NEW YORK -- While most major toy companies are becoming increasingly involved in the production of entertainment content, they all cite different motives.
Mattel (Barbie) says it's focus is first and foremost in driving toy sales while Hasbro (Transformers) says it no longer sees itself as just a toy company and uses entertainment to build its brands. For its part, MGA Entertainment (Bratz) says it created its entertainment division as a separate business and considers itself an entertainment company, not a toy company.
"We use entertainment to support our toys, to add relevance and to drive cultural noise that ultimately drives more toy sales," said Richard Dickson, Mattel Brands senior vp marketing, media and entertainment, worldwide. He said Mattel frequently creates new toy lines based on its DVD content produced by its in-house entertainment division. "We create them together. That's the novelty and innovation of our entertainment strategy. We parallel path the creative development, building the story with toys in mind. Frankly, we analyze opportunities to make sure that they do drive more toy sales because we are a toy company first and foremost."
But even so, Mattel's entertainment division can stand alone as a profitable business, with DVD titles continuing to sell even after the toy lines are discontinued, Dickson said. "The beauty of the formula is that we've built a robust and strong entertainment business. In addition to the toy sales generated in connection to the content, the DVDs have traditionally been some of our best-selling product worldwide."
"Entertainment has a longer business shelf life for us than the toys that relate to it. We are actually making money and have grown an entertainment business at Mattel that originated in toys. It is an absolute win-win formula."
Mattel's entertainment division employs about 20 people and is headed up by Dickson. Rob Hudnut, executive producer for entertainment production, leads the creative teams and has personally written many of the songs for the Barbie DVDs. He was the pioneer behind the first Barbie DVD, Barbie in the Nutcracker, which featured music from the London Symphony Orchestra and dance moves choreographed by the New York City Ballet.
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