Warners ramps up merchandising, expects to generate $50 million in 2012

“The Big Bang Theory” is ready to rake in big bucks at retail.

The CBS sitcom, produced by Warner Bros. Television, is expected to generate $50 million from the sale of retail merchandise this year. That could grow to even more as Warner Bros. Consumer Products rolls out a new line of licensed products tied to the show overseas.

That kind of licensing revenue is considerable for any TV property, but even more notable for a sitcom. Studios typically hold back on major product pushes unless they have the kind of rabid fanbase that shows like “The Walking Dead” or properties from DC or Marvel enjoy.

But it’s not surprising that “Big Bang,” which ranks as the top comedy on network TV and in syndication, has joined the ranks of properties ripe for merchandising opportunities. The comedy often references pop-culture properties, and its main characters regularly display logos for DC superheroes like the Flash in their attire.

WBCP has inked deals with more than 70 licensing partners to produce games, apparel, plush figures and accessories, home goods and niche products designed for “Big Bang” fans, with merchandise available at big-box retailers including Walmart , Target, Kohl’s and JCP, specialty shops like Hot Topic and online commerce sites.

“‘The Big Bang Theory’ has entered a merchandising orbit that we rarely see for a live-action television show,” said Karen McTier, executive VP of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which has smaller licensing programs designed around WBTV’s “Revolution,” “The Carrie Diaries,” “Dallas” and “Pretty Little Liars.” “A combination of such a successful hit series and an impassioned fan base allows us to develop a consumer products program, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.”

The show already had a limited line of products, including a boardgame, that sold out last year within months of hitting store shelves. Cardinal Industries releases follow-up “The Big Bang Theory Fact or Fiction Trivia Game: Fan Edition” this week. Company also is behind the UNO “Big Bang” card game, to be followed by additional game launches in 2013.

Some of the show’s licensing partners already have reported strong sales, with “Big Bang” selling more than 100,000 bobblehead figures for Funko based on likenesses of the show’s primary characters, and the series marking Cryptozoic’s largest release of trading cards based on a TV comedy this year.

Other “Big Bang” partners include Ripple Junction, Trends Intl., the Northwest Co., ICUP Inc., Quantum Mechanix, Z!NG Revolution and Hallmark.

“We’ve established a strong and growing products program in the U.S. and are now in the midst of expanding our international program for fans around the world,” McTier said.

WBTV sees the licensed merchandise as a way to enable the show’s “fans numerous opportunities to engage with their favorite show,” said Lisa Gregorian, chief marketing officer, Warner Bros. Television Group.

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