April 28, 2010

United Media Being Sold to Iconix

The PeanutsE.W. Scripps Co. said Tuesday it will sell United Media for $175 million to Joe Boxer owner Iconix Brand Group Inc. The sale of United Media Licensing also means Iconix has a new partnership with the family of the late “Peanuts” creator, Charles Schulz. They’ll receive 20 percent ownership in the unit that owns “Peanuts” and pay that percentage of the sale price. United Media Licensing also represents other character brands such as Dilbert and Fancy Nancy, but the bulk of its licensing business comes from “Peanuts.”
In 2009, revenue of the unit fell 10 percent to nearly $92 million. That figure includes United Media's syndication operations, which Scripps will still own, meaning it will still syndicate comic strips and editorial features.
Scripps said the cash deal will close by the end of the second quarter.

Legislation to Amend Toxic Substances Control Act Proposed to Congress

On April 15, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 was submitted to the Senate. The legislation, intended to enhance the federal regulation of chemicals, will amend the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). A draft proposal for a companion bill has been introduced to the House.
The Toy Industry Association (TIA) has said it supports TSCA reform and a federal approach to chemical regulation, but adds that certain parts of the proposal, such as the prioritization of chemicals for review, use “a risk-based approach.” A provision in the bill allows states to adopt their own regulations, which TIA says “could create a patchwork of state laws that would make it difficult for companies to bring products to the marketplace.”
The bill also requires manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they enter the marketplace. That is a significant change from TSCA, which allows chemicals to be used unless the federal government can prove they cause harm to health or the environment. 
For more information on the proposed bill, and TIA’s thoughts, click here.

CPSC Approves Mattel’s Request for In-House Testing

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted unanimously to approve Mattel's request to use two more of its own company laboratories for the third-party checks on its toys. The CPSC said Mattel was able to show that its in-house testing would provide equal or greater consumer safety protection than an outside lab.
Under law passed in 2008, the makers of children’s products must perform independent third-party tests for lead, lead paint, and other potential dangers. The legislation has a provision that allows CPSC to consider requests from manufacturers who want to use their own testing facilities for third-party checks.

Think Wow Partners for Entenmann’s Donut Maker

Entenmann's Donut MakerThe Joester Loria Group has announced that Entenmann’s is expanding its licensing program into toys. Think Wow Toys has partnered for Entenmann’s Donut Maker for Kids. The donut maker allows kids to make their own donuts safely in the microwave. Kids mix the donut dough with water in the mixing station, extrude the dough in the donut tray mold, and then microwave for 40 to 60 seconds. After the donuts are baked, kids can decorate with icing and add sprinkles. One Entenmann’s Donut Maker for Kids set, for ages 8 and up, makes 12 donuts.

Big Idea to Release New VeggieTales DVD, Partners for Toy Line

VeggieTalesBig Idea Entertainment is releasing a brand new VeggieTales adventure targeted towards girls, VeggieTales: Sweetpea Beauty—A Girl After God’s Own Heart.
The DVD, to be released on July 31 in Christian market stores and on August 3 in the general marketplace, tells a tale of true beauty. When a decree is made that only the most beautiful can rule the land, the insecure Queen Blueberry banishes Sweetpea Beauty to a dark forest. Sweetpea’s fate seems bleak until a charming prince, a band of merry minstrels, and seven snow peas come to her rescue. The DVD also features the tale of Snoodlerella and bonus features such as sing-along songs.
Beginning July 31, Big Idea Entertainment will roll out a line of Sweetpea Beauty-themed consumer products. Merchandise will include plush toys of Sweetpea Beauty and Prince Larry characters from Gund, a puzzle from Talicor, purse and shoe charms from Crocs/Jibbitz, and more.

Left Behind Games Merger Cancelled

Left Behind GamesAccording to Left Behind Games, Inc., a leading publisher of Christian video games, a contemplated merger between the company and Digital Praise will not occur due to a dispute between the parties. This decision will eliminate dilution of approximately 850 million shares, which would have occurred upon closing of the merger.
Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon said the company will soon announce its expanded product line for the 2010 holiday season.

Report: March Video Game Sales Rise Six Percent

According to a report by The NPD Group, total video game sales in March increased six percent to $1.52 billion, compared to the same month in 2009. The increase was helped by strong sales of Nintendo’s game consoles, new Pokemon games, and Sony Corp.’s God of War III.
Although software sales rose 10 percent to $875.3 million, hardware sales dropped four percent to $440.5 million, attributed to lower console prices compared to March 2009. Nintendo sold 557,500 units of its Wii system and 700,800 of its portable DS, again surpassing rival console makers Microsoft Corp. (Xbox 360) and Sony (PlayStation 3).
Sales of video game accessories climbed 11 percent to $206.8 million, while year-to-date video game sales decreased 7 percent compared to the same three-month period last year.

MEG Signs New Broadcast Deals for In My Pocket

PocketvilleMEG Toys has signed new broadcast deals for its new animated television series, Puppy In My Pocket Adventures in Pocketville, produced in HD. The series will debut later this year in Italy, and across the rest of the world in 2011.
MEG and Giochi Preziosi, co-producers with Mondo TV on the series, will coordinate and manage the licensing program for Adventures in Pocketville. Giochi Preziosi will manage Europe, excluding the UK, while MEG, in conjunction with its merchandising agent Licensing Works, will oversee the other territories. Development of a new toy line based on the new show has already started and its market release will occur simultaneously with the show's launch.

Brandberry Appointed as Licensing Agent for The Wiggles

The WigglesBrandberry has been picked as The Wiggles’ new licensing agent in North America. The company will handle all licensing categories for the children’s entertainment group.
The Wiggles are featured on Sprout, as well as on the virtual world Wiggletime.com, and the group’s website, TheWiggles.com. Each year, The Wiggles release two new DVDs and CDs, embark on two North American concert tours that visit more than 70 cities, and are featured in Six Flags Theme Parks with five Wiggles World theme areas.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of The Wiggles.


New Beyblade Series and Toy Line to Launch in Canada

Beyblade: Metal FusionOn May 15, Beyblade: Metal Fusion, a spin-off of Beyblade, will premiere on Canada’s YTV. From Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana and Japan’s d-rights, the new series will kick off with a four-episode stunt event at 12 p.m. that day. Beyblade: Metal Fusion features a new cast of characters as they follow Gingka and battle the rising dangerous group, The Dark Nebula. Following the stunt event, the series will air every Saturday on YTV at 12 p.m. ET/PT.
Hasbro, the master toy partner, and Nelvana Enterprises will launch the Beyblade: Metal Fusion toy line in Canada this spring. The comprehensive line of battling tops allows kids to collect, customize, and compete with a new metal gear system, and view a new online virtual battle component at www.Beybladebattles.com (launching April 29).

Anchor Bay to Distribute Chuggington DVDs in the U.S.

ChuggingtonAnchor Bay Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Ludorum’s Chuggington preschool series. Anchor Bay will distribute Chuggington DVDs to both brick and mortar stores and online retailers starting early next year.
Chuggington airs six days a week on Playhouse Disney. The show follows the adventures of three young “trainees” as they learn about life in the train yard and in the world.
The series is broadcast in 175 territories worldwide and premiered in the U.S. in January. Bill Clark and Julie Cartwright negotiated this deal for Anchor Bay Entertainment.

4Kids Entertainment to Broadcast New Dragon Ball Z Series

Dragon Ball Z KaiFUNimation Entertainment and Toei Animation Co., Ltd., has granted 4Kids Entertainment the U.S. broadcast television rights to the new animated series Dragon Ball Z Kai. Sneak peeks of Dragon Ball Z Kai will be seen this summer before the series premieres as a regularly scheduled program on TheCW4Kids Saturday morning block during the 2010-2011 broadcast season. 4Kids will also stream Dragon Ball Z Kai episodes on its www.4kids.tv and www.4kidstv.com websites.
Dragon Ball Z Kai launched on Japanese television last April. The series currently rates among the top five animated programs on Japanese television.

Madame Alexander

Faber-Castell Promotes Exec to Director of Sales

Faber-Castell USA has promoted Cathy Blankenship––former director of national accounts since 2006—to director of sales, children’s brands. In her new position, Blankenship manages both specialty and key account channels for sales of Creativity for Kids and Faber-Castell Playing & Learning products.

Nickelodeon UK appoints Tina McCann as Managing Director
Tina McCann has been named senior vice president managing director for Nickelodeon UK. She will start her new position on May 10, assuming overall responsibility for the network’s UK operations and brands. McCann will report to the board of Nickelodeon UK.
Effective immediately, Andy Goodhand will assume the role of senior vice president, strategy and planning director at Nickelodeon UK. Reporting to McCann, Goodhand will develop the company’s strategic plans across the business to ensure the continued successful growth and profitability of the company. He will also oversee strategic property/consumer product management and development, consumer and commercial marketing, press and public relations, research, and channel planning.

JAKKS Pacific Reports First Quarter Financial Results

JAKKS Pacific, Inc. has reported financial results for first quarter 2010, ending March 31. Net sales for the first quarter were $77.3 million, compared to $108.7 million in the first quarter of 2009. JAKKS reported a loss of $5.2 million, or $0.19 per share, compared to a loss of $10.8 million, or $0.40 per share, reported in the first quarter of 2009.
Operations provided cash of $24.1 million for the first quarter of 2010. The quarter's results were positively impacted by a tax benefit of $4.9 million related to the reversal of prior tax accruals. As of March 31, the company's working capital was $356.1 million, including cash and equivalents and marketable securities of $278.2 million.

Sears Holdings Corporation Acquires Sears Canada Shares

Sears Holdings Corporation has purchased a total of 18,660,880 common shares of Sears Canada, Inc. at a price of $30 (Canadian) per share from Pershing Square, L.P., Pershing Square II, L.P., and Pershing Square International, Ltd. The acquisition is scheduled to close on April 27.  
The common shares to be acquired represent approximately 17.3 percent of the outstanding shares of Sears Canada. As a result of these agreements, Sears Holding Corporation now owns 97,341,670 common shares, approximately 90.4 percent of the outstanding shares of Sears Canada.  
Sears Holding Corporation has announced its comparable store sales for the quarter-to-date (QTD) ending April 31. Kmart saw an increase of 3.2 percent and Sears increased by 0.3 percent, for a total corporation increase of 1.7 percent.

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