Dress yourself in ‘Glee’: TV shows go licensing crazy

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Rabid “Glee” fans out there have been snapping up any product related to the hit Fox show, but there hasn’t been much, mostly CDs and digital downloads of the cast’s cover versions of classic pop and rock songs.

That’s about to change.

By fall, Gleeks and those who want to make them happy will be able to shop for as many as 100 “Glee"-branded products like karaoke machines, musical greeting cards, pajamas, games, books, bedding and cosmetics. How about a Cheerios Halloween costume? Not out of the question.

20th Century Fox’s licensing division, which controls the deals to make tchotchkes based on the popular show, has agreements in place for “Glee” clothing to be sold at Macy’s and accessories at mall chain Claire’s. The merchandise, including Hallmark cards and Mattel games, will hit stores during back-to-school, a busy buying time for teens and their wallet-wielding parents.

Fox executives said it was important to hold back rather than flood the market with “Glee” swag the moment the musical dramedy took off last fall. Robert Marick, executive vice president of Fox Licensing, said he and his team wanted to gauge demand from fans and pick the right partnerships and product categories before moving forward.

“We didn’t want to just slap a ‘Glee’ logo on a shirt,” Marick said. “The product has to reflect the creativity of the show.”

Meanwhile, “Glee” won’t be the only TV show with swag on shelves. The CW’s high-school-set remake, “90210,” will have clothing targeted at young women at bebe stores in the fall, in time for the third season launch. (There’s a similar deal in place between Warner Bros. TV’s “Gossip Girl” and the U.K. chain Miss Selfridge, where outfits based on the fashion-forward looks of Blair, Serena and other characters went on sale this spring. No doubt it’s a test to see if the clothes could make it stateside).


The “90210" dresses, shirts, accessories and other gear will be incorporated into the hit show, giving the bebe clothes prime-time exposure. (CBS Consumer Products put the deal together with mall-based bebe, which plans four waves of merchandise over a year’s span, with marketing programs to help promote it. Stylists from the trend-conscious show worked with the retailer’s creative team on the “90210" line).

“Glee” and “90210" are part of a wave of TV shows diving into the licensed product world, an area that’s still dominated by animation and kid properties. (About 70% of TV licensing comes from superheroes, cute and cuddly characters like “Sesame Street,” and preschool favorites such as “Dora the Explorer” and “Thomas and Friends.”)

The other 30%, though, revolves around non-kid-specific shows like NBC’s licensing gold mine “The Biggest Loser” and Fox’s “American Idol” and it’s a fertile area for TV studios, networks and production companies to try to make a buck, especially in a sour economy. Licensed product is great advertising, and it’s a new source of money as production budgets tighten and network license fees decrease.

The trend will be on full display at this week’s Licensing International Expo 2010 in Las Vegas, an annual trade convention where entertainment, sports, blue-chip corporations and media conglomerates trot out their intellectual properties for match-making with consumer goods manufacturers.

Another example: HGTV, with its stable of specialists in all things home and hearth, will be launching products that range from window treatments and bathroom accessories to furniture and flooring. The network already has a line of mattresses, co-branded with Serta, under its HGTV Home banner. Most of the products are expected to debut next spring, taking advantage of its expertise in decorating, renovating, entertaining and gardening.

WE TV and its sister network, Wedding Central, have hired a licensing rep and are looking for merchandise opportunities around shows like “Bridezillas,” “Raising Sextuplets” and “My Fair Wedding.” The possibilities there seem to be endless, given all the stuff needed to get married and raise kids.

Licensing mavens who’ve noticed the uptick in TV shows landing merchandise deals also are quick to point out that the products have to stand on their own. The toilet seats, toys and outfits might sell, initially, because of pent-up demand and fan fervor. But they have to deliver as products, or there’s a danger of damaging the brand and the loyalists’ opinion of it.

In other words, it could be OK to make a “Glee"-branded slushie, but it better taste good when it gets tossed in your face.

-- T.L. Stanley

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