Hasbro earnings surge as movie tie-ins give it edge over Mattel
NEW YORK: Spiderman, Thor and Princess Leia are ganging up on Barbie in a battle for America’s increasingly tech-focused toy industry playground.
Hasbro, long a distant second to Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie dolls, passed US$5 billion (RM21.61 billion) in annual revenues for the first time last year and topped its rival in first-quarter sales.
Hasbro’s surge is due in large part to snatching Disney’s lucrative “Princess” and “Frozen” franchises from Mattel last year ain a shift that was announced in 2014.
The company also amassed a large advantage in toys connected to upcoming movie releases including the latest instalments in the blockbuster “Transformers”, “Thor” and “Spiderman” series.
The movie juggernaut culminates in December with “The Last Jedi,” part of the iconic “Star Wars” series, a reliable cash cow, not only because of its crossgenerational appeal, but because it features prominent male and female characters.
“They just have blockbuster after blockbuster,” said Keith Snyder, an equity analyst at CFRA.
He noted that smartphones and other technology allow toymakers to monetise the franchises far beyond the limits of oldfashioned action figures.
“They’re playing with the ‘Star Wars’ figures, watching the ‘Star Wars’ movie, seeing the ‘Clone Wars’ cartoon and then playing ‘Star Wars’ on their mobile phone,” Snyder said.
“Keeping them tied into ‘Star Wars’ drives more sales.”
Mattel’s movie-linked offerings, which include “Cars 3” and “Wonder Woman,” are fewer and less lucrative, analysts say.
Hasbro, whose best-known brands include “Play-Doh” and “My Little Pony,” also is introducing more toys that incorporate newer gadgetry, such as a Nerf blaster drone that carries a camera and lets kids monitor movements on a screen and fire darts from remote locations.
Another new toy is the “Furreal” a ready-to-assemble puppy robot that permits children to select fur colour and bark sound among other commands through a downloaded app.
The toy also incorporates coding programs, another sellingpoint in today’s high-tech market.
“Tech-oriented toys and unplugging are not mutually exclusive,” said Hasbro president John Frascotti.
“Our mission is to deliver the world’s best play experiences, and that often involves both technology and creative play.”
Mattel also has boosted its emphasis on technology, partnering with the ABC broadcast network on a reality competition series in which innovators pitch ideas to a panel of children judges.
Mattel signalled an even greater focus on technology in January when it named Google Americas president Margaret Georgiadis as its new chief executive.
The appointment raised expectations that Mattel will introduce more toys that traverse the virtual and real worlds, perhaps by including a free “webisode” or another downloaded item with purchase.
“Analog toys don’t have the same staying power as they once did,” said Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz. AFP
Hasbro, long a distant second to Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie dolls, passed
US$5 billion in annual revenues for the first time last year.