MATTEL'S HOLLYWOOD AMBITIONS GO BEYOND THE 'BARBIE' MOVIE

Toy maker Mattel (MAT) has been shifting its strategy to focus more heavily on entertainment — right on the heels of the "Barbie" movie's massive box office success. 

The latest example: The company announced earlier this week that Michelle Mendelovitz, who previously worked at Disney 20th Television Studios, Apple TV+, Sony Pictures Television, and CBS Television Network, has been named head of Mattel Television Studios.

"We are excited for her to join at a time of such momentum for the company, and for the important role she will play in developing stories that resonate in culture and growing Mattel’s global fan base," Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz said in a press release. 

Mattel Television Studios, the TV production and distribution division of the company, has premiered 12 animated and live action series and specials so far this year based on toy brands like Barbie, Thomas & Friends, Hot Wheels, Barney, and more. 

The move illustrates Mattel's focus on creating various consumer touch points to drive brand awareness — particularly by leveraging its intellectual property (IP) to produce content. 

The "Barbie" movie, which relied on a heavy marketing push to drum up anticipation ahead of its July release, was a shining example of this endeavor. It was the first major theatrical release for Mattel after the company created its in-house film division, Mattel Films, in 2018.

The film, distributed by Warner Bros. (WBD), crushed box office records and secured more that $1 billion in global ticket sales to become the highest-grossing movie of 2023

"This movie is really a showcase for the cultural relevance of our brands," Kreiz previously told Yahoo Finance Live. "It speaks to the potential of Mattel films and the significant progress we've made on our strategy to capture the full value of our IP."

In Kreiz's view, the movie represented a "milestone moment" in cementing Mattel's strategy with at least 14 other IP-driven films currently in production, including a "Polly Pocket" film directed by Lena Dunham and a "Barney" movie produced by Daniel Kaluuya. A "Hot Wheels" film will also be coming to theaters. 

'Bigger than the toy industry'

Following its third quarter earnings results last month, Kreiz told Yahoo Finance the possibilities are endless when it comes to Barbie's future, along with its other brands. 

"It's not just about the Barbie. It's about the entire universe around Barbie," he said. "The opportunity for us is to continue to extend that across toy lines content, including not just film, but also television, attractions, live events, consumer product, digital experiences, and other verticals that in some cases are actually bigger than the toy industry — all driven by big franchises."

"This is what we bring to the table," he emphasized. "It's not just Barbie. It's all of our other portfolio." 

Kreiz has led a multi-year turnaround plan at Mattel since taking over as CEO in 2018. At the time, the company was struggling with slowing toy sales as more kids embraced electronics over traditional toys. 

In an effort to reverse that trend, he doubled down on expanding the company's brands to other profitable areas — like movies, video games, and consumer products. The goal was to make Mattel's toys "cool" again. 

It's a strategy that's been successful for competitor Hasbro (HAS), which saw great success with its "Transformers" films, along with TV shows like "My Little Pony" in the early 2000s. 

It also makes sense given Kreiz's background. He served as the CEO and chairman of Maker Studios, which was sold to Disney in 2014 for $500 million. Prior to that, he was chairman and CEO at Dutch-based media and production company Endemol Group.

Still, it's a risky bet considering Hasbro's theatrical ambitions to create a Marvel-like universe quietly ended as fanfare over its franchises died down. In addition, the theatrical box office still hasn't bounced back to pre-pandemic levels (and might never do so.

But the results speak for themselves with Mattel reporting a 9% rise in net sales last quarter, driven by a surge in invoices for dolls and toy vehicles, which jumped 27% and 18%, respectively. 

Kreiz credited the surge to both Barbie's success and continued interest in the Hot Wheels toys. 

Mattel stock is up about 5% year to date but has climbed roughly 10% on the year. Since Kreiz's takeover, the stock has soared more than 40%.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at [email protected].

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2023-11-18T22:00:35Z dg43tfdfdgfd