Big holiday films have weak online toy story
November 24, 1998
by Lessley Anderson
(IDG) -- For all the hype surrounding e-commerce gift sales this Christmas, Hollywood seems reluctant to put on a show.
A tour of the major studios' Web sites reveals few movie-related gifts for sale, although other online entertainment sites such as E Online are jumping into the market.
Of the big holiday movies – Disney and Pixar's A Bug's Life, Universal's Babe in the City, Warner's You've Got Mail, Nickelodeon's The Rugrats Movie and Sony's I Still Know What You Did Last Summer – only A Bug's Life has spawned a line of merchandise on its Web site. Collectibles, clothing and accessories are available directly from the Disney Store Online.
Sony and Warner Bros. both have store areas on their sites, but neither studio site features merchandise spun off from its coming attractions.
This is partly because the studios have tricky relationships with their manufacturing partners. For anything more complicated than hats and T-shirts, Hollywood moves merchandise through licensing deals with toy manufacturers. The studios are reluctant to invade the turf of heavyweight toy manufacturers, such as Hasbro and Mattel.
"There's a conflict in the online retailing business, in terms of what's been laid out in licensing agreements. It gets very confused very fast," says Seema Williams, an analyst with Forrester Research.
At least one studio exec agrees. For Don Buckly, senior VP of theatrical marketing and new media for Warner Bros., marketing movie tchotchkes is a low priority for his studio.
"I can't imagine we would sell stuff directly when we have relationships with retailers that can do that," he says. But for marketers with the "olde tyme" capitalist Christmas spirit, there is money to be made on entertainment-related gifts. Neutral sites without licensing tie-ups might be the ones that clean up.
E Online will relaunch its shopping channel next week and offer a variety of movie-related products. It can sell these with the blessing of manufacturers, which get a cut of sales and don't have to bother figuring out their own Web plays. The company has a strong entertainment brand and pretty impressive traffic – some 2.5 million unique users per month. It's also not affiliated with any particular studio.
This holiday season, E Online will be offering merchandise for all the hit movies, as well as gift packages that bring together a variety of studio and TV properties. If you can't face the mall this week, why not snap up a "Rack Pack for Babe Watchers," which includes a Valley of the Dolls video, a Betty Boop lamp and a Xena, Warrior Princess pin?
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