They're just wild about Harry Harry
Potter, that is.
Rival toy giants Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. , were both
hoping Friday to make money from the hugely successful Harry
Potter children's books, which have sold over 18 million in the
United States alone.
Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products
unit, which owns the licensing rights to British author J.K.
Rowling's books about a boy wizard, signed a deal with Hasbro to
market Harry Potter trading cards and trading card games, role
playing games, candy and electronics.
Mattel, home of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels, signed a
similar licensing deal to sell other Harry Potter items such as
figures and board games.
Terms of neither deal were revealed.
Warner Bros. meanwhile is hoping to bring the adventures of
the boy with the magical touch to the big screen next year.
Director Steven Spielberg, who has made films for children such
as "E.T." and "Hook" his version of the Peter Pan story
is reported to be considering adapting "Harry Potter and the
The announcement of Harry Potter tie-in deals came as the
Toy Manufacturers of America trade group said toys based on
licensed properties a key profit generator for show business
have posted impressive growth in recent years. Their share of
the overall toy market climbed to 46 percent in 1999 from 35
percent in 1996, the group said at the New York Toy Fair.
Such is Warner Bros.' confidence it can reap profits
translating the success of the books into film and toys that its
lawyers have been warning dozens of unofficial "Harry Potter"
websites recently against unlawful use of the name.
"The challenge is...how they'll keep the excitement going
until the first movie comes out," toy industry consultant Chris
Byrne told the New York Daily News.
The Hasbro and Mattel products are expected to be available
later this year initially only in Warner Bros. studio stores.
They should be in other stores by the Christmas season and
Warner hopes that will build demand for the movie, tentatively
due in May 2001.
"Our intent is to judiciously roll out the product and not
flood the market," Dan Romanelli, Warner Bros. Worldwide
Consumer Products president, said in a statement. "We're
looking to support the literary and film property as a long-term
"Strategies and timing will be determined on a
market-by-market basis. In the U.S. and U.K., the product launch
will be concurrent."
For Mattel, the world's largest toy maker, the Harry Potter
deal could be a godsend. It has been struggling to climb out of
a slump after its $3.5 billion acquisition last year of the
software developer Learning Co. And last week, the company's
chairwoman and chief executive Jill Barad resigned after Mattel
posted an $18.4 million loss for its latest quarter.
The company's share price took a dive in September and has
been hovering near its 52-week low of $10. It was up 9/16 at
midday Friday at 10-13/16. Hasbro shares were up on the New York
Stock Exchange at 15-3/16 after closing at 15 Thursday.
"The millions of Harry Potter fans around the world are
going to love seeing literary references to things like cards
and candy come alive through our exciting range of offerings,"
said Alan Hassenfeld, Hasbro's chairman and CEO. "We are
thrilled that Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products has
selected Hasbro to bring the magic into new and exciting
"All of Mattel is inspired by J.K. Rowling's rich, magical
world of Harry Potter and we're thrilled about the
relationship," said Adrienne Fontanella, president of Mattel's
Girls Products division.
"We are dedicated to ensuring that everything we create,
from dolls and games to high-tech toys, will bring the
characters to life in amazing new ways."
Warner Bros. Pictures signed with Rowling last year a deal
that gave the company exclusive licensing and merchandising
rights. The deal includes development of two films based on the
first two books "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."