands for the purpose of our classfication. But practically speaking, entertainment- and publishing-based brands are strongly interrelated, with one boosting the other’s visibility and extending the property’s life.

Preschool Properties With Merchandising Programs

Click here to see the complete list of preschool properties with current licensing programs for which we calculate 2015 worldwide retail sales in our upcoming update to Preschool report.

And for those looking forward to the next new thing, here’s a sample of those preschool properties that are launching licensing programs in 2016 and beyond. While a good number are spin-offs or reboots (Lion Guard, Teletubbies), there are a significant number that are original programs. Unlike our upcoming films with licensing potential list, for example, franchises aren’t the end-all-be-all marker of success in the preschool market. In many countries, the true classic properties beloved by parents and preschoolers are local properties that retailers and licensees know from their own childhoods—but aren’t easily transferrable to the international market.

Preschool Properties Expected to Have Some Licensing Activity, Worldwide
PropertyLaunch DateLicensorOrigin CountryTarget Age Group
Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and DaveAnimated TV series with connected app stars three anthromorphic friends on their daily adventures.2/14/15Collingwood and Co.U.S.2–5
Shimmer & ShineAnimated TV series follows the misadventures of twin genies-in-training who grant wishes for their best friend.8/24/15NickelodeonU.S.2–5
Messy Goes to OkidoCombination live action and animated TV show stars artist Rachel Ortas' characters as they bring science to life.9/7/15DHX MediaU.K.3–5
Goldie & BearTV series based on the classic storytale follows Goldilocks and little Bear, who become best friends after the incident in the Bear's house.9/12/15DisneyU.S.2–7
PJ MasksSuperhero TV show stars three 6 year-olds with animal powers activated by their pajamas; based on the Les Pyjamasques book series.9/18/15eOneU.S., U.K., France3–8
Danger MouseReboot and continuation of the 1981 TV series follows the titular secret agent and his hamster sidekick.9/28/15Fremantle MediaU.K.4–9
PopplesAnimated comedy TV series about an amazing species of creatures that can pop into and out of a ball; based on the toy line and airs on Netflix.10/30/15Saban BrandsU.S.3–5
TeletubbiesReboot of 1997 series features new gadgets like Touch Screen Tummies.11/9/15DHX MediaU.K.0–3
Lion Guard (The)Animated TV series based on 1994 film The Lion King; centers on the son of Simba and Nala and his friends as they defend their home.11/22/15DisneyU.S.2–7
Finding DorySequel and spinoff film for Finding Nemo; focuses on the amnesiac fish Dory as she journeys to be reunited with her parents.6/17/16DisneyU.S.5–8
Gummibär and Friends: The Gummy Bear ShowStars a singing and dancing gummy bear character through his silly adventures; commissioned by and airing exclusively on YouTube.6/24/16Gummybear Intl.Germany2–5
Word PartyVocabulary-building pupput show stars four baby animals. Airs on Netflix.7/8/16Jim Henson Co.U.S.2–4
Splash and BubblesEducation TV show helps children learn marine biology and ocean science concepts while building social-emotional skills.11/23/16Jim Henson Co.U.S.4–7
Canada CrewLive action pupput show teaches kids about the people, places and spaces across Canada.7/1/17Little Engine Moving PicturesCanada2–5
Cirque du Soleil - Luna PetuniaFollows the adventures of a little girl as she plays in a dreamland and makes the impossible happen; airs on Netflix.Fall 2016Saban BrandsCanada2–5
Rainbow RangersAnimated series follows the adventures of seven magical girls as they save the Earth from an evil villain; full series launch in spring 2018.Fall 2017Genius BrandsU.S.2–5
Opie’s HomeSpin-off to live-action preschoool series Hi Opie! follows four-year-old puppet Opie as he explores new things in and around his home.TBA 2017Jim Henson Co.Canada2–5

Don’t see a preschool property you think should be listed here? Contact Karina, TLL’s Executive Editor, to have it added to the list.


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