Comfort TV

Some very wholesome TV shows from the past have spurred merchandise programs in recent years, and their efforts continue to expand. Modern consumers likely gravitate to these brands in large part due to their nostalgic appeal, but also, at least to a degree, because they serve as an antidote to today’s digitally driven, politically charged, and divisive landscape. The TV series and their associated products are a comfort to many viewers, young and old, much like a favorite blanket or a bowl of mac and cheese.

Notable examples, all long-running shows in their original incarnations, include:

  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). Represented by Brand Central, Mister Rogers’ licensing activities expanded significantly in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of its launch, celebrated last year. Licensees on board for the milestone, including American Classics (t-shirts and loungewear), Funko (vinyl and plush figures), ODM (t-shirts and sweatshirts), and Wizhead (papercrafts), have more recently been joined by Random House for publishing, Good Luck Sock for socks, Pyramid America and Trends International for posters, and more.
  • The Joy of Painting, starring Bob Ross (1982-1994). Ross’s licensing effort, spearheaded by Firefly Brand Management since 2016, has featured everything from bobbleheads and Chia figures, to mugs and meditation apps, to waffle irons and toasters. Recent additions have included Ripple Junction for apparel, NECA for collectibles, Spirit Halloween for costumes, Underboss for underwear and sleepwear, and FYE for a range of candies and energy drinks, among many others. All feature Ross’s image and focus on millennials as their primary consumer base. Ross’s estate also offers art supplies and a training program that certifies fans (no experience necessary) to become instructors of Ross’s techniques.
  • Romper Room (1953-1994). Kahootz Toys, a marketer of retro toys and games, offers products including card and memory games and fuzzy felt kits based on this preschool program, which at its peak had both nationally syndicated and franchised local versions. Created and owned initially by Claster Television, the property was purchased by Hasbro in 1969. The show generated controversy for a time for plugging its own toy line on air; Hasbro continued to make playthings through the 1980s, but without the host’s overt sales messages. Kahootz now owns the brand.

While not all retro shows from the 1960s through early 1990s are beloved enough or have enough longevity to have real licensing potential, there may be more additions to the landscape in the future. Mark Wahlberg said last year that he plans to bring back Captain Kangaroo (1955-1984), this time with a mission to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). If that happens, can licensing be far behind?

A reminder: Raugust Communications’ next newsletter will be distributed via e-mail tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Licensing Trend of the Month examines current developments in the world of licensing-based IP holding companies, while the Datapoint research spotlight centers on crowdfunding. If you’re not yet a subscriber, you can sign up here.

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