Mattel's Barbie, American Girl focusing on Netflix, entertainment: CEO

Ynon Kreiz talks Netflix, Barbie and American Girl doll sales and Baby Yoda

Mattel aims to boost doll sales by evolving its toy stories on the big screen.

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The toymaker behind brands like Barbie, American Girl Doll, Hot Wheels and Fischer Price is ramping up its digital content and entertainment efforts across a number of its product lines amid declining American Girl doll sales. Fans can expect live-action feature films as part of the company's overall strategy to leverage its brands across eight movies and Netflix shows, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz told FOX Business' Liz Claman Thursday.

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Barbie continues to be the brand’s big moneymaker with almost all of its product lines showing growth. Barbie sales grew 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and sales increased 9 percent to $1.2 billion for the year in 2019, the highest gross sales in the last six years, the company announced at its earnings conference last week. And Mattel aims to translate its success to the big screen.

Mattel Films closed a deal last year with Warner Bros. to distribute its “Barbie” movie starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll and co-written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. The adaptation is the first deal rolling out of the company’s Mattel Films.

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"Our purpose as a company is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential," Kreiz said. "And you could not imagine a better flag carrier for that purpose than Barbie in terms of promoting diversity and inclusion, empowering women and celebrating women as role models."

"Our purpose as a company is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. And you could not imagine a better flag carrier for that purpose than Barbie in terms of promoting diversity and inclusion, empowering women and celebrating women as role models."

- Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Mattel

The Barbie brand has capitalized on telling empowering stories about women overcoming adversity and achieving success for years. Mattel debuted three new Barbie dolls for Women's History Month this week for its Inspiring Women collection, featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Jean King and Florence Nightingale. The collection debuted in 2018 with a line of dolls devoted to honoring female role models and pioneers.

American Girl doll sales, meanwhile, declined by 5 percent in the fourth quarter. Mattel acquired American Girl -- which was created by a schoolteacher in 1986 – in 1998. The brand known for its diverse dolls that portray a number of different ethnicities, faiths and social classes are sold with a book told from the girl’s point of view. Kreiz said Mattel plans to improve the brand’s digital platform and bolster its in-store experiences at retail flagships, like in-store doll hair salon appointments or tea parties at the American Girl Doll Café.

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"We are now in the middle of a turnaround," Kreiz said. "We are expanding the product, developing the website into a digital flagship, we are launching a content offering and of course, making the entire experience in the flagship stores more engaging. You will see great content around American Girl."

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Mattel announced last year it partnered with MGM to develop a live-action film based on the dolls and accompanying line of books. And it's hardly the first time the toy company brought the doll brand to the big screen. In 2008 it debuted "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" starring Abigail Breslin. The movie raked in $17.7 million at the domestic box office.

Kreiz also addressed concerns over the deadly coronavirus and if it has impacted Mattel's supply chain.

"We're doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our people in offices all over the world," the CEO said. "There may be some impact for our supply chain in the first quarter, but it's too early to say more than that. We are watching the developments of this."

Kreiz also addressed another viral toy story: Baby Yoda, which is launching to market on April 1.

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"It was the highest and fastest pre-sale product we've ever had in our history. So you should expect a lot of buzz and excitement around it," Kreiz said.

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