Dora Moves to the City
Nickelodeon is launching a new TV series, Dora & Friends: Into the City, in August. It gives an older Dora human friends and a prosocial, team-building focus, as opposed to the animal friends and emphasis on discovery featured in original Dora the Explorer series. Random House is publishing six titles, including Little Golden Books, readers, 8x8s, and a Big Golden Book, for the new incarnation.
Dora the Explorer will continue, and Random House will still publish against that show as well. “The two complement each other,” said Paula Allen, Nickelodeon’s senior v-p of global publishing. “This is a way to extend Dora the Explorer as her fans grow up. Both brands can live side by side, both on air and on shelf.”
Random House is also debuting books tied to a number of other Nickelodeon franchises and new shows. Paw Patrol, a series t hat premiered last fall about a pack of six puppies that undertake rescue missions, will spur a list similar to that for Dora; books and toys will be the first products on the market. Titles tied to Blaze, a STEM-themed, monster truck-centered show for preschoolers that launches this October, will start to roll out in spring 2015, marking Nickelodeon’s first TV-based licensing and publishing program to hit retail less than a year after the debut of a show. Random House also plans a novelization and other tie-in titles for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water 3D, to premiere in February 2015.
Meanwhile, Random House and other publishers are gearing up for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which debuts August 8. Random will publish a novelization and junior novelization tied to the film, but more important, Allen said, the movie will serve as a platform to market the multitude of Turtles TV tie-ins from Random House, IDW, Bendon, Publications International, Studio Fun, and Phidal. In June, Insight Editions published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History, a coffee table book covering four eras of the Turtles.
Scholastic-Branded Products Hit Walmart
Scholastic Media is expanding the range of licensed merchandise tied to its Scholastic brand with a back-to-school program at Walmart this fall. The initiative will feature nearly 30 educational products supplied by licensee Tara Toys, including sequencing puzzles, matching games, learning clipboards, and more.
The brand has been at the center of various retail programs over the last dozen or more years. That track record – along with the current focus on STEM education and Scholastic-sponsored research showing that consumers understand the brand outside of education – has boosted interest in Scholastic brand licensing. “There’s much more receptivity now,” said Leslye Schaefer, senior v-p of marketing and consumer products. “We’ve been able to make the jump from the educational to the consumer market, which was difficult at first. There seems to be more interest in the brand.”
New for 2014, in addition to the Walmart venture, are 30 products from Baby King under the Scholastic for Baby brand, including bibs, teethers, rattles, soft books and toys, bath toys, and infant grooming kits, sold at drug and grocery stores, and 12 new wooden puzzles and learning activities from Cross Strategy Products. Other Scholastic-branded merchandise on the market includes pencils, markers, and other writing implements, through a direct-to-retail licensing arrangement with Office Depot and Office Max that has been in place for nine years, and school uniforms that have been available since 1999.
More than a dozen years ago, the company worked with Toys ‘R’ Us on an exclusive in-store boutique featuring Scholastic-branded educational toys.
Winx Club Spreads Its Wings in U.S. Publishing
Winx Club, a TV show from Italian media company Rainbow S.r.L. that launched in Italy in 2004 and is in its sixth TV season in most markets, is a global licensing hit. Rainbow’s licensed merchandise business exceeds $3.5 billion in global retail sales each year through more than 350 licensees in 130 countries, according to the company, with Winx Club driving a large portion of it.
Publishing is a big part of the property’s success worldwide. There are more than 350 Winx Club titles in the company’s catalog, including both licensed books and titles produced by Rainbow’s in-house publishing division, which releases titles based on Rainbow’s properties and those of other licensors, including Sanrio, Televisa, Cartoon Network, and Dreamworks. All told, Rainbow works with 61 publishers worldwide on Winx Club, according to Cristiana Buzzelli, Rainbow’s v-p of contents, digital, and publishing. They include Hachette in France, Panini in Italy and across Europe, and Parragon and EagleMoss in the U.K. Most primarily distribute Rainbow-created titles, supplementing those with a few formats of local interest.
The U.S. has been a relatively small market for the property overall to date, although the television show on Nickelodeon and digital publishing have been strong sectors here. (Russia and Turkey, as well as Italy, are among the biggest territories for the property worldwide.) But Winx Club’s presence in U.S. children’s books is set to grow. Viz Media is launching Winx Club graphic novels this September and Studio Fun (formerly Reader’s Digest) is on board for novelty formats set for a spring 2015 release. These publishers will join master licensee Random House, which introduced its first Winx Club titles in fall 2012 and has released about two dozen to date. The total number of titles in the U.S. is expected to reach 40 by 2015, Buzzelli said.
Digital publishing is a growth area for Rainbow, which retains digital rights and develops its own e-books and apps. The former currently number 120 and the latter six, with more to come. “We want each title to find its own space, without overlapping or interfering,” Buzzelli explained, adding. “Mobile apps give us direct contact with the kids. Aside from being a source of revenue, it’s a marketing tool for us. We can see what they say they want, and sometimes it’s completely unexpected.”
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