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License to cash in

U.S. and Canadian market cracks $110 bil

NEW YORK — The U.S. and Canadian licensing business has cracked the $100 billion barrier, according to a new study, and now the market is heading overseas.

For starters:

  • Sony Signatures revealed that it has solved the licensing conundrum for the recently announced “Jumanji” sequel;

  • Viacom Consumer Products went public with its acquisition of licensing rights to Russia’s Bolshoi Theater;

  • BBC Worldwide announced that U.K. kid classic “Noddy” has been added to PBS’ daily schedule.

The upbeat study, conducted by the Yale School of Management and the Harvard Business School, puts U.S. and Canadian licensing business at $110 billion, about $30 billion higher than earlier studies.

Entertainment accounts for 45% of the licensing industry, compared with earlier estimates of 21%.

“The new number is significantly higher than earlier estimates and illustrates the tremendous growth of the category,” said LIMA executive director Charles M. Riotto.

Hollywood’s interest in licensing seems certain to produce even faster growth, as Sony Signatures’ Peter Dang, executive VP of Worldwide Consumer Products, indicated during impromptu remarks about “Jumanji 2” (Daily Variety, June 3).

The 1995 box-office hit relied on jungle characters like lions, rhinos and giraffes, leaving little room for licensed products.

In the new film, the “Jumanji” board game will be “shattered,” Dang explained, “and so will the animals.” Sony gave a few examples, supported by art. These included a cross between a rhino and a flamingo, a cross between an elephant and a turtle, and a cross between a zebra and a crocodile.

“This whole thing is only two weeks old,” Dang said of the sequel slated for a December 2000 release, “but we’re already very excited.”

So was Viacom Consumer Products for snagging the rights to Russia’s premiere opera and ballet company precisely one year before the Kennedy Center kicks off its U.S Millennium Tour.

Licensing and marketing VP Pamela Newton told Daily Variety that the first launch of Bolshoi items would consist of “high-end collectibles with a sense of Russia’s czarist past.”

However, with 80,000 different items from the 270-year-old troupe, including the moldings used to design Rudolph Nuryev’s ballet slippers, Newton said additional launches, such as a possible tutu line, could be coming for perpetuity.

“It’s a hallmark of Viacom not to do one-shots but to license programs that last for a long, long time,” she said.

The Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. (“Teletubbies”) handles marketing and licensing for the BBC’s “Noddy” in North America. It brokered a deal that sets the kid-vid series in the old-fashioned novelty shop Notions, Oddities, Doodads & Delights of Yesterday (NODDY).

“Noddy,” based on Enid Blyton’s children’s books, debuted in the U.S. in the fall of 1998.

The series’ early success has resulted in the production of 25 new episodes, bringing the total to 65.

Rick Siggelkow, BBC Worldwide’s children’s division VP and the show’s executive producer and creator, said “The ‘Noddy’ character has been cherished overseas for decades, and we are thrilled that American youngsters and their parents have given the program such a warm reception.”