TNN, MTV, VH1 Catch Spinoff Fever
Eager to extend their brands and boost awareness of their
programming, while also developing an additional revenue stream, CBS Cable's The Nashville
Network and MTV Networks' VH1 and MTV: Music Television have all stepped up their pursuit
of licensed-merchandise spinoffs.
At TNN, the thinking is: If it works for wrestling, why not
for wrestling on skates?
CBS Cable executive vice president of sales and marketing
Lloyd Werner said in a phone interview that his company -- via licensing rep Creative
Branding Systems -- has already booked 35 licensees for its fledgling RollerJam
series, which has been running in primetime since January.
The series -- described as Roller Derby for the
1990s -- will begin its second season on TNN in October.
The first to hit retail stores with product was
LogoAthletic Inc. T-shirts, sportswear and headwear emblazoned with the six inaugural
World Skating League RollerJam teams' logos went on sale at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
and Kmart Corp. stores last month, Werner said.
LogoAthletic already licenses merchandise from the National
Football League, Major League Baseball and other major sports franchises, he added.
Jakks Pacific Inc.'s RollerJam action figures and
accessories are due to hit retail in March. The company is also developing RollerJam
fashion dolls and diecast and plastic vehicles.
Jakks already licenses a similar line of World Wrestling
Federation toys, ranging from a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin action figure to the
"No Pain, No Gain" play set. The WWF, in its ad insert in trade magazines
distributed at the annual Licensing Show in New York last month, boasted that the Jakks
line's "success is nothing less than phenomenal."
Products due from the 35 RollerJam licensees, in
various stages of development, range from video games and magazines to trading cards,
calendars and compilation music compact discs, Werner said. Another "10 or 15"
deals are in the works, he added.
CBS and its licensing rep are also exploring licensing
opportunities for TNN's and Country Music Television's logos and programming, Werner said.
Like MTV and VH1, those opportunities may be in categories from apparel to books to board
games, he added.
Such licensing efforts pay off in terms of brand extension
and brand exposure, Werner said, but "you make money only if the products sell. Ours
are just hitting the market now." He didn't expect significant sales until the
Christmas selling season.
One additional sales outlet will be CBS' Country.com Web
site, which, he pointed out, will promote the RollerJam merchandise.
That Web site also will link to Extreme Championship
Wrestling's site, he said, as part of the network's recent agreement to carry ECW events
as the lead-in to RollerJam. ECW handles its own licensing, but TNN will share in
those revenues, as well as those from pay-per-view, home video and ECW's fan magazines.
ECW is also just hitting retail shelves with action figures
from Original San Francisco Toymakers.
Likewise, at MTVN, Donald Silvey, senior vice president of
programming enterprises and business development for MTV and VH1, talked up the importance
of extending brands and bolstering awareness, but he added, "I can't talk
Both networks "want to be in categories that make
sense for the brand," he noted in a separate phone interview, so music-related
products are in the forefront, naturally enough.
In terms of sheer numbers of licensees, Silvey said, the
MTV logo and Daria are his top two licensing properties, followed by MTV Sports.
But others -- ranging from MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch
to VH1's Pop-Up Video and Behind the Music -- are coming on strong.
His networks' standout licensed products for 1999 will
likely be two trivia-themed board games that are due to get heavy marketing support in the
Christmas season, Silvey said -- Cardinal Industries Inc.'s "MTV The Game" and
Pressman Toy Corp.'s "Pop-Up Video Game." They're due on the shelves of such
major retailers as Toys "R" Us Inc. and Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Target Stores, he
Cardinal's game will include a sculpted miniature of the
MTV Video Music Award statuette.
Among new products with a music connection will be
MTV-branded speakers and CD-storage products from Motion Systems.
In addition, Silvey said, MTV's audio line includes three
CD soundtracks released earlier this year from MTV-produced films Varsity Blues, 200
Cigarettes and Election, and a fourth coming from its August movie, The Wood.
MTV's "Party to Go" compilations from Tommy Boy
Records have sold 12 million copies, making it "the most successful compilation
line" in the industry, he added. There's also a five-CD set in the works, tied to an
upcoming MTV millennium-related programming event, he said.
MTV, which has been involved in home video for four years
now, has sold 500,000 copies of The Grind, a youth-aimed workout video released in
1995, and Silvey said a second Grind is slated for fall.
Meanwhile, a new DVD line will be built around its MTV Unplugged
franchise, he added.
For computer software and CD-ROM product, MTV recently
licensed THQ Inc. to market a line of MTV Sports-branded interactive games and a line of
MTV video games featuring original soundtrack music. Beavis & Butt-head and Daria
games are due for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s "PlayStation" and Nintendo
of America Inc.'s "Game Boy" platforms.
MTV Books, published by sister company Simon & Schuster
Inc., has been around since 1993 with Beavis titles. Last year, its first fiction
novel, Floating, came out, and it now has more than a half-dozen titles in stores,
based on 200 Cigarettes, as well as on such programs as The Real World and Road
MTV next plans a line of "official music books"
about rock acts, starting later this year with 98 Degrees, as well as on the history of
hip-hop, Silvey said.
The latest Daria licensees include Trendmasters Inc.
(for interactive watches) and Jay Franco & Sons (beach towels), while Celebrity
Deathmatch's include Ocean Atlantic Textile Printing Inc.'s Wild Oats for T-shirts,
with still others set for calendars and action figures.
In addition, Sony Entertainment Corp.'s 40-plus MTV
home-video titles will expand with episodes from both of those programs, and CDs are in
the works for both shows, as well.
Under its MTV Sports banner, MTV has signed licensees for
everything from skateboards to athletic bags.
At VH1, besides the trivia game, Pop-Up Video
spinoffs will encompass everything from apparel and tote bags to greeting cards,
calendars, posters and mugs. Two books are already out -- Pop This and Pop-Up
Video '80s -- Silvey said.
Moreover, VH1 has borrowed a page from Nick's licensing
manual by setting up dedicated Pop-Up Video departments within retail stores, much
as Sears, Roebuck and Co. has done with Nick's Blue's Clues. The first is at Macy's
flagship department store in Manhattan, he noted.
For Macy's, VH1 came up with a "Pop-Up New York"
theme, featuring the Statue of Liberty and the like, he added. In a similar vein, Silvey
said, VH1 hopes to get into college bookstores with point-of-sale materials adapting the Pop-Up
format to present "fun facts about the colleges."
MTV did something similar this past spring, setting up
"Official MTV Spring Break Headquarters" at Target Stores nationwide. Those
thematic departments -- showcasing apparel and other merchandise tied into that annual
on-air stunt -- appeared in all 850 Target outlets. Silvey added that talks have begun on
next year's displays.
For Behind the Music, spinoffs already include
videos of VH1's programs on Shania Twain and Blondie, plus a line of CDs, Silvey said, and
tie-in books are due this fall based on the programs that profiled Willie Nelson and
Lilith Fair. Three more books are due in the first quarter. The notion of a magazine
spinoff has been discussed internally, he added.
Other products that he considers as promoting the VH1
brand, more than an individual program, include: Divas Live CDs, the first of which
sold 3 million units worldwide last fall; a forthcoming CD of its recent Donna Summer
concert, due via Sony Music; Storytellers CDs featuring Culture Club, Johnny
Cash/Willie Nelson and Counting Crows; and periodic compilation CDs from Rhino Records,
such as VH1 Big '80s.
And the beat goes on: A&E Television Networks, Cartoon
Network, Discovery Channel, Fox Family Channel and even The Weather Channel were among
those exploring their own brand-extension opportunities at the Licensing Show, some
targeting children, others adults.
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