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TV characters hit the shelves

Children-specific media companies such as Cartoon Network (Turner) and Disney are getting into licensed character-based merchandising. Radhika Pancholi and Saurabh Turakhia find out.
By Radhika Pancholi and Saurabh Turakhia | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 15, 2008 03:52 AM IST

What happens when media and retail collide? An opportunity, that’s what. Children-specific media companies such as Cartoon Network (Turner) and Disney are tapping this opportunity to create greater stickiness and more revenue for their popular characters by getting into licensed character-based merchandising.

“We have exciting times ahead and have set up the backdrop for growth,” says Jiggy George, executive director, Cartoon Network Enterprises, India and South Asia. He says that though the market still very small, it’s set to grow. “The organised retail business is set for a boom and will be a catalyst for us. What draws us to the organised format is the huge respect that they have for intellectual property, which is very important to a global company like ours.”

Disney, which launched its consumer products division in India about three years ago, recently launched its range of soft toys. “We have introduced a completely new range of Disney soft toys for the first time in India, ranging in price from Rs 169 to Rs 1,900,” says Roshni Bakshi, director, Disney Consumer Products. This division “has been growing double digit year on year,” she says.

With both Disney and Turner estimating the overall business of character-based merchandise and toys at over Rs 2,500 crore, innovation has become an inevitable part of beating the competition and also going beyond children to attract adults to character-based merchandise. “Innovation will drive this business in future,” says George, whose company is all set to open a Pogo Theme Park on a 3.5-acre plot at Rohini in Delhi. Both Turner and Disney also recently ventured into new categories such as wall paints. “We have also tied up for character-based merchandising with financial institutions,” adds George.

The main focus, however, remains on toys, the fastest moving merchandise. While Disney has a range of Barbies and now soft toys, Turner has had a lot of success with toys such as Puchki, the Pogo blazing yo-yo, “which sold about a million units within a few days of its launch” and Ben 10. “The sales were phenomenal – all toys sold out in a couple of days after launch,” says George. He claims that the division has already captured about 10 per cent of the organised toys market. This year though, Cartoon Network plans to focus on building the Pogo brand and also on entering the food and personal products segment. Says George, “Food and personal products are a huge category, followed by toys, apparel, gifts, novelties and stationary.” With more players entering this very lucrative market, this may just be the beginning of a merchandise boom in the character licensing segment.

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