Some industry execs expressed surprise at the announcement last month that Scholastic Prods, had licensed film, TV and homevideo rights for its “Goosebumps” property to Fox, and the interactive rights to DreamWorks (Variety, Sept. 25-Oct. 1). Others say such two-pronged deals will likely proliferate as the multimedia biz matures.
“This business hasn’t been around long enough to say if there’s any commonality, but I believe splitting rights like this will be the trend,” says Jill Alofs, president of Total Clearance, a company specializing in rights and licensing issues for the entertainment industry.
“In the film and video world, you generally jump onto one studio and see a project through at that company,” Alofs says. “But multimedia developers have varying backgrounds and experience, and CD-ROM development is a very specialized field. A licenser with a top property can use that leverage to shop a project around to find the most qualified developer, or to get the best deal.”
Jon Richmond, president of Fox Interactive, says the “Goosebumps” deal took shape as the result of a prior agreement between Scholastic and Microsoft, which is DreamWorks’ partner for interactive projects.
“What happened is very simple: At the time that Scholastic made the film and TV agreement with Fox, Scholastic had a pre-existing arrangement with Microsoft for interactive rights, and they agreed to a joint development situation with DreamWorks,” he says.
“Goosebumps” is the wildly popular children’s series of suspense books by R.L. Stine.
Richmond, however, sees no long-term trend toward the splitting of interactive rights from film and TV. “It’s a trend which is in vogue for the moment because people are overestimating the value of interactive rights. But it’s a trend which will fade away, because studios are interested in pursuing all the rights deals that turn a piece of content into a franchise. In order to do that you need film, TV, interactive, merchandise – everything.”
Alofs believes DreamWorks benefited from Microsoft’s track record in interactive development and distribution. “Scholastic was already linked up with a company that has systems for testing and distribution already in place. They didn’t have to figure out what Fox Interactive’s relationships would be or what its experience was.”
“It all comes down to market share: who has good distribution and experience with this type of product, and who can get the shelf space,” says William Morris agent Lewis Henderson, who specializes in the interactive market. “Studios will have to prove to license-holders that they’re able to get a product out and can market and distribute it effectively.”
Some studios even license their own content to outside multimedia developers. Sony, for instance, went to Philips Media rather than Sony Interactive for development, publishing and distribution of CDROMs and CD-i titles based on the upcoming TriStar feature “Jumanji.”
Sony, which makes the PlayStation vidgame units, sold rights to that platform’s software to Philips as well.
Sometimes the decision to turn rights over to an outside company is based on inhouse capacity, says John Raczka, senior director of licensing at Sony Signatures Licensing, the division that handled the deal with Philips. “Every publisher only has so many titles they can put through the pipeline.”