Whether it’s “The Office,” “Minute to Win It,” shows on USA Network, or shows on the Syfy channel, Niemi and her team, which includes Joni Camacho, marketing director, look at basic contributing factors to decide which direction to take their licensing approach. From the genre they’re in to the pop culture elements with immediate licensing opportunities, shows’ strengths, which Niemi calls ownable characteristics, are what draw fans to look for more than what they see on TV.
“We identify properties that have those characteristics or are well established—in their second or third season—and solidified with the audience so we can grow the merchandising and licensing portfolios,” she said.
Sealed with a kiss
When dealing with its Telemundo property, which reached 94% of US Hispanic viewers across 210 markets in 2010, NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group took a slightly different approach. Because the Spanish-language broadcast network speaks to a unique viewer demographic, the group had to restructure its approach to reaching viewers. “Because of the inherent differences in Telemundo’s primetime lineup versus mainstream or other properties we work on, we focused on the channel rather than individual programs,” said Camacho.
Unlike American soap operas, Telemundo novellas are cyclical; they come and go rather than continuing in a linear fashion for years. Because there aren’t opportunities to brand merchandise for a specific show, the licensing group extracted the essence of Telemundo’s novellas to create lifestyle brands.
“Telemundo’s viewers want to connect with the programming and the viewing community at large,” said Niemi. “When we looked at the licensing program, it was important for Telemundo-licensed products to be affordable, high quality, and speak to the audience in an organic way.”
The group’s first venture was with The Richline Group, the largest jewelry manufacturer in North America, to create a Telemundo-branded jewelry line inspired by its novellas. Camacho said because Telemundo owns its own content, NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group has integrated product promotions into the novellas to drive viewers online for purchase.
The second line created, entitled “Todo por un Beso” (“Anything for a Kiss”), is a standalone jewelry line focused on the passion of the novellas and the Telemundo audience’s love of jewlery. Available at telemundojewelry.com, Camacho said the line has done well so far. “We plan to expand the brand as we go forward,” she said.
The group has also partnered with InComm, a best-in-class player in the pre-paid space, on a series of Visa gift cards that bank on the trust and equity of the Telemundo brand as well as life events that speak to the property’s viewers, including quinceañeras and fútbol. “The partnership placed us at retail with 7-Eleven and Sam’s Club, and we’ve done some regional promotions with local Telemundo affiliates,” said Camacho.
In June, NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group will also do a test in two markets with Foot Locker focused on men’s apparel, which will be branded “Ritmo Deportivo”—one of the sports shows that runs on Telemundo. All in all, the group’s licensing strategy focuses on segmentation, whether financial services, home goods, or lifestyle. The approach has been popular with retailers looking to connect with this specific audience in an authentic way. “Telemundo brings that authenticity to the marketing extensions and brand developments going into retail stores,” said Camacho.
The starting small and hoping for a national scope approach the group is taking with Foot Locker is indicative of how the it carefully approaches licensing, basing its choices on an overarching lifestyle versus a specific property. “We’re not about simply connecting to a license for the sake of booking a little bit of revenue,” said Niemi. “It’s about brand extension, and we have many folks involved in that decision making process, whether it be for Telemundo as a channel, SyFy, USA, or NBC.”
Collaboration and cohesion
Licensing is an aggregate business. For a company with the scope of NBCUniversal, making sure the consumer products division hits a high mark with every program and every traditional and non-traditional licensee for each program becomes a complicated process.
“Our scope requires all fingers to be in the marketplace speaking to these entities and understanding where the business is going,” said Niemi. As a result, the group partners with multiple agencies. For Telemundo, Big Tent is the agency of record and acts as an extension of NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group. “Big Tent is an extension of our internal team to get into the marketplace,” she continued.
When looking at the most efficient way to manage its relationship with Big Tent, as well as the other agencies and licensees it deals with, in 2010, the group developed a B2B website. Now, rather than sending out multiple e-mails every day, the group updates all pertinent programming information online and makes it readily available to all of its stakeholders.
“The site allows us to offer our licensees and agents the ability to access information when they need it, where they need it, and to customize it to their needs rather than us pushing information when it suits us,” followed Camacho. “It’s one place for them to use as an ongoing resource, and we’re in charge of updating.”
In business, great ideas are nothing without results, which is why both Niemi and Camacho know the work they’ve put into NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group has been worth it. In 2010, the group saw 88% growth in CPG sales. In addition, the group’s speed-to-market increased.
Point in case: the merchandising push behind “Minute to Win It.” From the first six-episode pick-up to the 22-episode deal, the show’s licensing deals were tiered so product could be in market by holiday 2010. Niemi said the process began similarly to that of other shows, identifying the program’s genre, looking at its ownable attributes, JTMG, the agency of record for NBC, brought the information to the licensees so at the moment the show connected with the audience, licensees were already moving quickly to get into the marketplace.
“We’re lucky that we have great producers willing to collaborate. A piece of our success is the result of the willingness of each of our channel partners and our studios to create an open door and an open dialogue with the creators of the shows we license for,” she continued. “There is a lot of pressure on our producers to produce content and deliver it on time, but they are also willing to understand that in today’s market, fans want to interact beyond just a TV screen and the Internet.”