When Melissa Segal joined The Jim Henson Company at the start of 2009, the company quickly ramped up its licensing efforts. Through a three-pronged strategy that focuses on new family entertainment (such as Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train), well-known legacy properties, and third-party brands, the company’s licensing stable is not only growing, but also diversifying.
Chris Adams: To what factors can the rapid growth of The Jim Henson Company’s consumer products division be attributed?
Melissa Segal: There are several factors. We have a wonderful portfolio of properties that translate well to licensing. We also have properties that target different age groups, which means we have something for everyone. It provides lots of opportunity across lots of product categories. We have a very experienced, entrepreneurial, and nimble licensing team with great licensee relationships. We are able to identify opportunities and make decisions quickly. The marketplace, including licensees and retailers, has been very excited about the notion that new entertainment properties are emerging from The Jim Henson Company.
C.A.: What was the strategy behind building the Dinosaur Train licensing program?
M.S.: Our strategy was to provide an opportunity for fans of the series to extend their relationship with their favorite characters into new experiences away from the television. We want boys and girls to expand their knowledge of the Dinosaur Train world by collecting and learning more about the 40 species of dinosaurs introduced in the first 20 episodes, creating the Dinosaur Train world through building and activity products, and reading about the adventures of Buddy and Tiny through books.
In addition, because the series is so visually appealing, the next part of the strategy was to create a parent-friendly design program that feels fashionable and evergreen in a manner that moms feel good about. It also allows the kids who love Dinosaur Train to relate to their favorite characters through the clothes they wear to school, the backpacks they carry, and the pajamas they sleep in.
C.A.: What is the reasoning behind the recent resurgence of the Fraggle Rock property?
M.S.: When the rights to Fraggle Rock reverted back to the company last May we realized there was a ton of demand for the property and a relatively clean slate in terms of the marketplace. Many young parents in their 30s—the same age group that went nuts over it as children—are now also licensees or retail buyers. As adults they are excited about bringing Fraggle Rock back. And there is something about the property that feels totally timeless, so the products that we have created have a retro sensibility but also feel contemporary.
C.A.: How did Henson come to represent third-party properties?
M.S.: Prior to joining The Jim Henson Company, I had my own successful licensing agency and I represented a few brands that had traction. When I was asked to join The Jim Henson Company, we discussed and agreed it was a good opportunity all around to fold those brands into the organization. By doing so we are able to offer representation of additional third-party brands that would complement our core business such as Skatelab and The String Doll Gang. The attributes that we look for under our banner, HIP Brands (Henson Independent Properties) are family friendly brands, personalities, or equities that don’t compete head to head with our in-house brands and also aren’t necessarily dependent on entertainment support.