As studios produce more summer tenptoles based on established brands, they're looking to take a larger piece of the $49.3 billion in retail sales of film and TV character merchandise in the U.S. and Canada last year.
Last year, Disney dominated the entertainment category with 80% marketshare, generating $39.4 billion in 2012. Company ranks No. 1 as the world's largest licensor, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Assn. Through its purchases of Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney now has six of the top 10 franchises in the world: Disney Princess (No. 1), Star Wars (No. 2), Pooh (No. 3), Cars (No. 4), Mickey & Friends (No. 6), Toy Story (No. 8), with Disney Fairies (No. 11), and Spider-Man (No. 16) in the top 20.
Warner Bros., which came in at No. 7 with a $6 billion haul, consistent with previous years. It's doing well this summer with merchandise tied to "Man of Steel."
Nickelodeon ranked No. 8 with a $5.5 billion haul, based on merchandise for its kids properties. DreamWorks Animation came in at No. 18 with $3 billion; Cartoon Network is No. 22 with $2.8 billion; 20th Century Fox ranks No. 26 with $2.35 billion; and Sony is No. 47 with $1.2 billion, largely due from Spider-Man merchandise.
Overall, character-related merchandise (encompassing celebrities, TV, movie and videogames) grew 2.8% to nearly $2.55 billion in royalty revenue from $49.3 billion in retail sales.
Studios have seen sales increase by pairing up with larger retailers like Walmart, Target and Toys R Us, who can put more marketing muscle around a film's release or build stores-within-a-store inside their locations nationwide.
The amount of royalty revenue earned last year from licensors is up 2.5% over 2011, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association, showing a rebound from slower sales that were experienced during the recession.
Sales of licensed products (goods bearing the names and likenesses of cartoon characters, company logos, and major sports teams, for example) rose for the second consecutive year to $100 million, LIMA said. The trade group showed year-over-year category growth in just about every category represented including the largest segments of licensing: entertainment, fashion, corporate, sports, collegiate, art, music and not-for-profits.
Trademark and brand licensing is the second largest category, up from $910 million in 2011 to $928 million in 2012, with sales associated to products tied to classic brands like Coca-Cola and merchandise from Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Harley-Davidson and Ford.
The licensed fashion category, which includes products from Perry Ellis, Polo Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne, surged 3.4% last year to $755 million.
Sports leagues like the NFL, NBA and MLB saw sales increase 2.2% to $685 million with expansion into healthier foods and beverages, travel and the women's market expected to boost results in the coming years.
Music licensing was up 1.6% to $122 million, helped by revenue generated by more concerts and other events.