Sales of licensed entertainment merchandise accounted for $2.66 billion in royalty revenues in the United States and Canada, and an estimated $51.44 billion in retail sales in 2013, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Assn.
That's up 4.3% from the previous year.
Merchandise from children's TV programming was a big driver for the year, said LIMA Senior Vice President Martin Brochstein.
But adult-skewing shows were also merchandised in original ways, notably with the popularity of brewer Ommegang's Fire and Blood Red Ale that took inspiration from the HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
"Companies have gotten a lot more creative in terms of creating merchandising for their, shall we say, less juvenile audiences," Brochstein said.
Entertainment merchandise is the biggest component of the licensed products industry that also includes fashion, corporate and brand names, and sports.
In 2013 the entire industry generated $5.65 billion in royalties in the U.S. and Canada, translating to $115.7 billion in sales. That's up about 3.3% from 2012, marking the third straight year of improved sales as the industry continues to recover from the Great Recession.
LIMA is closely watching the influence of digital technology that continues to take away from traditional toy sales but offers new possibilities for companies to generate revenue and influence through things like games and mobile apps.
"It's sort of a yin and yang," Brochstein said.
The industry, which holds its annual licensing expo this week in Las Vegas, is anticipating a strong crop of blockbuster films from proven series over the next several years. "Star Wars: Episode VII," "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (both from Disney) and "Jurassic World" all are slated for 2015, and their franchises have long histories of generating merchandise sales.
"It really is about having compelling characters that speak to consumers," Sperber said.