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Trimming the Fat With Fewer Deal (Announcement)s

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Recently, we started getting the strange feeling that there was a drop-off in the number of new licensing deal announcements coming across our desks.

To test this hunch, we crunched the numbers going back to 2014—and it turns out that the number of Deal Sheet entries in Q1 2019 was down -17% compared to the same period last year. And Q1 2018 was down -14% from the previous year.

Our busiest year was in 2016 with over 3,100 announcements, or almost 300 more than the five-year average of over 2,800 deals from 2014–2018. In 2016, over 900 deal announcements were made in Q3 and over 800 in Q4—a historical anomaly, as Q2 and Q3 tend to be the busiest periods.

On average over 2014–2019, TLL reports just over 230 deals a month (in comparison, TLL’s March issue counted 287 deals).

There are two reasons we’ve identified for this drop-off.

First, deal-makers are cutting back on spending money to disseminate press releases, either through PR agencies or internally with their own staff. At the same time, to better control their brand messaging, licensors are discouraging their partners from making announcements. (Result: Aside from insiders, no one knows what a brand is doing. Does a licensing deal exist if no one hears about it?)

Second, they’re actually cutting down on the number of deals. TLL has observed this trend in over-saturated product categories, where too many agreements artificially pump up cutthroat competition. For example, we had one Disney licensee tell us that the House of Mouse is “trying to make the Mickey & Minnie brand more upscale by getting rid of some of the more seedy licenses.” That same licensee also said, “I think it’s working.” But other manufacturers (for other brands as well) have privately told us that this maneuver is just an excuse to raise royalties and doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of low-quality merch on shelves.

Deal Sheet Announcements in The Licensing Letter, 2014–2019
Notes: *Q1 only. N/A=Not available.
Announcements 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019*
Deal Count 2,699 3,133 2,645 3,018 2,645 539
Monthly average 225 261 220 252 220 180
YoY Change N/A 1% 15% -4% -12% N/A

Don’t forget to stay in touch: It’s absolutely free to be listed in TLL’s Deal Sheetclick here to start—we only require the most basic information to go to print.

The Deal Sheet includes two basic types of announcements.

(1) Brand/Property Available for Licensing

  • Brand/property name
  • Brand/property description: Briefly sum up the essence of the brand in 1-2 sentences (or 140 characters).
  • Licensor/Brand’s Agent contact info: Who’s the best point of contact?
  • Product categories available for licensing: We’ve noticed higher-quality response rates when listings focus on 2-4 categories, but we can also list “All.”
  • Territory: How far does this deal reach?

(2) Licensing Deal Announcement

  • Brand/property name
  • Licensor/Brand’s Agent contact info: Who’s the best point of contact?
  • Product categories being licensed.
  • Territory: How far does this deal reach?
  • Licensee/Manufacturer’s Agent contact info: Who’s the best point of contact?
  • Length of agreement: *Not required, but if you wish, we’ll mention it.
  • Renewal: *Not required, but if this is a renewal, we’ll mention that.

(3) We’re also launching a new format to announce new Product Available for Licensing. These products can be brand-new inventions, include patented elements, or just be upgraded formats for tried-and-true fan favorites.

  • Product
  • Product description: Briefly sum up the essence of the product in 1-2 sentences (or 140 characters).
  • Licensee/Manufacturer’s Agent contact info: Who’s the best point of contact?
  • Property types seeking to license: *Not required, but helpful if the manufacturer has previous experience in the area and/or knows what they’re looking for.
  • Territory: How far does this deal reach?

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