Do You Need a Licence for That?

Posted on: Friday 08 July 2011 1:41pm


Nina Koo-Seen-Lin gets a lesson in licensing… 

Introduced and produced by:

Kelvyn Gardner, MD, LIMA UK


Andrew Carley, Head of Global Licensing, eOne

Richard Hollis, Head of UK Licensing, BBC Worldwide

Helen Howells, Joint Managing Director, HoHo Entertainment

Vickie O’Malley, MD, UK Entertainment, CPLG

 Kelvyn steps up to the podium wearing a fabulous shirt that Paul Smith would be envious of. “Thanks for choosing to come to this open forum over watching a speech from the PM that’s happening right now,” he says graciously before launching in to what licensing actually is. 

So what do you need a licence for?

Manufacturers buy permissions (licenses) from creators of film, TV etc. to produce consumer products, be it Fifi and the Flowerpots fromage frais yoghurt pots to Ben 10 sticker books.  When you “buy” a contract with a licensor/agent you pay a percentage of the value of each sale, gain royalties and guarantees.

Why do you need to buy a licence? Well, it’s highly beneficial as you can increase sales, gain further interest in your project profile, (it’s an alternative to the often difficult option of building your own brand) and, most importantly, make money! You can get anything from 3% to 22% of the royalties. It all sounds quite positive to me.

 To understand who’s involved in the licensing industry is simple. Think of it as a tree. The Licensors are at the top (examples are Warner Brothers and Entertainment One). On the bottom branches you’ll find the agents, like CPLG, who are skilled in the representation of consumer product sales.

At the top end of the trunk are the licensees while the distributors and retailers sit. Most importantly are the consumers – the roots of the tree – in which without them the whole structure would collapse.

Licensing depends on what market sectors a project belongs to – entertainment, sport, fashion, music, art or charity. An example for music would be the  the Rock and Rollercoaster Aerosmith ride at Disneyland. There’s nothing quite like travelling at 60mph listening to “Dude (looks like a lady)”. 

The licensing industry may seem rather serious and profit driven. In some respects it is. Licensing is highly competitive and each brand is striving to gain maximum awareness and acceptability. Nevertheless as Richard from BBC Worldwide says, the planning process can be fun as you can spend hours coming up with product ideas and placements like Fifi and the Flowerpots cutlery to a Pepper Pig theme park. Guessing what a project can do and how an audience will receive maintains the element of elation if successful.

Everyone on the panel explains that each project is different and may demand as much or as little merchandising as desired or indeed, needed. There are some fantastic and very successful TV programmes for kids that haven’t achieved a great many sales from merchandising. A prime example is Little Robots – a hugely successful pre-school programme where products didn’t sell well. 

 The forum becomes open for questions from the audience. One guy congratulates Kelvyn on his shirt – “it’s available for licensing later,” he jokes (or is he?!). Are there any products the panel are ashamed of is the question.

Yes, Andrew from Entertainment One shudders at a Peppa Pig potty while Richard puts his head in his hands when he remembers the selection of Last of the Summer Wine plates – imagine eating your dinner off a plate with Nora Batty’s face!

 The hour is up…many stay behind to talk more to Kelvyn and the panel to get more information on how they can get their children’s media project licensed. I know the next time I go shopping I’ll be looking out for brands knowing the time and effort it takes. I’m not sure if Debenhams will stock Nora Batty face plates though. Oh well, I’ll console myself with some Fifi and the Flowerpots yoghurt.