A '96 FOUR CAST

Entertainment licensing will be a blockbuster hit in 1996.What's driving the business is the desire of major movie studios, television companies and publishers to generate increasing income, along with retailer demand to stock hot products to generate traffic."Licensing is not a new trend, but it is trending up. Many people have seen how licensing augments a brand by bringing it to other distribution

Entertainment licensing will be a blockbuster hit in 1996.

What's driving the business is the desire of major movie studios, television companies and publishers to generate increasing income, along with retailer demand to stock hot products to generate traffic.

"Licensing is not a new trend, but it is trending up. Many people have seen how licensing augments a brand by bringing it to other distribution channels and other products," says Susan Miller, president of Momentum Partners, New York, which develops and represents properties, including Lamb Chop's Play Along.

"Licensing is very big news and very big business," she says. "The stakes are higher in licensing today, and retailers have such quicker sell-through information. There are thousands of properties that are represented right now."

Patti Ganguzza, vice president of Aim Promotions, Astoria, N.Y., says brand marketers can forecast the success of an upcoming film based on the number of licensing deals attached to it.

"The studios do whatever they can to promote the movie, and the licensing is a way of feeding the furnace and keeping it fueled. There is a guaranteed revenue stream with licensing that you can't guarantee with box office," she says.

"The studios have a lot of time and creative energy invested in licensing. They are always reinventing themselves and the properties," Ganguzza says.

"The mass merchants are driving this, too, because they know that entertainment sells. Why should they just limit it to their video department?"

Ganguzza advises brand marketers to attend licensing shows to look for expected hits.

"When manufacturers are making their decisions, they have to incorporate the elements of how much marketing and advertising the studio is putting behind this property. Obviously, the studios are the experts in this industry in what sells and what doesn't. And companies that manufacture licensed products are always hoping that the decisions they make are the right ones," she explains.

Among the most popular licensed items are food, dinnerware/lunch boxes, toys, T-shirts, watches and soft vinyl goods such as boots, backpacks and raincoats.

"Companies like the Franco-American division of Campbell Soup Co. have been taking licenses for a while. That is something that is going to be pretty well entrenched in the food business. Food licensing is often not just for promotional purposes, but for long-term licenses," Ganguzza says.

Led by Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Public Broadcasting Service television, with its "Sesame Street," "Lamb Chop," "Barney" and "Shining Time Station" programs, children's properties are among the most popular to license. They are expected to increase in popularity in 1996.

"The time is right for the type of property like a 'Winnie the Pooh' because we are now a softer, gentler country. That is why we are seeing PBS-type properties successful as merchandising vehicles. That was not the case five years ago when 'Sesame Street' was their only children's show. Now they have a dozen and several have been licensing successes," says Miller of Momentum Partners.

Sony expects a resurgence of classic television shows this year, including "The Three Stooges," "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Starsky & Hutch," "Partridge Family" and "Charlie's Angels" -- shows that it owns.

"We get requests all of the time and we are developing materials so that we can do some licensing on these old shows," says Ron Rubin, senior vice president of worldwide licensing at Sony Signatures, Culver City, Calif.

Citing the Warner Bros. and Disney stores that have sprung up in just about every shopping mall across the country, Aim's Ganguzza predicts that the market for licensed products will continue to grow.

Miller says manufacturers have to use caution to ensure that they pick the right items to market.

"There is a proliferation of properties and content, whether they are television-based, book-based or movie-based. Not every property lends itself to every product. One of the key trends in licensing is the importance of proper product application. Every property is not suited for posters, apparel, books or toys. It is the responsibility of the licensor to get at the heart of the property."