TV, pix key to biz for Hasbro, Mattel
Don’t expect toymakers to pack up their playthings and leave Hollywood any time soon.Hasbro on Monday hyped the growth of its kids TV network the Hub, upcoming summer sequel “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and tie-ins to “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” as key drivers to its bottom line this year after the lack of new movie-related product dragged down earnings in 2010. Mattel also heralded film properties — including licenses to “Cars 2” and “Green Lantern” — as a bright spot to its year as the world’s largest toy company reported earnings last week. Company said it may produce a live-action musical feature adaptation of its Monster High toy line for 2012. The Monster High dolls, which bowed last summer, are the kids or other relatives of such classic Universal monsters as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman. Mattel also has pics based on Barbie and Major Matt Mason set up at U. Although Hasbro’s profits were up 6% to $375 million last year, sales fell slightly to $4 billion from $4.07 billion. During the fourth quarter — the peak holiday shopping period, when more than a third of toymakers’ sales are typically generated — sales were off by 7% to $1.28 billion, which caused profits to drop 15% to $140 million. About 40% of its sales are earned in North America, but the fourth quarter was the first time Hasbro saw international revenue top sales in the U.S. and Canada. Either way, sales in the boys category fell 34% to $239 million during the quarter, compared to 2009, when pics like the Hasbro-produced “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” played at the box office or on homevideo and spun off a line of action figures that filled store shelves. The girls’ side, behind such brands as My Little Pony, held steady at $133 million. Games and puzzles (including Monopoly, Battleship, Scrabble and Life) rose 22% to $262 million, while the preschool category climbed 32% to nearly $104 million. Hasbro chief Brian Goldner was upbeat on the Hub’s growth this year, its first full year on the air as a co-venture with Discovery Communications. Channel bowed in October with 50 advertisers; it now has 80. Ratings are also up month-to-month. “We understand we have ratings that are building over time,” Goldner said. Costs to launch the channel, however, dragged down profits. Overall, Mattel’s earnings during its end-of-the-year quarter dipped 1% to $325 million. Revenue was up 9% to $2.1 billion. For 2010, Mattel reported a nearly 30% boost in profits of $685 million from an 8% increase in sales of nearly $5.9 billion. Mattel’s Barbie, American Girl and Monster High doll lines were key sellers, as was Fisher-Price and its license with World Wrestling Entertainment. Barbie’s Ken turns 50 this year and is the focus of the new reality series, “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend.” Mattel will pony up considerable coin to continue battling an ongoing copyright infringement case against MGA over ownership of the Bratz doll brand.