A kind of franchise that's been so popular for solong that they seem to be grandfathered into the industry.
You know the ones we're talking about: You've seen the TV advertisements, watched the shows, played the video games. Your parents knew about them when they were young unknowns, and they're still turning a profit today. And not just any everyday profit, either — they're raking in a windfall!
A Cash Cow Franchise may enjoy great success and popularity, but it also draws detractors and complaints about everything from The Merch to the marketing. Massive profitability may also be a double-edged sword, as it gives the owner of the franchise more incentive to milk it dry, or the cost of producing so much new material may necessitate big profits just to break even.
Compare Long Runners (franchises that last a long time) and Franchise Zombies (which continue well past what the creator intended). See also Merchandise-Driven.
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Anime & Manga
Gundam, inspiring spinoffs, video games and toys since 1979. This especially applies the model kits. There are more grades, variants and designs that one can count.
Mazinger Z: Much like Gundam, since its inception in 1972, it has spawned one dozen of different manga versions, sequels, spinoffs, Crossovers, video games and toys, and it does not stop even forty years after its creation.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is still creating new merchandise and sparking hot debates over a decade after the end of the original series. Not to mention about a million different spin-offs and "reinterpretations" of the original, each with a completely different ending. As if the viewersweren't confused enough..... And don't forget the figures, figurines, statues, and any other tiny form just about anything from the series. They've made 666 unique Asuka figurines, over 700 Reis, and probably many more of each by the time you read this.
Yu-Gi-Oh!, while not quite as long-running as some of the other examples, has generated considerable attention, especially with its tie-in collectible card game which is in the Guinness Book of World Records (circa 2009) for best selling TCG worldwide. Apparently, card games really areSerious Business. Besides the two most known spinoffs, GX and 5D's, 4Kids Entertainment tried its own very spin off with "Capsule Monsters", giving the name of a game played in the manga (very known among the fans - to the point that in Japan it also had its own video game - since it introduces Mokuba and for being an evident spoof of Pokémon) to a bad conceived rip off of Pokémon and Saint Seiya. Yu-Gi-Oh! R, the manga that (basically) tells the "untold story" of Pegasus' adopted child and his revenge against Yugi & Co. The sales also slapped Kazuki Takahashi in the face with money to allow for more spin offs, with GX originally being the last one. It also explains why most following characters are expies and probably drawn on handkerchief, they also make Super-Mega-Giga robots explode.
Naruto. There's just something about ninjas...and yet despite maintaining decent rating through the majority of filler hell, Cartoon Network cancels it with about ten episodes left before the Time Skip. Which is even weirder considering that (at least relatively speaking) it's EVEN MORE popular in America. It's taken a hit in later years, though. Disney XD (the channel that bought it from Cartoon Network after they cancelled it) stopped airing it, as the series only gets darker from the beginning of Shippuden.
One Piece. Its newer volumes continue to top one another as the highest selling book in Japan, and beat Dragon Ball to the title of best selling manga series of all time. Although it should be noted that it has around 28 more volumes than Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball was selling at a time when manga wasn't very popular outside of the Far East.
The franchise is particularly EVERYWHERE in Japan. You know you're a Cash Cow when there's One Piece toilet paper, One Piece deodorant,....even One Piece razors and glasses cross promotions.
Likewise to the two examples above, Bleach seems to be heading this way, both in popularity and success.
Haruhi Suzumiya is especially notable for the sheer number of Radio Dramas, Image Songs, and merchandise for a show that for a long time had only fourteen episodes (though there's also the Light Novels). Though it was probably at least partially due to a dedication to a polished level of quality, the main reason for the second season not coming out until three years after the first was most likely because they wanted to milk the first for as much as they could. They now have Playboy Bunny Haruhi figures whose clothes change color based on temperature.
The proof is in how many times the series has been released on home video: VHS (both edited and uncut), uncut DVD singles (including boxsets), edited and uncut movie DVD singles, mini-DVD and Game Boy player (DBGT only) Ultimate Uncut singles, Season boxsets, Dragon Boxes, DBZ Movie double-features, movie boxsets, DBZ Kai, DBZ Blu-Ray, and there's sure to be more to come!
Sailor Moon, so much so that Toei Animation is thoroughly sick of it and has stopped licensing it out. That hasn't stopped it from getting a Continuity Reboot slated for 2014... Though that might have something to do with the American rerelease of the Sailor Moon manga which began in 2011. It was extremely successful and probably is the reason why the new anime will be closer to the manga and have a simultaneous worldwide release.
Pretty Cure, which is currently on its Eleventh season (and 9th continuity). Notable in that it's TV ratings has consistently rivaled those (and occasionally surpass) of One Piece above, and it makes at least10 BILLION yen a year annually (with one exception).
Saint Seiya, especially with their never ending supply of high priced action figures, going as far as to even adapt filler characters. The fact that a new series of OVA called "The Lost Canvas" has started as well doesn't help either. Actually, the main protagonist of that series, which is a prequel set several centuries before the main series, has already been conceived as one of these action figures, foreshadowing a long way to go before they run out of ideas for characters. Even if they do, they come up with variant figures like "damaged" armors or just casual clothes.
It doesn't quite push huge piles of money these days, but Voltron (or the Lion version, at any rate) still sells a lot of DVDs and Voltron.com and retro retailers like Hot Topic still do a reasonably brisk business selling merch. Back in the mid-80s, of course, Voltron was an unstoppable juggernaut and only really started to lose steam when faced with a somewhat more coordinated effort from Transformers Generation 1 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) (and when "Vehicle Voltron" confused some viewers).
K-On!, a previously mildly popular manga by Kakifly, simply exploded on the scene when Kyo Ani made it into an anime series. There's no escaping its presence throughout Japan, with stores even selling guitars using the show's imagery. Anybody who hates the show is advised to avoid Akihabara for at least a few years.
Mahou Sensei Negima!, with all the spinoffs, video games, toys and other merchandise being created to advertise the manga. Ironically enough, their has never been a successful full adaption of the series into an anime before.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, since its debut in Winter 2011, has quickly become one of these for both Studio Shaft and Nitro+, spawning a manga adaptation, three manga spinoffs, a novel, loads and loads of merchandise (both official and non-official), a PlayStation Portable and Vita videogame adaptation, a magazine, two online video games, and a two-part Compilation Movie. A sequel movie was released in 2013. All the Blu-Ray volumes in the series have sold more than 415,000 copies altogether in Japan. And even more sequels are considered by the writer.
As of July 2013, when the franchise is only two-and-a-half years old, it has sold a very impressive 40 billion yen worth of merchandise.
Yet another Toei Animation example: Digimon. Inevitable given it's pretty much an anime based on toys, but it was a significant cash cow both in Japan and overseas back in the early days. It did experience a significant slump in this status for few years after Digimon Tamers, with its merch sales generally lagging along with interest in the anime...until Digimon Xros Wars came along, breathing new life into the franchise and its money-printing abilities...only for the sequel series to ruin that, with ratings and sales so bad it's sent the franchise back into obscurity.
If you want the almighty example of this trope, it's Pokémon. What was meant to be a one-hit wonder exploded into decades of video games, trading cards, and an anime series lasting over 700 EPISODES!! That's almost double the life of The Simpsons, undergoing the transition from cel animation to digital animation and outlasting so many of its own art directors, with Ash receiving several physical redesigns! To put it into closer perspective, if one were to watch the show from start to finish, It would take almost two weeks nonstop.
Aikatsu has now become this, and it currently makes more money than Pretty Cure and Dragon Ball Z, at 14.1 billion yen, despite only starting on 2012.
Iconic superheroes such as Superman, Spider-Man, the Hulk and Batman enjoy insurmountable global commercial success spanning generations from various toys, video games, films, TV series... all this despite the fact that a vast majority of their consumers have never for one day held a comic book.
Marvel and DC seem to have based their entire recent business models on this trope.
Of all these franchises, maybe Batman better defines this trope. Two separate movie franchises with a total of 7 movies in the span of 20 years, not to mention numerous animated series and animated movies, and all the corresponding merchandise and toys. Most of them were met with success.
Especially Donald Duck, who for several decades has been more popular than Mickey Mouse in Europe and Latin America.
Tintin is still the most successful European comic in the world, many years after Hergé's death brought an end to the series. It wasn't originally a well-known property in the United States until the film adaptation brought it to people's attentions.
Astérix: Also an internationally popular European comic, but mostly in Europe, Latin America and the francophone world. It has been adapted into numerous animated movies, live-action movies, and video games, and even has its own theme park!
Red Ears, a succesful Franco-Belgian erotic comic book series, has sold many copies since its creation in 1989 and inspired a magazine, a calendar, animated cartoons, ...
Star Wars practically wrote the book on cash-cow franchises. The original trilogy (1977-1983) started it, and a bunch of licensed books created a Star Wars Expanded Universe big enough to support all kinds of wacky fan theories. As of 2007, the films alone are worth roughly four billion dollars. The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm almost entirely to get its hands on the Star Wars license.
Spoofed extensively in Spaceballs with oodles of dubious merchandise advertised in the movie itself. Of note is the fact that the vast majority of capitalizing on the Star Wars brand was done after Spaceballs, ensuring the parody remained as relevant as ever. As a result, "Spaceballs: The (Item)" has become a prominent meme all by itself.
The Pink Panther series yielded nine films over 30 years in its original run and the 2006 Steve Martin-led reboot yielded one sequel. Adding in the theatrical animated shorts based off the original films' title sequences (two different series: one for the Panther, one for Inspector Clouseau), the three made-for-TV series and four specials the Panther had after that, the Panther's ongoing appearances as a corporate mascot (Owens-Corning and more recently Sweet 'N Low), and miscellaneous merchandise, that's a lot of green for something pink.
Godzilla. To date, there's 28 of the original Japanese films, twoAmerican movies, two different cartoon series, several comic book adaptations, novels, video games, action figures, and even a line of plushies.
Dracula: Even though several film directors have exploited this character he still managed to become the fictional character who has the most films made around him.
Saw lasted for seven movies. And then there's the video games...
While in horror, Hellraiser, with 9 novels, action figures, and a comic. And creator Clive Barker is interested in a reboot!
It's too soon to call whether The Hunger Games will become this for Lionsgate, but the studio's stock doubled in price the weeks after the first movie's release.
Though with most people comparing the series to Survivor and Twilight combined, and Lionsgate's plan to split Mockingjayinto two movies, it's turned into either this trope or a ridiculously large-scale gamble at this point.
The Paranormal Activity franchise counts as this trope for several very unique reasons. Its found footage style and ingenious use of Nothing Is Scarier means that it doesn't cost much money to make (specifically because of the lack of big-budget special effects), and it doesn't take very long to film. The film also makes Product Placement seem very natural, as the families depicted are ordinary, often moderately wealthy families. And lets not forget that the original film began as an indie horror film shot for approximately fifteen-grand, and eventually wound up grossing nearly two hundred million dollars. This is the first film. A spin-off film entitled The Marked Ones, as well as the fifth film are slated to be released in 2014.
At one time, Pirates of the Caribbean existed only at Disney Theme Parks. Now it's up to four blockbuster movies, with a fifth in development even before the fourth was released, and billions of dollars in global merchandising revenues.
Despite the original V. C. Andrews having died in 1986, romance novels written under her name have continued to be published on roughly a yearly basis since then.
Harry Potter anyone? Even with J. K. Rowling having finished the books and moved on to another series, yeah, it's not going anywhere for quite a while. To put in perspective just how HUGE a franchise this is:
The New York Times has a separate bestseller's list for children's books just because the Harry Potter books kept taking up slots for months on ends.
J. K. Rowling is the first (and so far only) author to become a billionaire due solely to writing. (Though she persistently insists that her personal wealth is drastically overestimated by the press.)
In the space of a decade the eight Harry Potter movies became the most successful movie series of all time. When inflation is taken into account, they're still third - with only Star Wars and James Bond ahead of them.
Although not well known to the English-reading audience, the Perry Rhodan series has been published in Germany since 1961 (and translated into multiple languages) and has passed 2500 novellas and novels with associated comics, reference materials, music-inspired-by and other things. With the exception of one movie in 1967, it hasn't been on the big screen or television, which might explain its limited exposure in North America.
For most of its history, The Lord of the Rings was simply an intensely popular work of fantasy literature and the inspiration behind a great number of other successful franchises of geekdom. It was certainly popular enough to make the posthumous publication of The Silmarillion, and to a lesser degree the 12-volume History of Middle-earth, and continuing posthumous publications of material, an intensely anticipated event. Then, when the Peter Jacksonfilms went into production, it was turned into a cash cow of Star Wars proportions. With the three-part The Hobbit being released in 2012, 2013, and 2014, alongside the continued success of the LOTR MMORPG, this cash-cow will certainly be around for the next few years.
Conan's status as a Cash Cow Franchise has been fading lately though. Age of Conan hasn't been doing too well and the latest movie (an attempt at a reboot) flopped hard at the box office and was savaged by critics. Supposedly a sequel to the original movie, starring Schwarzenegger is slated for a 2014 release, but no one knows if it'll be a success or not.
Twilight quickly became this in 2008, spawning clothes, toys, manga, candy, and even glittered dildos.
Fed even more with the hate that it has from the Twilight haters that buy or see the merchandise to trash it.
The Discworld universe has been described as a "Cottage Industry" but that doesn't mean that there isn't a shit load of weird merchandising. Like the Ankh-Morpork Stamp Collection.
The cottage industry line means that the merch is a) small scale, mostly done by one small company run by a fan, and another fan who does it in his spare time and b) all approved personally by Terry Pratchett.
Tom Clancy has no real input into the Tom Clancy's line of novels and video games nowadays, outside of licensing.
What Discworld and Harry Potter are to the West, the Alice, Girl from the Future series by Kir Bulychev is to Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Communist countries. This Science Fiction series about the adventures of the girl from the future spans over forty books. There have been seven films, the most famous being the 1984 Guest from the Future, which made people more interested in Alisa. More recently, there have been three computer games.
Warrior Cats. If the 20+ main novels weren't enough, there are at least 4 field guides and more mangas than you can count! The books keep coming because they make Harper Collins rich. And because the fans always want more.
Agatha Christie is certainly one of these in general as Poirot and Miss Marple are as popular as each other. Spanning over eighty books, they've both had several television and film adaptions for each of those books (with ridiculous amounts of different actors) (which started in the 1920s and is still being made in the 2010s), there's been a spin-off anime and manga adaption of the two characters working together (2004), there's a series of western graphic novels in 2007-2008, nine video games, various novels have been turned into plays (and the other way around) and then there's her long running play The Mousetrap.
The Sherlock Holmes stories, when collected in one volume, are quite the Doorstopper. And when you consider all the TV shows and movies based on them, not to mention the ones inspired by them. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Sherlock Holmes as the most portrayed fictional character in movie history.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is becoming this. Its Universe, plus the Kane Chronicles, draws large mobs. And unlike Harry Potter, it has two more books, a Norse side series and interest in a crisis crossover between the Greek/Roman, Egyptian and Norse worlds.
The Hunger Games trilogy is becoming this as well, with all the merchandise the movies are inspiring.
Animorphs though not as huge as the other series. It spawned games, toys, a few videogames and a TV series, albeit a bomb one. Sadly, the re-release didn't make it popular again.
American Idol. It's been the highest rated show of the year for almost ten years now.
The Dutch children's series Bassie & Adriaan spawned a lot of merchandise and was sold to several countries.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There was no real need to continue the series after it ended (and many feel it should have ended a few seasons before it did), but Joss Whedon and company continue to profit off of it with the line of comics that continue the series.
Two other major examples of shows that got spin-offs and look set to continue indefinitely are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NCIS (NCIS being it's own spin-off from JAG).
Power Rangers moves a lot of merchandise, usually becoming the top-selling action figure line in America each year.
Though it's merely a single arm of Super Sentai, which has been running continually in Japan since 1975! It's been said that the people behind both series actually believe that television ratings are secondary to merchandise sales. It's also rumored that the reason for the exploding number of mecha and extra rangers in recent years is because Sentai is trying to recoup the losses of an underperforming Rangers under the Dork Age of Disney.
Hannah Montana, due to Miley Cyrus and her massive publicity scandals every few months. The show itself makes money, then they have concert tours, dolls, music cd's, games, everything you'd expect from Disney merchandise.
In Latin America and certain sections of Europe, Violetta is raking it in for Disney. With an international concert tour, four albums, and a bunch of merchandising, news sources are even calling it the next Hannah Montana.
The Ultra Series, with 31 series and 18 movies spanning 48 years, isn't stopping anytime soon.
Part of the reason for Decade being a crossover is that Toei executives noticed by the end of the first decade of the 2000's that Kuuga and Kamen Rider Agito were so faded away in the Japanese public's consciousness that merchandise of those two shows wouldn't even budge. While Decade didn't reaching Den-O levels by itself, its real-life impact of launching long-forgotten Riders back into mainstream pop culture did bring upon the way to squeeze every last penny of allKamen Rider shows since 1971 even after Decade's ending.
Decade ending doesn't mean they won't dredge it up from time to time. Decade's portion of Movie War 2010 had some very thinly veiled dialogue that rather blatantly means "we're going to keep crossing over with things as long as the network can wring money off us".
Big Brother, certainly in the UK (until 2007 or 2008 at least). They've stopped counting how many years it's run. To those that dislike it it is difficult to remember a time it was not on and so ever present.
It returned in 2011 and it got the same amount of attention it got in its original run.
Nobody probably thought that the Kurt Russell and James Spader cult-sci-fi flick Stargate was gonna balloon into (so far) three live-action series, an animated series, two (so-far) direct-to-DVD movies. This doesn't include spin-off novels based on both the series AND the original movie and a host of games. While not as big as someother franchises it appeared to have some momentum to join them, but after the cancellation of Atlantis and Universe it came to a sudden end in 2011.
Glee was barely in its first season when it was earning FOX millions by selling music — it usually charts a handful of songs every week — and releasing the first half of the first season on DVD and preparing a live tour. It immediately got commissioned for two more season and had a shedload of merchandise: two different karaoke games have been announced, as well as various articles of Glee-themed clothing, jewelry, and school supplies.
The X Factor. Where do we start? It launched the careers of so many singers and bands, It's the highest-rated television show in Britain (at times attracting half of all people watching television at the time), spawning international spin-offs, turning Cheryl Cole into a bestselling pop star/media darling, an annual successful concert tour, books, "best of" DVDs, a magazine, even merchandise such as perfume plastered with the X Factor logo has been distributed. Oh yeah, they had this one group from a few years back...what was their name again? Oh, that's right: ONE.DIRECTION.
Flemish children's series Samson En Gert. To the point that the merchandise actually overshadows the original TV show!!
Top Gear has expanded way beyond a UK TV motoring series. As well as spawning a number of localized spin-offs and/or being syndicated abroad, The BBC publishes a popular print magazine and a website busily promoting The Merch.
Enrico Caruso: Italian opera singer who was world famous in the 1900s-1920s. He was the first musical artist whose records sold millions internationally.
Elvis Presley: Mass marketed ever since the 1950s with album records, films, TV specials, Las Vegas shows,... Even more astonishing is that he never toured outside the U.S.A. (except for Canada once), because manager Colonel Parker, who was an illegal immigrant, feared that he wouldn't be able to return to the U.S. Despite never going on international tour Elvis still managed to attract an enormous international audience that still hasn't died down. He even sold more records after his death than in his entire life.
As Michael O'Donoghue purportedly remarked when told of Elvis' death in 1977, "Good career move."
The Beatles: Have never been out of publicity ever since the 1960s and are one of the few internationally popular musical acts that are both popular with the general public as the more alternative listeners.
Most of the music in the Classic Rock genre applies nowadays, with an incredible amount of 'digitally remastered' releases.
Yes, but those in charge of promoting the Beatles take it to extremes. Apple Corps. released 13 Beatles albums and one Beatles video game (onthreeplatforms) on the same day, and appears to be getting away with it. And then there's LOVE...
Paul McCartney as performing artist and (former) Beatle is this by association. That he still can sing doesn't hurt. That his own management markets him as aggressively as they dare — not sure how well that's working...
And death hasn't stopped John Lennon from putting out new albums.
hide, due in part due to his skill and talent and iconic style... but more sadly after his death due to his brother and estate owner Hiroshi Matsumoto reaching Corrupt Corporate Executive levels of greed, filing Frivolous Lawsuit s which were only stopped when he managed to sue someone with even more money and legal firepower, churning out tons of Greatest Hits type compilations and crappily made merch. He even licensed hide's magnum opus and image song Pink Spider to a pop artist for a cover, which led to a boycott of him and the official estate by some fans.
The Who. They broke up in 1982, but seemingly never stopped performing comeback shows once a 1989 tour proved a huge hit.
Bob Marley: Internationally one of the most successful musical artists of all time, especially in Third World countries. He became even more legendary after his death.
Michael Jackson was mass-marketed from his childhood onwards: TV specials, clothing, an animated cartoon series (Jackson5ive in The Seventies), music videos, merchandising, the best-selling album of all time, Pepsi commercials, etc. Despite bad publicity and declining record sales from The Nineties onward he still remained in the picture as tabloid fodder. After his death his sales skyrocketed to previously unheard-of levels for catalog releases and his reputation was mostly restored (with not one, but twoCirque du Soleil shows built around his work pulling down millions in ticket sales). His posthumous earnings potential is limited by the fact that his estate focuses on his solo work, which only yielded six albums and an EP (The Onion joked, shortly after he died, that there are only so many times people will buy Thriller). Much of his unreleased work already saw the light of day on reissues and/or a box set in his lifetime, and 2010's posthumously-assembled Michael wasn't the blockbuster it was expected to be.
Tupac Shakur's death in 1996 hasn't stopped his record label from releasing every single studio outtake, rough mix, or demo track that he ever recorded, to the point that his posthumous record catalog is larger than what he released while he was alive (this has, naturally, spawned many convoluted theories that Shakur is still alive and recording in secret).
Also, Frank Zappa. The crazy bastard recorded 53 some-odd albums in a 30-year career. There is gonna be a metric shitload of outtakes and demos for the studios to release, not to mention compilations and best-of albums. A 60-album reissue sequence launched in 2012!
The 1996 death of Sublime's Brad Nowell similarly did not stop his record label from releasing a fantastic array of posthumous works, with the numerous compilation and live albums produced after his death than far exceeding the number of studio albums produced prior. And a reunion tour in 2010.
A large repertoire of classical music has been performed centuries after the deaths of composers and original performers. While the music is often well worth preserving, tourist concerts at Vienna may be considered milking the cash cow. Not to mention candy named after Mozart.
Queen, who at least took great pains to advertise their shows as "Queen + Paul Rodgers" to make it clear that Rodgers is not a replacement for the dear departed Freddie Mercury. Reportedly Freddie Mercury said that if anyone could/should replace him as frontman, he would want it to be Paul Rodgers.
Eagles — Don Henley said that they would re-unite "when Hell freezes over". Hell froze over in 1994 and has had periodic re-freezings since then.
KISS works in both fronts: not only releases many compilations, live albums, etc, but also has an empire of licensed merchandising, that ranges from the ever popular action figures to condoms, going through...Kiss Kaskets! (Pantera's Dimebag Darrell was buried in one)
This also applies to Jimi Hendrix, who left behind a stunning amount of officially completed and released studio tracks, posthumously completed tracks (often meddled with and unauthorized), live recordings (and filmed performances), demos, home recordings, outtakes, bootlegs, alternate takes, TV, film and radio performances and unreleased recordings from the early 1960's to his death in 1970, alongside perennial rereleases and repackagings of his official back catalogue, enough to keep the archives busy for 40 years. A new release of rare and unreleased recordings, Valleys of Neptune debuted in the top five in March 2010 nearly forty years after his death, shattering Elvis's record.
The memory and legend of Woodstock are strong enough that it will always be fairly useful as a cash cow, for the bands who played at that fateful concert and the nostalgic merchandisers; though anything as ambitious as organizing a new Woodstock has never gone as well as the spirit of Woodstock would have wanted it.
Given the number of redundant compilations that The Smiths' record label has put out, it's fair to say that this is what they've become. This is especially ironic, since they parodied this kind of treatment in the song "Paint a Vulgar Picture."
David Bowie is a quieter example. He's been a Reclusive Artist since 2008 and hasn't toured since 2004, but his music has proven so popular that in The Nineties he made millions with what came to be known as "Bowie Bonds". Expanded reissues of his albums date back to the turn of The Nineties and the "Sound+Vision" runthrough of his 1969-80 catalog; since 2002, a special and/or remastered edition of one of his albums is an annual event (2008 was an exception, but the official release of the much-loved bootleg Live Santa Monica '72 arrived instead). Multiple new books about Bowie, be they biographies, photo retrospectives, or analyses of his initial impact and/or continuing influence, arrive yearly. 2013's The Next Day, his first new studio album since 2003's Reality, is taking his legend further. The multimedia retrospective David Bowie Is — featuring scores of artifacts, costumes, etc. from his personal archive — launched the same year at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, smashed the museum's attendance records, and is headed to other countries over the next few years to appease the Bowie fans of the world.
Taylor Swift has helped pre-teens and teenagers to become country music fans. After all, in the past five years, what other country musicians have had Top 10 hits, pop-radio smashes, multi-platinum albums, and international success?
Garfield is probably the king of this trope in its media.
Calvin and Hobbes is a subversion: Bill Watterson refused almost any merchandising. However, the books sell very well, thank you.
Before either of the above, there was Peanuts, which after its creator's death still has a big place in pop culture — newspapers still rerun the original strips, the best-known animated specials still play on network TV yearly while others get DVD releases and re-releases, and miscellaneous merchandise abounds.
Suske en Wiske is a huge cash cow in Belgium, Netherlands and the Dutch Antilles. The comic strip has been translated into many other languages: French, German, Swedish, Japanese,... but is mainly popular in the Benelux. Apart from the still running comic strip itself there is a huge merchandising behind it, including numerous reissues, special albums, spinoffs, toys,... that are mostly bought by collectors.
The entire output of author Willy Vandersteen and his studio, even after his death, still brings in the big bucks.
The Smurfs: Even before the famous Hanna-Barberacartoon series the Smurfs were already very popular in Western Europe. There was even a successful Franco-Belgian animated film adaptation in 1976. When Hanna-Barbera turned it into a weekly TV series The Smurfs' popularity skyrocketed to the entire planet. As of this writing (August 2013), there is a Smurfs movie sequel in theaters.
Webkinz probably makes quite a lot, considering each Webkinz costs at least $15.
Snuggies. They've got Snuggies for pets, for Pete's sake! They only raked in more money with the recent economic disaster.
Pillow Pets... there are dozens and dozens of them, they come in different sizes, and not you can find licensed pillow-pet characters (such as Yoshi). They even make ones that can shine glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling. You can even find them in GROCERY STORES. Not to mention, it's hard to run into someone (especially a kid) who does NOT know their commercials' annoying theme song...
Apple's business model seems to be built around trying new things and hoping enough things stick to keep them in business. While the company's history is littered with disasters (Lisa, Apple III, Pippin, etc.) they've kept going thanks to some big hits: The Apple II lasted an amazing thirteen years, the iPod returned the company to prominence in the early 2000s, and the iPhone has kept the company relevant as the personal media player market has waned. Their Mac Books have also risen in popularity since the mid-2000s.
Facebook has turned social networking into big business.
Boeing and Airbus practically run a Duopoly of Airliners, since airlines would often rather take 2nd or 3rd-hand Boeing or Airbus planes rather than a brand new Comac or indigenous design, simply because those planes are still better despite the wear and tear.
5% of Harley-Davidson's net revenue is licensing their brand name to other products. Just for selling their name.
Critic: [broken and in Third-Person Person mode] HE'S THE NOSTALGIA CRITIC! HE REMEMBERS IT SO YOU DON'T FUCKING HAVE TO! EVEN THOUGH, EVERY FUCKING DAY HE EXISTS, HE WISHES HE DIDN'T HAVE TO! HE WISHES HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DO THIS BULLSHIT, TO MAKE YOU WATCH AND GET YOU RATINGS, AND WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?! WHY DO YOU KEEP COMING BACK, BECAUSE YOU'RE FUCKING SICK, AND I'M FUCKING STUPID! THAT'S THE WAY IT IS! IT'S THE WAY IT'S ALWAYS GONNA BE! THERE IS NO CHANGE, THERE IS NO FUTURE! THERE IS NO PAST! THE PRESENT IS A JOKE, EVERYTHING IS HELL! MY LIFE IS HELL! THIS IS THE WORST THING A HUMAN BEING COULD EVER GO THROUGH!
Jewelpet is tailored for this, what with having over 40 little creatures that are the basis for plushies and other collectible toys, not to mention all the anime and other derivative works. That said, this one's success is pretty much locked to Japan, as America won't buy it due to its similarities to Webkinz and while Europe got it, it failed to catch on.
Magic: The Gathering. Just one of a bazillion games whose tropes draw (or at least originally drew) on Dungeons & Dragons, but deserves mention as a major fixture in the gaming world in its own right. Owned by Wizards of the Coast, and successful enough to eventually let the company buyDungeons & Dragons. It became so lucrative that Hasbro snatched up the company, and Magic has consistently been the company's top-selling game since Hasbro bought them out.
Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Aside from becoming the kings of tabletop wargaming and sustaining a major corporation, these franchises have producedmultiplevideogames, and enough novels to justify the creation of an entire publishing company (Black Library). Bonus points? The miniatures games have no advertising - they gain new customers solely through word of mouth.
This has however had a knock on effect - GW paid little to no attention to its other games as a result of this trope, to the point where the Specialist Games range, designed at the older GW players, were taken down.
Incidentally (on a related but slightly different scenario to the above), Iron Kingdoms for Privateer Press subverts this trope. In addition to being a D&D setting and having at least two or three games (the aforementioned Warmachine, Hordes and now Grind), Privateer have not neglected their other games, such as Monsterpocalypse.
That's because Monsterpocalypse is also a Cash Cow, what with a movie deal with DreamWorks.
As of 2014 there are 20 different Cirque du Soleil troupes performing somewhere in the world, changing acts and performers over time. Several are decade-plus Long Runners. And the merchandise tents keep getting bigger and bigger with each new tour...
Speaking of Las Vegas, many shows besides Cirque manage decade-plus runs at one specific casino theatre with occasional updates; the oldest, Jubilee! at Bally's, has been there since 1981.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has been running in London since 1986, and on Broadway since 1988. Foreign sit-down productions run rampant, as does merchandising. The sequel Love Never Dies intended to do the same, but instead serves as an extension of the original franchise.
William Shakespeare. His work has been going strong for four hundred years now. It's all long since become part of the public domain, but because of that it's a cash cow for both theatres and publishers who don't need to pay royalties to perform it.
Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, has been running in the West End since 1952, logging over 23,000 performances.
Musicals in the Netherlands are advertising with "<SHOW> WILL STOP SOON! GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!" and continue for years.
The Nutcracker is the Cash Cow Franchise of ballet companies everywhere every Christmas. For theaters specializing in straight plays or musicals, adaptations of A Christmas Carol serve a similar purpose.
Captain Sabertooth is probably Norway's biggest cash cow franchise; it started out in 1990 as a theatrical play for the outdoors stage in Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, but was such a wild success that it spawned a huge amount of spin-off products, sequels, CDs, books, TV series and movies. Ever since 1990, there has been at least one Captain Sabertooth production running or being made at any given time.
The whole medium itself is a multi-billion dollar industry, but if you want a list of details on video game franchise sales, look no further than The Other Wiki's list of best-selling video game franchises that have sold or shipped at least five million copies.note Be warned, the not-even-semi-protected article gets updated often by several users, especially those not registered to Wikipedia who tend to mess up the list's ridiculously complex table formatting, exaggeratenumbers, remove entries (accidentally or otherwise), or fail to provide citations.
Video game giant Nintendo has three such franchises: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon. If a game has either Mario, Link, or Pikachu in it, it's almost a guaranteed million-seller (Super Smash Bros., of course, has included all three characters in every game. You could argue that it is a fourth cash cow franchise for the company). Along with its many hand-held systems selling by the truckload each year, this has led to a Catch Phrase among the Nintendo fan community: "It prints money!"
In the case of Pokémon, it started out as a good RPG video game. Then they based a TV show off the game (as well as a few manga). Then a new version of the game based off the TV show came out (Yellow version). Then new game generations and TV series came out hand in hand. Add in the card game, many toys, many more manga, and all kinds of conceivable merchandise.
Mario and Pokémon are the two best-selling game series of all time. There are over 200 Mario games and it came out a full fifteen years before Pokémon. They are currently only about 15 million games apart, meaning that basically, Pokémon is well on its way to number one.
Mario Kart, while a spin-off to the Mario series definitely deserves a mention here. While at first, it did pretty well though not reaching the success of the main series games, it eventually exploded in popularity with Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. Mario Kart Wii in particular has sold 28 million making it the best selling game of the seventh generation barring Wii Sports. This means that one in every three Wiis in the world has this game.
The Game Boy and Nintendo DS lines of hardware fall under this trope too, with regular small upgrades (Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Advance SP) in addition to major upgrades whose games are incompatible with older versions (Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance). The small upgrades encourage consumers to purchase new hardware without outright requiring it to play newer games. See example picture at top of page for result.
The DS in particular is the best selling handhold console of all time. In Japan alone it has sold more than 32 million units. Japan's population is a little under 130 million people. Approximately 1 in 4 Japanese people have at one point in life owned a DS or enough people have bought multiples to make up for it.
The Wii too. They managed to get 26 million units out of a bunch of minigames by offering a free controller with it! On the other hand, the Wii U, as of October 2013, is a fine example of cash cows needing more than their brand name alone to thrive.
No one expected Animal Crossing to be a cash cow franchise for Nintendo, but yet it is, at least in its home country of Japan, where merchandise are released by the truckloads. Heck, the latest title is a Killer App for Nintendo as well, outperforming Mario and Zelda by selling two million copies in just six weeks after release in Japan alone.
After twenty years, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is still going strong; even the less-than-stellar games have made a surprising profit. Since his first game his series has had one game released per year with no stop. After all he is SEGA's mascot and prime series.
The Archie Comic series is also going strong, it being the longest-lasting comic series based on a video game character.
Ultima, which saw its first commercial product released in 1980 and is still going strong today, over 30 years later, thanks to Ultima Online. The franchise has only really dropped in current relevance due to the widely reviled 8th and 9th games killing the original series (and even that happened well over a decade ago), and EA'sparanoid cancellation of every product that might compete with UO in favor of yet more expansions.
Speaking of Square, Kingdom Hearts seems to be this as well, though on a smaller scale. All the games released on the PS2 are labelled as Greatest Hits, and the series doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon (in fact, the wait between Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts III seems to be destined to drag out as long as possible so that Square can release all sorts of Kingdom Hearts side games and spin-offs in order to make more money). Since Kingdom Hearts is Square and Disney, the cash-cow...ing of the game was pretty much inevitable.
Since the earliest days of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest has walked right alongside it. Its status as something akin to a national holiday when a new game is released in Japan ensures it will not die quietly, if at all.
The Final Fantasy series didn't get its first million-copy seller until the release of Final Fantasy III in 1990, while the very first Dragon Quest game, which was released in 1986, sold over 1.5 million copies. Even until today, every single major release in the Dragon Quest franchise beats Final Fantasy in Japan.
World of Warcraft: Reaching peak at 12 million subscribers, which has since then dropped down to 10,3 million as of November 2011. The series that spawned it has only had three installments and a number of expansions since it started in 1994, but has nonetheless remained perennially popular.
Also from Blizzard, the Starcraft franchise has only two games and one expansion each since 1998, but due to its never-ending popularity, it has remained a moneymaker the whole time (despite nearly a decade between installments in the series). Being the national sport of Korea helps.
Somewhere close behind Mario and Sonic in the sales department is Capcom's very own Mega Man. Just see his page on this wiki to find out how many games the Blue Bomber has appeared in (and believe us...it's a long list; and that's not counting the Capcom vs. Whatever titles).
It has at least made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having more sequels than any other video game. As for the numbers...well not so much. You could take all the Mega Man games ever sold and multiply their number by a factor of ten and not beat Mario. The Mega Man series is far behind them in terms of sales. Granted, this is probably because a huge chunk of these are PC/mobile games and spinoffs that may or may not have been released outside Japan. That, and the fact, Mega Man games have never been bundled with any console. Still, around 30,000,000 units for the series certainly isn't peanuts.
Curiously, Capcom doesn't want Mega Man to be turned into a Cash Cow due to what happened to their other main two franchises described underneath this one.
Street Fighter. Even the onset of Capcom Sequel Stagnation hasn't prevented the series from raking in the dough from its rabid fans (and the competitive fighting game community, but that's an entirely different animal).
The Sims might not be what it once was, but it was a huge deal for a number of years, and the original even surpassed Myst as the best-selling computer game of all time! Three major releases, each with about 8 expansion packs each, PLUS with Sims 3 they now have an easy built-in online store where things can be bought with real money... And at time of writing, rumors of a 4th major release (pre-planned, of course, with 8 expansion packs).
Even before the Sims, Maxis released a bunch of various Sim-themed games (SimCopter, SimEarth, SimTower, etc). SimCity was the only one of these that took off, with at least five sequels, before the Sims came along and blew it out of the water.
Guitar Hero is a fine example of how excessive cash cow milking can come back to bite its owner in the ass: it was a big money-printer for Activision when it first picked up the original game's publisher. Then Activision pumped out titles by the truckload with reckless disregard for supply and demandnote 2009 alone saw fiveGuitar Hero games!, inducing such a sharp decline of interest in the entireRhythm Game genre among consumers, bringing along a massive hit to sales of all rhythm games, that Activision just killed it off on February 9, 2011...and pooled whatever resources its corpse had left into its other cow.
And its rival Rock Band was skirting close to the line 'till the Guitar Hero oversaturation delivered a plunge to its sales too.
We could include Konami's Bemani series. Many, many mixes of each series were published.
Tomb Raider. Several games (with even the worst ones selling pretty well), comic books, Lucazade promotions, movies and tons of merchandise. The publisher, Eidos, has pretty much entirely relied on Tomb Raider to keep them afloat in various instancesnote :it was since bought out by SCi Entertainment, and then it was taken over by Square Enix.
Halo spawns not only games, but books, comics, graphic novels, a movie, an anime, action figures, controllers, consoles, live-action serials, a Mountain Dew flavor, and much more. It is Microsoft's most profitable franchise, and some columnists have gone as far as calling it "the new Star Wars".
Namco's Tales series. Beginning with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, it's now (as of Dec 2009) up to twelve main titles ("motherships"), seventeen side stories ("escorts"), two animes, two OVAs, and one movie. How popular is it? Xbox 360ssold out in Japan before Tales of Vesperia was released. And now, the newest game Tales of Xillia become the fastest selling title in the series and the second fastest selling PS3 game in Japan after Final Fantasy XIII and is credited for increasing PS3 sales. Moo.
Atlus has enjoyed a major boost in the Western market thanks to Persona 3, so much so that the release of Persona 5 was guaranteed even before they officially announced they were working on it, because the series is just that big.
Persona 3 is popular enough in Japan that it currently has 2 remakes, a few cell phone games, a spin-off anime, some novels, a ton of figures, a manga, a movie series, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The resurgent popularity of the series has lead to PSP remakes of the earlier Persona games; for Western audiences, this meant both a competently-translated and complete version of the first Persona, and the first official overseas release of Persona 2: Innocent Sin. On the other hand, the remake of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment didn't do nearly as well back in Japan, and Western gamers were stuck with an unaltered rerelease of the original North American PS1 localization as a consolation prize.
To drive the point home, Atlus USA had a booth at Anime Expo 2014. The games they showcased were Persona 3 and 4, as well as their spinoff games, and nothing else.
Mass Effect is basically this, with a full trilogy, four novels, two phone games, an anime movie, and eight comic miniseries from Dark Horse Comics. The DLC is continuing to flow steadily too.
Especially when you realize that Bioware literally created a verse that has depth that rivals Star Wars and Star Trek. Even after the massive outrage over Mass Effect 3's ending, they could still probably cash in their creation for decades to come. Unsurprisingly a fourth Mass Effect game is in the works.
Forget Rayman, Tom Clancy, and Assassin's Creed,Just Dance is Ubisoft's big moneymaker. Critics blasted the first game for being little more than a barely-interactive dance video with shoddy motion control and practically no content. As it turns out, it seems the game's target audience doesn't care about such things, and as such the game was a runaway hit. Then the sequel came out, and just for the hell of it Ubisoft decided to fix almost everything the reviews complained about. As expected, the sequel sold even better. Now the series also has two spinoffs and a Spiritual Successor in the form of Michael Jackson: The Experience, plus plenty of knockoffs from other developers, and it doesn't look like it's gonna stop there.
The Battlefield series. Don't be fooled by the numbered sequel. Although the main series did not reach number 3 until the end of 2011, the number of Battlefield spin-offs is simply astounding. In chronological order: Vietnam, Modern Combat, 2142, Bad Company, Heroes, 1943, Bad Company 2, Online and Play 4 Free, all developed or co-developed by DICE while they are also experimenting another franchise of their own and help co-developing EA's other cashcowfranchisesand put out a huge DLC for their released game. Kudos to DICE for not having Attention Deficit Creator Disorder syndrome despite all this.
Gran Turismo is also a good example. With six primary releases, seven secondary releases and a grand total of over seventy million units sold, it's become a best-seller overnight. Oh, and it happens to have an E rating, too.
Need for Speed has the pole position in Racing Game sales though, with over 150 million copies sold overall. It helps that it's one of EA's few non-sports franchises that has an annual release cycle.
The NHL Hockey series is one of the more popular games in EA's roster, behind Madden NFL. It's particularly popular with Canadians, with hockey being their national sport and all.
Beating both NHL and Madden into a cocked hat, however, is FIFA Soccer. Outside of America, this is EA Sports biggest franchise. To put things in perspective, Madden '12 sold five million units. FIFA '12 sold over ten million. Not for nothing has one EA executive been reported as describing FIFA as "a license to print money".
Compile built the Puyo Puyo series into a cash cow in the 1990s. True, they made only four games (which were ported to loads of different platforms) in the main series when they still owned the franchise, but they also kept the parent series Madou Monogatari running, and produced a lot of other spinoffs and merchandise. Apparently trying to milk it too hard was what led to their downfall.
Even ignoring the games themselves, Angry Birds has become quite the force of merchandising, with plushies and all sorts of other tie-in products.
Ganbare Goemon had about two dozen games in Japan, plus multiple anime and manga adaptations.
Minecraft is only a few years old, but its consistently insane popularity allowed its creator to build his own game company in record time. XKCD's money chart shows that the game brings in about $193,500 daily. Not bad for an Indie Game about punching trees.
Taomee's games like Mole's World and Seer started as browser games, and were popular enough that it spawned other works like films, trading card games, and magazines.
ZUN's Touhou metaseries is the biggest Indie Game franchise, and one of the most well-known on an international scale. Originally a series of doujin Bullet Hell shooters, the series has, via Memetic Mutation and Word of God (ZUN allows and even encourages the creation of fanworks without his explicit permission), become a massive doujin Cash Cow Franchise, spawning loads and loads of derivative merchandise ranging from light novels, fanfics, manga (both official and fanmade ones), spin-off games, music (spanning almost every genre, no less), toys, etc. made by countless creators in Japan and all over the world.
Professor Layton is one of the best-selling video game series of all time in Western Europe and is probably the franchise that keeps Level-5 afloat.
A rare webcomic example: Homestuck. Sales figures are unknown due to not being published, but music albums and merch sell very quickly, and members of the Music Team and Art Team have had successful solo stints launched from the name recognition pulled in. The amount of money is unknown, but it does pull in enough to support a half dozen or more people who're needed to run What Pumpkin (the store) and Andrew Hussie himself. Adspace too has reached very high levels; one memorable banner ad cost over 400 dollars on an off day, though on average it ranges from $30-$70.
The Homestuck music albums are probably the best selling albums on Bandcamp, period, though it's hard to determine this because Bandcamp does not release statistics to conclusively prove this. However, as of this writing, two Homestuck albums remain in the top 20 top sellers of late... five months after release.
The ridiculous cash-generating potential of this series was revealed when they ran a Kickstarter campaign for a Homestuck video game. They raised two and a half million dollars, over three times the goal, in one month.
Penny Arcade supports Gabe and Tycho's families and themselves, in addition to a handful of other people. It has also spawned a few card games, book collections of the strips, an episodic RPG, T-shirts, and lots more merchandise that can be found on the official store.
One comic states that they are not allowed to do anything overly risky because if one of them dies or lose the ability to write/draw, 14 people would lose their job.
MegaTokyo still generates enough money to support the creator and his family despite rampant Schedule Slip and a dramatic shrinking of its fanbase. One can only imagine how much cash it was printing at the height of its popularity.
Immelmann makes a nice living on Concession merchandise and commissions in which the webcomic’s characters interact with customers’ Fursonas, appear in porn, or both.
In terms of universal sales over the decades, no animation company holds a candle to Disney. Mickey Mouse alone has raked in millions of dollars ever since his creation in 1928. Major characters like Donald Duck and Goofy have been best sellers for decades, while Disney's animated canon is one of the most unique (over 50 movies, almost all of which have nothing to do with each other) and consistently profitable franchises in Hollywood history. Apart from the animated cartoons Disney has also produced a stream of family friendly live-action films and TV series, including several theme parks devoted entirely to Disney's characters. Today the Disney brand extends to other major brands as well, including Pixar, The Muppets, Star Wars, ABC, Marvel Comics, ESPN...
While not as big a cash cow as it was in the 1990s, Winnie the Pooh still makes Disney an insane amount of money each year. A settlement at one point for 2% of profits between Disney and the AA Milne estate was said to be around $300 million.
Frozen in particular has become a cash cow of its own merit.
Woody Woodpecker was once a hugely popular franchise, allowing his theatrical cartoons to last all the way up to the early 70's (when theatrical cartoons had all but completely died out) and make oodles of cash off of loads of toys and assorted merchandise, and having a hit TV show which aired for decades also helped. However, in recent years, with the failure of The New Woody Woodpecker Show, as well as Universal's current disinterest in promoting the character outside of mascot costumes and the DVD collections, his status has degenerated into a state of near-obscurity (except in countries where he's still popular).
Popeye was also a juggernaut of a franchise once upon a time, but his popularity has declined since then. (aside from the fantastic DVD collections) However, that may change with the upcoming CGI movie...or not. We'll just have to wait and see.
The Simpsons. 25 seasons on air and merchandise by the Titanic-load. They warned you in song: "They'll NEVER stop the Simpsons!!"
Also, a ride at Universal Studios Hollywood/Florida.
Nickelodeon and its parent company Viacom have SpongeBob SquarePants — An article showed that Atlantis Squarepantis scored the show's highest ratings ever in both the original 6 year run and the current 9 year run, further cementing the fact that the Sponge will not die. Sponges can live up to 700 years old; SpongeBob may be the same. SpongeBob is Viacom's most profitable show, and has been since it was Un-Cancelled. As in, it takes in 8 million dollars of Viacom's value. That's about two-thirds of Viacom's current value. Dang. There was this SpongeBob pendant◊ that sold for 75 grand at the last Sundance festival. The movie made $32,018,216 on its opening weekend, on its way to $85,417,988 in the United States and $140,161,792 worldwide! Now THAT'S the power of the yellow sponge for ya. It's got two amusement ride and there's even a live show in the United Kingdom! According to IMDB, the show has been referenced in movies, TV shows and even video games 165 TIMES! Yes, that's more than Rugrats or even The Simpsons!
Before there was the sponge, John Kricfalusi mentioned in DVD Commentaries for The Ren & Stimpy Show that Nick intended Doug to be their first cash cow, but it was John's own cat-and-dog duo that became Nick's first animated hit, generating merchandise up the wazoo and being among the first shows to appear on the prestigious SNICK block. Rugrats, another of the original three, would soar in popularity later on, especially after the 3 year hiatus (as Nickelodeon saw potential in the show, more so than the others), earning three movies (the first of which remains Nick's highest grossing movie) and two spin-offs (All Grown Up! and Tales From the Crib).
While we're on the subject of Nick, don't forget Dora the Explorer! Nowadays, you can find Dora on almost everything imaginable!
Like Spongebob, there's even not one Dora live show, but lots of them!
Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang were definitely a cash cow franchise from the early 1940s through the mid-1990s, largely due to TV exposure.
Taz and Tweety are still being slapped on a lot of merchandise, Taz being an amazingly profitable Ensemble Dark Horse who only appeared in five shorts. Looney Tunes are well on their way to joining the ranks of Betty Boop (see below) in still selling merchandise while most consumers now have never watched the cartoon they're from.
Thomas the Tank Engine is this for HiT Entertainment. There is so much worldwide merchandise, it'd take all day to list it here.
Scooby-Doo continues to reappear every generation. For a long time, it held the world record for the TV show with the most amount of episodes. Its merchandise is insane. There's practically a Scooby-themed product for just about any inanimate object you can imagine. There are also theme park rides, and even WHOLE SHOPS DEDICATED TO SCOOBY MERCHANDISE at said theme parks. Each episode of the original Where Are You? series has been released to video and DVD easily over a dozen times. At least one direct-to-video movie has come out each year since 1998, two theatrical successful live action films were produced, and two live-action TV films were also made (the first one garnering Cartoon Network its best ratings ever). Not bad for a little Hanna-Barbera show from the late 60s.
Before Ben 10, it was The Powerpuff Girls. While the movie did terrible in theaters, merchandise was EVERYWHERE until the show's cancellation. Millions of toys, four DVDs (six if you count the complete first season and complete series sets), seven videos, three CDs, bath supplies, school supplies, clothes, books, it goes on (and on) They even made a brand-new episode to celebrate the show's 10th anniversary.
Winx Club's popularity is insane. About 100 countries have a dub of this show. Not to mention, there is a musical, an ice skating show, two movies (one in 3-D), a spin-off (Pop Pixie), and a monthly magazine. And, of course, there's a ton of merchandise; in fact, Winx Club dolls were the third most popular dolls in the world one year. Oh, yeah — and Rainbow S.p.A. is opening a theme park in 2011 with a life-sized version of Alfea Castle. Guess which characters they've used the most to promote the said park...
Betty Boop still appears on a lot of merchandise, despite the fact that a large percentage of the people buying the merchandise have probably never watched a Betty Boop cartoon in their lives. Perhaps it's a Cash Cow Franchise Zombie?
Felix the Cat was one of the earliest shows to be a cash cow by modern standards, making most of its money in the 1920s. It's still limping along on merchandise as of this writing, even though the last attempt to revive the show ended in 2004.
Seth Green practically admitted in an interview that Robot Chicken is this for him, citing this fact as the main basis behind the self-cancellation of his other show, Titan Maximum, despite its fantastic performance ratings-wise.
Ben 10 has three sequels (Alien Force, Ultimate Alien, AND Omniverse) and one more in the pipelines, four made-for-TV movies, LOTS of toys, EVEN MORE merchandising tat (Yes, tat. Poorly designed and useless trinkets that no one in the right mind will touch.), and there's even a stage show ''and'' a game show being based off it in India.
You know it's CN's cash cow when it airs on certain international CN feeds seemingly ten times a day. It's turning into the Hype Aversion and Hype Backlash reason for avoiding the network in countries unlucky enough to have a CN feed doing this. Especially since CN is apparently restricting introduction of new shows to the channel just so it has the slots/budget required to carry on doing this.
Cartoon Network has sparked a cult following the addition of Adventure Time. You can find T-shirts of all sorts (including show catchphrases and a variation of the face expressionmeme), wallets in the shape of Finn's head, and so forth.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has become this for Hasbro and its business partners. Originally one of only a few shows to spearhead their new cooperative channel with Discovery (known as the Hub), Friendship is Magic spawned a huge and vocal Periphery Demographic for several different reasons. While My Little Pony was always a toy-selling franchise, this allowed them to start marketing for adults as well as their targets, young girls. Thanks to the bronies, business for this franchise has never been better. We Love Fine and Hot Topic are selling apparel and accessories by the truckload, Hasbro is selling their toys just as much, and so on.
It's also to the point to where Hasbro will ask the DHX team to introduce a new pony entirely for the purpose of selling toys (for example, Princess Cadance, for a pink alicorn toy) and the team will go ahead with it.
Friendship is Magic and Transformers Prime are currently the two top-merchandised franchises for the Hub (no points for guessing which one's higher), to the point where everyone's trying to jump on the hype train. Wal-Mart attempted to market an "I Heart Bronies" shirt back in 2012 that was terribly done, the knock-offs have started recoloring the Mane Cast and releasing them as dolls, etc.
Hasbro even released a movie (My Little Pony Equestria Girls) that featured the ponies as humans in a high-school setting (likely to serve as a competitor to Mattel's Monster High). Originally, the bronies hated the very concept (not that this is the first time this has happened) and openly complained about it. Hasbro stayed the course with the movie and it turned out to be both a financial and critical success, even with its limited showings. Now there's even a sequel for a spinoff of a toy series in the form of "Rainbow Rocks". Forget cash cow, this is a whole herd.