The Asian Licensing Conference (ALC) warms up for its 2016 edition in early January, confirming its programme and speaker line-ups with plenty to interest screen industry. Running alongside the Hong Kong International Licensing Show (HKILS), the events offer the biggest market event in the Asia-Pacifc region for exploiting and exporting branded and licensed goods.
Last year, Penguin and All3Media co-owner Discovery were among the key filmed entertainment brands presenting at the conference. For the 2016 edition of the conference, the BBC, the Wiggles and Aardman will be the key UK companies to take the stage.
Henrietta Hurford-Jones will present for the BBC on a panel exploring licensing opportunities in Asia. Director of Children’s at BBC Worldwide Hurford-Jones heads up the CBeebies channels, as well as managing investment for all children’s programming and brand properties.
One of the most successful licensed products with NZ connections this year has been the reboot of Thunderbirds, on which ITV Studios and Pukeko have partnered. Since the October 2014 premiere at MIPCOM, there’ve been regular announcements of both territories sold for the programme (which confirmed plans for a second series late in 2014) and of merchandising and licensing deals in territories around the world.
Last year, several major game developers and publishers exhibited and presented at ALC, from companies with a predominantly Asian focus (and limited English language product) to brands such as EA, whose Ryan Gagerman presented at the conference. Gagerman noted that Asia is the biggest market for merchandising around game properties, citing 2013 earnings of US$27 billion. With a regional average of 28% internet penetration, there’s significant potential for expansion.
Several companies exhibiting and presenting at ALC didn’t start in game development or publishing, but have since expanded there as part of growing their properties. Disney, arguably the grandaddy of modern entertainment merchandising, will be repped at ALC by China-based head of consumer products, Kermid Rahman. No slouch at exploring game expansions for its properties including physical and digital goods success Infinity, Disney is behind November release Star Wars: Battlefront through its Lucasfilm subsidiary in partnership with EA.
Among the Australia-developed fare on offer at the 2015 event was Maya the Bee and Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja, much of whose offer appeared to mirror product from the Angry Birds merchandising programme. As MCV reported earlier this month, Halfbrick recently won its second Australian Export Award in two years.
Also successful exporters, The Wiggles will present at ALC in the form of Paul Field, Managing Director of the Wiggles’ company (and brother of Blue Wiggle Anthony). The Wiggles’ PlayWorld app is one of many brand extensions the entertainers have developed over the years.
Licensing and merchandising opportunities around animation and game properties are as much a driver of brand business in Asia as luxury brands who’ve spent the last decade opening flagship stores in major centres across the region.
In 2014 sales of licensed merchandise in Asia (excluding Japan) grew by over 6%, three times the rate of growth worldwide. Despite being home to over one third of the world’s poulation, Asia drives less than 10% of worldwide sales of licensed goods and services.
For companies looking to grow into Asia, and China in particular, ALC and HKILS are the biggest events of their kind in the region, bringing together the largest number of licensors and licensees. The 2015 events drew over 19,500 visitors, with over 1,200 attendees at ALC.
Hong Kong and China recently signed extensions to agreements conferring “favoured nation” status for Hong Kong-based companies doing business in Mainland China. The latest agreement reinforces the “gateway to China” status which Hong Kong has promoted since returning to Chinese rule in 1997.
The Asian Licensing Conference runs 11 – 12 January. The Hong Kong International Licensing Show runs 11 – 13 January. The events run alongside Asia’s largest Toy & Games Fair. The combined events boasted over 2,900 exhibitors and over 100,000 buyers in January 2015.