US entertainment and media major Hearst Corporation-owned merchandise licensing firm King Features Syndicate, whose stable includes characters such as Popeye, Betty Poop and Flash Gordon, is setting up shop in India. Its business model will hinge on entering into multi-level non-exclusive deals with consumer products firms across categories.
ET has learnt that King Features is in talks with Frito-Lay, Titan, Bombay Dyeing, Lilliput and retail chain Lifestyle, among others, for licensing deals in food and beverages, kids apparel and footwear, stationery and toys, home decor and furnishings, and the wireless/mobile sectors.
The Popeye character alone generates sales of $2 billion annually—an indication of the potential of toon character licensing. King Features has tied up with Delhi-based licensing and merchandising firm Extend Brands as its local agent. It has licensed out two of its characters—Popeye and Betty Poop—for the Indian market initially.
Responding to an email query by ET, New York-based King Features V-P (international licensing) Cathleen Titus confirmed the India plans: “Depending on the property, we are seeking licences in apparel, fashion, stationery, and food and beverages, among other categories,” she said.
Ms Titus said: “Our Indian partner, Extend Brands, is in the process of selecting key prospects, but there have already been discussions with various companies and serious interest from the fashion, wireless and gaming industries.” Total character licensing sales in India are estimated at Rs 500 crore. Globally, Popeye has been associated with Pepsi Foods, Duracell, Toyota, Mazda and Kodak while Betty Boop’s associations include Adidas, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Garnier and Mango.
King Features also deals in distribution of comics, cartoons and puzzles. Its comic properties include Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible and Dennis the Menace. Hearst has interests in 30 TV stations, including ESPN and History Channel.
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