A Hot Wheels movie? A Hungry Hungry Hippos feature film? Monopoly, coming to a theater near you?
In October, Mattel announced its launch of Playground Productions, a unit that will develop, "...strategic multiplatform storytelling...across all Mattel brands including Barbie, Monster High, Max Steel, along with the development and launch of the new animation Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome debuting in 2014."
Mattel expects to have a full length live action film featuring Max Steel, the number one action hero in Latin America, in wide release by the end of 2014. The Playground Productions unit is also partnering with Columbia Pictures for a Masters of the Universe project.
Hasbro and the Hub Network
Hasbro is even bigger as a content creator and provider. Its Hasbro Studios has a joint venture with Discovery Communications on The Hub Network, which develops and produces TV and multi-platform content for 170 countries. The Hub Network features nine original series and eleven other programs in connection with the BBC, American Greetings Properties, and more.
Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said, "Since inception (October 2010), Hasbro Studios has green-lit more than 900 half-hours of original production behind Hasbro brands, including My Little Pony, Transformers and Littlest Pet Shop. "The Hasbro entertainment division's success also translates across the globe with Transformers themed shows among the most popular streamed shows in China. Family Game Night and Pei Le Doh (Play-Doh) are top rated shows in China on Toonmax.
We know where your children are
At Hasbro's Investor Day in September, the message was clear that the company knows how to get to your kids: "...in front of screens." There's no better way to catapults newer brands to top brand status than to bring them to life right in front of your child's eyes.
Top brand status means control of 36% of the $20 billion toy market -- and much higher prices for these top toys. In fact, entertainment-based properties grew at a compound annual growth rate of 19% to comprise 38% of Hasbro's total revenues.
And "where they are" also includes watching with parents, the ones with the bucks, also known in the trade as "parent engagement" or "co-viewing."
The Hub Network has the highest co-viewing percentage of any kid network, according to Nielsen ratings, beating out Disney and Nickelodeon kid channels.
All this co-viewing and cross-promotion can be seen in full force in Hasbro's My Little Pony toy franchise, which has included a full-length theatrical release My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, as well as a Hub network show.
The result?: a 29% increase in third quarter Girls revenue.
Monopoly, the movie?
After the success of its Transformers movies, Hasbro is partnering up with Emmett/Furla, a Hollywood production company, to turn Monopoly (in which Ridley Scott is involved) and Hungry, Hungry Hippos into full-length feature films.
Translating these games for the big screen has been the subject of much humorous debate as well as mock posters like this.
Over at Mattel it's planes and tanks that make for good crossover fodder. Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton used the word "toyetic" to describe the success of the Disney (NYSE:DIS) Planes brand franchise. Another toyetic property is the evergreen Thomas the Tank Engine franchise.
The success of Thomas tie-ins as part of the Fisher-Price Friends brand increased sales by 14% -- a good thing since Mattel's Fisher-Price Core (learning toys and baby gear) sales were down 3% globally.
What would Walt think?
While Disney (NYSE:DIS) may seem shut out by these forays into original content creation by the toy-makers, both Mattel and Hasbro have strong partnerships with the House of Mouse.
Hasbro has sold over $2 billion in Disney brand products since 2009. That's why Hasbro is eagerly anticipating 2014, when a number of Marvel and Star Wars films will debut. These should help raise sales from its struggling boys division.
Mattel likewise has a partnership for Disney Princess merchandise. In its third quarter results Mattel noted solid performance from Disney licensed products, especially the new Sofia the First animated series. Mattel anticipates even better performance in 2014 with the debut of Disney's Frozen tie-in, featuring not one but two princesses.
Still, toy companies don't need Disney or other content creators to come up with ways to tie programming to toy sales. Hasbro and Mattel have shown that they can conquer big and little screens all by themselves.