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Editor's Note

Read Before Using: $100 MM List Definitions & Methology

Before diving into the top $100 million entertainment/character brands list and its connected analysis, take a moment to consider TLL‘s methodology.

The list reflects the top properties by licensed retail sales in the U.S./Canada only and excludes top-performing global properties that may have $100 million or higher in sales internationally. Note, as well, the difference between retail sales and revenue: Just because a brand is selling at retail does not mean that it is profitable for its licensor.

It is inappropriate to compare total sales from the $100 Million list to those of the product category (pg. 1) because TLL includes a higher range of properties in the former. The list tracks properties that are based on a recognized character(s) and use the strategies associated with an entertainment/character licensing program, as well as the expected TV shows and films.

For example, in our annual business-wide estimates, some properties would be categorized as video games/interactive (Minecraft, Pokémon, and Angry Birds), toys/games (Barbie, My Little Pony), or publishing (Peanuts). In that sense, we’ve managed to pre-empt some big screen debuts over the years; e.g., Angry Birds (added in 2011, film in 2016) and Minecraft (added 2013, film 2019).

The individual property figures are sometimes at variance with publicly reported numbers in company financials or cited by company executives. We look exclusively at consumer products that are licensed to third parties for manufacture and distribution and for which the manufacturer is paying a royalty. Our analysis does not include products created through in-house divisions of the licensor rather than through licensing agreements with third parties, or “core” products made by the licensor (e.g., toys for Hasbro- or Mattel-owned properties).

In addition, the numbers reflect retail sales of traditional licensed products but exclude content licensing and nonretail products such as live touring shows, theme park attractions, lotteries and slot machines, cruises, and similar ventures.

For those properties that are multimedia, the estimates include all merchandise for the franchise (e.g., tied to film, TV shows, etc.). LEGO cross-licensing deals (e.g., LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman) are included under the respective partners’ properties (e.g., “LEGO Star Wars” under Star Wars). Subbrands are included along with the master property (e.g., Clone Wars under Star Wars). If individual properties are sometimes licensed as a group (e.g., Batman as part of a multi-property DC Comics), the estimate includes only those products tied to the individual property as specified.

These estimates are developed through a combination of surveys; interviews with licensors, licensees, agents, and retailers; analysis of annual reports, royalty income and data from publicly held companies; store visits; corporate retail sales information; press releases; and news articles. All the licensors that appear on the list were given the opportunity to comment. Some did. However, all final estimates are by The Licensing Letter.

See the full list here.

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