Upcoming season brings more Downton Abbey merchandise

By Dru Sefton

The fourth season of Downton Abbey, launching in January on Masterpiece, will bring an influx of related merchandise.

Soon fans will be able to create a quilt with Downton fabric, drape themselves in Downton jewelry, deck their halls with Downton Christmas ornaments and toast their favorite program with Downton wine as products roll out in anticipation of the premiere.

A Downton Abbey bell-pull ornament from designer Kurt Adler is available in January, as the Edwardian drama on Masterpiece begins its fourth season. (Photo: Knockout Licensing)

A Downton Abbey bell-pull ornament from designer Kurt Adler will be available soon, as the Edwardian drama on Masterpiece nears its fourth-season premiere in January. (Photo: Knockout Licensing)

“Our licensing program includes a two-pronged approach,” said Carole Postal, a co-president of Knockout Licensing in New York City, which is managing Downton product licensing in the U.S. and Canada. “Aspirational products are for those who love the elegant period look and feel of the show, and fan-based products are for those who want to show and share their enthusiasm for the characters, the writing and everything else about the series.”

Carnival Films, part of NBCUniversal, owns the intellectual-property rights to the Edwardian costume drama, which has been a huge ratings and critical hit for PBS. Executive Producer Gareth Neame told The Associated Press that Downton merchandise has been rolling out slowly. “We haven’t rushed into it,” Neame said in an Aug. 15 story. “We don’t want to carpet bomb the retail sector.”

Knockout acts as a “matchmaker” between Carnival/NBCUniversal and product manufacturers, said Postal, whose background includes a stint in licensing at Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) in the mid-1990s. Last holiday season, Knockout licensed Downton wall calendars, engagement diaries and puzzles.

Postal declined to specify just how much money the Downton merchandise has made or could make. “We believe our Downton licensing program can continue to generate strong revenue for many years,” she said.

As Neame told The Associated Press: “We are running a business, which is to create intellectual property and to monetize it.”

PBS does not actively participate in licensing merchandise that’s tied to series, according to Jan McNamara, PBS spokesperson. “The profits from every dollar spent at retail purchasing series-related merchandise must be shared with the retailer, wholesaler, distributor, sales agents, licensees, manufacturers, co-producers, talent, writers, music composers, musicians and equity investors,” she said.

PBS doesn’t get a cut of merchandising sales tied to Downton but has made millions of dollars on DVDs, video-on-demand and digital-download rights licensed directly by Carnival. An $11 million windfall in PBS’s 2013 budget was largely attributed to Downton’s success, but PBS declined to discuss specifics.

Public TV still derives benefits from licensed merchandise, Postal noted. “Sales of product through ShopPBS.org produce revenue,” she said. “And having licensed products in the marketplace year-round also helps keep Downton Abbey visible, even in the offseason.”

Knockout helped create T-shirt designs exclusive to the ShopPBS site, which also recently started offering new items from the 1928 Jewelry Co.

In April, Knockout announced that it had licensed Bradford Exchange to manufacture and market a line of figurines and collector dolls based on Downton characters, and the Danbury Mint will produce exact replica jewelry from the show. Both are longtime retailers of collectibles.

Fans in Great Britain will find different items and a Downton beauty line, “whimsically packaged and adorned with quotations from the series,” according to AP.

This article was first published in Current, Aug. 26, 2013.
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