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Cash-Cow Franchise

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Gotta catch 'em all by their wallets.

Pete: It's a cash cow! We milk it to make money!
Earl: Daggum, that's amazing! Whatcha gonna call her?
Pete: I'm deciding between Tony Hawk, Madden and Mario.

A kind of franchise that's been so popular for so long 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, and 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 sales just to break even. It's not uncommon for budgets to climb sky-high because if one product sells well, it will have an increased market value and succeeding products will be more costly (i.e. minimum pay for an actor can go up if said actor appeared in a successful movie).

Beginning in the early 2010s, Hollywood turned China into a goldmine cash cow since Chinese audiences have developed a taste for high-budget American blockbuster movies saturated with special effects, CGI creatures ranging from dinosaurs, to aliens, to robots. Transformers: Age of Extinction combined all three of those into one movie. Because of the newfound gateway to riches in the lucrative Chinese box office, Hollywood has been spending far more money per movie to afford state-of-the-art special effects to run for 2 to 3 hours.

Compare Long-Runners (franchises that last a long time) and Franchise Zombies (which continue well past what the creator intended), and see also Merchandise-Driven.

Based on Wikipedia's list of highest-grossing media franchises (after several recalculations from Wikipedia users), the most successful media franchise of all time is the Pokémon franchise, owned by The Pokémon Company, a Japanese holding company co-owned by Nintendo (no stranger to Cash Cow Franchises itself), Creatures, and Game Freak. Pokémon has raked in an estimated US$88 billion in revenue. The company with the greatest number of CCFs overall is, as one would most likely expect, The Walt Disney Company. Notably, they own the only other franchise known to have surpassed US$50 billion in revenue, with Mickey Mouse & Friends, and the rest of the top five highest-grossing franchises, Winnie the Pooh, Star Wars (through their buyout of Lucasfilm), and Disney Princess.

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Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: It's one of the most popular animated television series in China, thus causing it to make quite a bit of money off of its merchandise.
  • Dooly the Little Dinosaur who debuted in the 1980s is considered the most successful cartoon character in South Korea, and his popularity was milked by selling merchandise featuring pictures of him or his friends, and Dooley was also used to teach math, reading and writing to children in Korea.
  • Pororo the Little Penguin, also from South Korea, has helped sell lots of merchandise especially as stuffed toys.
  • Balala the Fairies has spawned many spin-offs and merchandise in China.
  • Boonie Bears is Fantawild Animation's most profitable property, spawning numerous episodes, a film series, a Spin-Off Babies show, and of course, plenty of merchandise.
  • GG Bond is one for Winsing Animation, having several films and plenty of toys to go along with it.

    Comic Books 
  • Iconic superheroes such as Superman, Spider-Man, IronMan, 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 held a comic book.
  • Marvel and DC seem to have based their entire business models on this trope, especially in the case of Batman. Two separate movie franchises with a total of 7 movies in the span of 20 years, plus numerous animated series and animated movies, and all the corresponding merchandise and toys. Most of them were met with success. If you don't count the Justice League movies 18 out of 23 of the DC animated films have either Superman or Batman in the title. Not that that actually means the movies are about Superman or Batman.
  • 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.
  • Asterix: 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!
  • And completing a holy trinity of Franco-Belgian Comics (which Asterix co-creator René Goscinny even worked on), there's Lucky Luke, which laughs in the face of the general feeling that The Western can't enjoy success anymore. The comic book series is still ongoing (over 120 albums as of 2023), several successful animated films, two successful animated series, a Spinoff Babies series, video games etc... you name it.
  • Suske en Wiske is still the most popular comic books series in Belgium and the Netherlands. It has spawned an entire merchandising empire that's very popular in Dutch-speaking regions.
  • Brazilian comic Monica's Gang even earned his creator comparisons to Walt Disney, for being a prolific creator of popular characters who are marketed to death (70% of his company's earnings come from merchandising). One of the characters, a green elephant, was created for a paper's classified ads campaign, but ended up adopted by tomato sauce "Elefante".
  • The Smurfs: Even before the famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon 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. The franchise gained two live-actions movies, a second feature film, and a third TV series in 2021. As of Feburary 2022, Nickelodeon (licensors to the global rights of the series) and Paramount Animation are currently working on multiple Smurfs animated films.
  • 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, ...
  • The Addams Family started as a one-shot cartoon for The New Yorker, it now spreads to practically all media and in all is somewhat successful including; an incredibly popular TV show in The '60s, two critically and commercially successful movies in The '90s, a very successful Broadway musical, two popular animated series (1973 and 1992) and a modest success with the series remake The New Addams Family. Its only bomb was a Made-for-TV Movie hated by fans and critics alike.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe and Donald Duck comics in general are lucrative Disney comics with them having more spinoffs, animated and video game adaptations than even Mickey Mouse (the company's mascot). Mickey Mouse is more iconic but owing to his status as company mascot, his characterization flagged over the years, while Donald Duck having never lost his edge and being the Breakout Character actually brings in money for Disney among their classic characters.
  • Archie Comics: The company's cash cow is that the comic the company is named after: Archie Comics.
  • Dark Horse Comics: In The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, naming this company was the same that saying Hellboy due to its success.
  • Image Comics in the '90s had Spawn, who was the biggest and baddest superhero of the era despite never being part of the Big Two. In the '00s, it shifted to The Walking Dead, which was the turning point in Image's diversification. In the '10s, it became Saga, as one of the most universally acclaimed and celebrated comics of the generation, and Image has since made it the mascot of the company.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield is probably the king of this trope in its medium. He is one of the most well-known and advertised fictional characters worldwide to the point that his merchandising can often be more recognized than his comic strip. Garfield is found in numerous amusement parks, had cat food products with his face stamped on them, found himself slapped on campaigns directed towards children about Internet safety and the benefits of sleeping, has his own website comprised of online games and a store, and his car window plush toys with suction cups were a bestseller in 1987. Garfield's creator Jim Davis himself claims in "20 Years and Still Kicking!" that nowadays he spends more time managing Garfield merchandise than writing new ideas for the comic strip.
  • 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 Yellow Kid, the character of the comic strip Hogan's Alley from late 19th century, is an Ur-Example of this. It was popular enough to have a merchandising line of "billboards, buttons, cigarette packs, cigars, cracker tins, ladies' fans, matchbooks, postcards, chewing gum cards, toys, whiskey and many other products". Ironically, the strip was parodying commercialism.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • KikoRiki ran for over 200 episodes, had several spin-offs, 3 animated films and was Un-Cancelled in 2020. And that's without mentioning book adaptations, magazine, video games and various merchandise, most of which was only released in Russia.
  • Nu, Pogodi! is a giant hit, and was once THE Soviet/Russian animated series.
  • Masha and the Bear has always been famous in the former USSR, but was once obscure elsewhere. When Netflix aired it on August 2015, though, that's when the show's popularity skyrocketed everywhere, with Cartoonito, Boomerang in Latin America and most European countries that don't have Cartoonito, and even Cartoon Network in Latin America airing it, and soon it dethroned Nu Pogodi! as the most successful animated series in the former USSR and has merchandise by the boatload in the whole world.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At some point before the end of the Cold War, James Bond became officially unkillable. His Creator Ian Fleming wrote twelve novels and two short story collections. Since then there have been 24 "official" movies (and 2 unofficial ones), 27 more books by different authors, numerous comic strips, two comic books, two pinball machines, many video games, one tabletop RPG, hundreds of toys, an ongoing series of "Young Bond" books, an animated series about "James Bond Jr.."...
  • 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 Sweet 'N Low), and miscellaneous merchandise, that's a lot of green for something pink.
  • King Kong is one of the oldest examples, dating back to 1933. Toho Studios in Japan resurrected him for 1938's "King Kong Appears in Edo", then in 1962 he fights Godzilla and in 1967's "King Kong Escapes" he fights Mechani-Kong. The United States has also released more Kong movies in 1976, 1986, 2005 and 2017. Peter Jackson's 2005 remake especially got the most merchandising despite underperforming at the box office.
  • Godzilla. The longest running film franchise in history, as of 2016, there's 29 of the original Japanese films, two American installments (the latter of whom is getting a sequel), two different cartoon series, a live-action TV series, several comic book adaptations, novels, over 40 video games, countless action figures, and even a line of plushies.
  • Universal Pictures comes the closest to making dinosaurs a cash cow franchise in the United States (Japan already achieved this with Godzilla) with Jurassic Park (1993) which was the highest-grossing film worldwide at the time. The animatronics, special effects and Stan Winston's work are often credited as factors for the film's success, which also had an onslaught of merchandise. Universal factory-issued two more sequels, but since the sequels gradually made less and less money the Jurassic Park film series was put on hold (while new video games and comic books kept coming) in 2001 before Universal revived it in 2015 as Jurassic World which ultimately outgrossed the first film and spawned two sequels that grossed over $1 billion each.
  • Dracula: Even though several directors have exploited this character, he still managed to become the fictional character who has the most films made around him.
  • Saw:
    • After the massive success of the first three films, the Saw franchise proved to be a cash cow for Lionsgate, standing as its flagship franchise for a while until the The Hunger Games and John Wick series began. Throughout the next four films (including the original Grand Finale), several entries in other media like video games and a theme park ride were released, though they weren't as profitable as the films themselves.
    • In the present, the franchise seems to be on its way to return to this status, since the current two films released after the former finale proved to be just as (if not more) successful, with a Dead by Daylight DLC released and a promotional podcast aired between them, and Lionsgate announced plans to produce five more films and the franchise's first TV series afterwards.
  • Most slasher franchises fall into this. In the original series of each, there's ten Friday the 13ths, seven A Nightmare on Elm Streets (there's a good reason why New Line Cinema was nicknamed "The House that Freddy Built"), a crossover for them, eight Halloweens, four The Texas Chainsaw Massacres, and reboots of all four of them, producing further installments. You want series that are tough to kill? Jason has literally been to Hell and back, and they still make money off of him.
    • While in horror, Hellraiser, with 9 novels, action figures, and a comic. And creator Clive Barker is interested in a reboot!
  • The Paranormal Activity series counts as this for several 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 victims depicted are ordinary, often moderately wealthy families. And let's not forget that the original film began as an indie horror shot for approximately $15,000, and eventually grossed $193 million. This is the first film. Combined, the total gross for the series is $890.5 million from a $28 million budget, making it one of the highest-grossing horror franchises of all time.
  • The Transformers franchise has a long history of successful cartoons, toys, comics, and assorted merchandise, but the live action film series created by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg is a juggernaut in and of itself, grossing $4.3 billion worldwide with just five films, despite consistently atrocious reviews. From 2007 to 2017, Transformers has enjoyed almost a decade of commercial success that allowed it to spawn an animated series for Cartoon Network and the Hub each, earn a fast-selling 4D motion stimulator ride at Universal theme parks, and of course sell more toys and video games including a LEGO-inspired line of build-it-yourself brick-based Transformers called KRE-O. Bumblebee did manage critical acclaim (there hasn't been any Transformers film with good reviews before then!) though only made enough money to secure itself a sequel as while Lorenzo di Bonaventura asked fans to forget about a sequel that can resolve the cliffhanger to 2017's box office calamity Transformers: The Last Knight and it was reported that Paramount is rebooting the series instead of continuing it, with the first of these, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, due for release in 2023.
  • The Conjuring Universe for New Line Cinema and owner Warner Bros.. Beginning with 2013's The Conjuring, which grossed over $310 million, the series has continued to churn out financially successful films. While it might seem modest in comparison to others in this list, remember that this is horror, a genre seen as not very marketable to the mainstream audience. As of 2018, the series' total worldwide gross exceeded $1.5 billion. That is extremely impressive for a film series that has all of its entries rated R.
  • Dogma presents a fictional example:
    Bartleby: Mooby the Golden Calf. Created by Nancy Goidruff, a former kindergarten teacher, in 1989 to fill gap in the Saturday morning schedule on local network K-REL. Bought by the Complex Corporation in 1991, and broadcast nationally as the The Mooby Fun-Time Hour, it picked up a large following of children, ages three to eight, and spawns sixteen records, two theatrical films, eight prime-time specials, a library of priced-to-own video cassettes, and bicoastal theme parks dubbed 'MoobyWorld'. Did I miss anything?
    Mr. Whitland: You forgot Mooby Magazine.
  • Parasite in South Korea is wildly popular especially for being the first ever South Korean film to win any Academy Award, let alone Best Picture, that tourists flocked to the locations where the film took place, demand skyrocketed for the food products within the film (Sky Pizza, Chapaghetti and Neogurri), and Adam McKay has an Americanized television spin-off in the works. Unfortunately, the tourism did not last long because of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to South Korea putting up stringent regulations to follow protocol after the 2015 MERS outbreak.
  • The Fast and the Furious became the biggest and highest-grossing film franchise for Universal following the release of two blockbuster films grossing over $1 billion each (Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious). The franchise has even earned a ride at Universal Studios theme parks. Universal has since decided to release one Fast and Furious every year throughout the 2020s decade, seeing that $5 billion was made from only the first eight installments.
  • Although creator James Cameron only made the first two movies, the Terminator film series has become a franchise that has grossed about $3 billion in revenue not just from movies but also action figures, video games, a TV show and a show at Universal Studios theme parks. Though with several underperformances and reboots after Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, especially that of Terminator: Dark Fate, its future is unclear.
  • Classic horror properties remain central to Universal's identity and history. The runaway success of these properties in The '30s and The '40s made them a ton of money leading to an early example of Shared Universe, with crossovers, spin-offs and endless sequels and reboots. These properties do tend to be revived from time to time such as The Mummy Trilogy. In response to the MCU, Universal attempted to revive the franchise again, but their first two attempts at it - Dracula Untold and The Mummy - both failed. The third time ended up being the charm with The Invisible Man, which was very successful and might mean we will probably get more in the future.
  • DC Comics adaptations are usually cash cows for Warner Bros. (or Warner Bros. Discovery more broadly), or at least anything Batman (the DC Extended Universe hasn't been profitable after Aquaman and a new cinematic universe will reboot it all). It's telling that the poster of Joker was proudly displayed alongside other successful WB films at the presentation of HBO Max, and the platform proudly displays the film any chance it gets in advertisement.
  • Insidious was released in 2011, but is regarded a suitably scary horror film. As such, the follow up movies have experienced a consistent level of commercial success.
  • The Purge gained attention for its interesting premise, which has served it well enough for it to get four sequels and a 2 season TV Series.
  • French company Pathé Films has comedies revolving around Lower Class Louts, Camping and Les Tuche. The third Tuche film grossed more than Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 there to summarize, and a fourth film was ordered, of course.

    Food and Drink 
  • Ever since the 19th century, Coca-Cola has become easily the largest soft drink company on the planet. Finding a restaurant, convenience store, theme park or grocery store that doesn't serve Coca-Cola products will be harder than finding a UFO in the sky.
  • Panda Express which began in 1983 is an American fast food chain that is popular for blending American and Chinese cuisine together in the sense that the meats are covered in sweetened sauces and the fact that you can easily get your food to-go in large boxes for between $7 to $10 now has over 2000 locations worldwide, generates $3 billion in annual revenue and its founder Andrew Cherng has a net worth of over $3 billion. Despite this tremendous success, Cherng has consistently refused to let the company become public on the stock market.
  • McDonald's has been active for over 70 years at this point and they continue to be the world's largest restaurant chain by revenue, netting an average of $25.413 billion as of 2015. They've also landed themselves countless toy deals from companies such as Nintendo and Disney.
  • Yum! Brands is the company that brought us Pizza Hut, Wing Street, Taco Bell and KFC. These chains are all huge individually, but put together they dwarf Mcdonalds in the number of locations department.
  • Submarine sandwich chain Subway has approximately 45,000 locations in more than 100 countries. To put that into perspective, Mcdonalds has 36,920 locations, while all of Yum! Brands' chains add up to 42,732.
  • The world's largest coffee chain is Starbucks, which has an estimated revenue of over 5 billion dollars as of 2015. Some of their products can also be found in various stores.
  • M&M's are such a successful candy brand of coated chocolate candies that they spawned dozens of CGI commercials featuring spokescandies differing by color and personality as Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Crispy/Orange and Ms. Brown. They also manage to land a commercial for every Super Bowl since 2015.

  • Microsoft Windows dwarfs all other desktop operating systems put together. It all comes back to 1981, when IBM got a non-exclusive license of MS-DOS for their own 5150 Personal Computer. So every company who wanted to create a clone of IBM's machine — and that was basically everyone — could easily get the same operating system.note  Its ubiquity then helped MS-DOS' successor Windows get its foothold and made Bill Gates the world's richest man. That's not to say it has no competition, however: Linux rules supreme in "serious" fields like web servers and scientific supercomputers, and the Macintosh retains its own very profitable niche.
    • Microsoft Office has been the dominating office suite since WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were slow to make the jump to Windows. Its web-based subscription equivalent, Microsoft 365, faces strong competition from Google Workspace and Zoho Workplace, but is still the market leader by a wide margin.
  • 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, the iPhone has kept the company relevant as the personal media player market has waned, and the iPad caused the tablets to finally popularize. Their MacBooks have also risen in popularity since the mid-2000s.
  • Adobe, to the point "Photoshop" became a verb and the software in their Creative Suite are the industry standard in areas aside from 3D and computer-aided design (both headed by Autodesk).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons provided inspiration for the majority of RPGs and a surprising amount of other fantasy works, and has several separate universes that continue to grow.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Aside from becoming the kings of tabletop wargaming and sustaining a major corporation, these franchises have produced multiple video games, 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. Surprisingly, they haven't ventured into live action adaptations in nearly 35 years of existence, but this is set to change with an upcoming Amazon-produced Warhammer 40,000 series starring superfan Henry Cavill.
  • 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.
  • Steve Jackson Games has their D&D parody card game Munchkin. With twenty-four core editions, booster packs, a board game, and ancillary merchandising, it's been SJG's biggest seller for almost two decades now, even reaching beyond the usual Friendly Local Game Store to more conventional retailers like Target.
  • In the heady days of The '90s, the Old World of Darkness was this, with endless supplement sales driven by a nova-hot LARP scene, and being one of the major factors in bringing lots of women (formerly seen as a Periphery Demographic) into the roleplaying hobby, and the fact that D&D was a collapsing Franchise Zombie at that point helped bring White Wolf to the top of the industry. However, as The '90s ended, the Urban Fantasy market became oversaturated with their descendants, and the New World of Darkness came out to mixed response, the old cash cow started getting a little long in the tooth. It's still big business but not nearly what it once was, and chaos caused by corporate restructuring and the generally negative pre-response to their plans for a new version of the World of Darkness has shaken the brand further.
  • Monopoly, sold in 101 countries, featuring many variants (including licensed versions), electronic versions, and even McDonald's promotions.
  • 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 buy Dungeons & 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.

  • As of 2016 there are 18 different Cirque du Soleil troupes performing somewhere in the world, changing acts and performers over time. Several have run for over a decade, and one (Mystere) for over two.
  • 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's 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 tens of thousands of performances.
  • Musicals in the Netherlands can advertise with "<SHOW> WILL CLOSE SOON! GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!" and keep running for years on end.
  • 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.
  • Takarazuka Revue has two: The Rose of Versailles and Elisabeth. As of 2020, the former has been staged 20 times (as two musicals, one following Marie Antoinette and Fersen, the other following Oscar and André), and the latter 10 times. A look at the TakaWiki page of any actress active from 1974 onwards inevitably reveals that she has been in either BeruBaranote  or Elisabeth, or sometimes both.

  • Hello Kitty pulls in over $1 billion a year.
  • Pillow Pets... there are dozens and dozens of them, they come in different sizes, and now you can find licensed pillow-pet characters (such as Yoshi). They even made ones that can shine glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling. You can even find them in grocery stores. At the height of their popularity, it was hard to run into someone (especially a kid) who did NOT know the commercials' jingle.
  • Jewelpet is tailored for this, what with having over 40 little creatures that are the basis for plushies and other collectible toys, plus all the anime and other derivative works. That said, this one's success is 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.
  • Shopkins were the fourth biggest-selling licensed property of 2015, and there's Shopkins versions of everything imaginable for young girls to buy.
  • Baby Alive dolls were always pretty successful, but then came the 2006 re-launch of the franchise, which made it very popular among young girls, thanks in part to the target demographic's parents growing up with it and, in later years, online video reviews of the dolls becoming popular. This particular version has been going on for twelve years as of this writing, and also had a short-lived spin-off game online, Crib Life.
  • Barbie is probably the queen of this trope as far as toys go. The brand has been also licensed to non-doll products as well, and has been going on for almost sixty years.
  • My Little Pony began as large My Pretty Pony toys but that didn't sell so well, so in 1983 the line was reintroduced as the much smaller My Little Pony. Thus, one of the biggest cash-cow toy lines was born. New toys have been in production almost nonstop since 1983, numerous animated adaptations have been produced (including two theatrical films), several comics have been released, and even stage shows have existed. That's not even including the truckloads of merchandise. The toyline is an international hit and the only major exception to its success was the late 1990s "G2" toys (which bombed everywhere besides a few European countries, had no animated adaptation, and was quickly discontinued in most regions).
  • Even after all these years, LEGO remains one of the biggest names in toys. They've been bought by billions of families, there are countless video games and movies based on the brand and hobbyists have proven time and time again that just about anything can be Built with LEGO, including robots.
  • MGA Entertainment:
    • Bratz enabled MGA to switch gears from making LCD games to becoming a powerhouse in the girls' toys market. At the height of its popularity, global sales of the entire franchise grossed $2 billion, and the brand had about 40 percent of the fashion doll market, and had an animated series and a major motion picture adaptation. For a time, you could find Cloe, Sasha, Jade and Yasmin slapped onto everything a girl would want.
    • L.O.L. Surprise! has become the biggest-selling doll line ever since it came out. Outside of the line of dolls, it has merchandise that expands on the surprise concept by bundling a mystery item with the item in question. For example, a coloring book based on the dolls comes with a mystery eraser.
  • The Hot Wheels toy franchise began in 1968 and has been massively popular since. It's gotten a lot of toys made for it since its inception and has also spawned several Animated Adaptations; it's right up there with Barbie as one of the biggest franchises of Mattel.
  • The Tamagotchi series of virtual pet toys became a huge fad overnight upon their introduction in 1996. In America, the fad's died down, but in Japan, the Tamagotchi toy series has spawned an entire franchise, with plenty of merchandise made for it such as Licensed Games, plush toys of the characters, and even its own dedicated department store. When Tamagotchi got an anime TV show in 2009, it became so popular that it ran for 271 episodes.
  • Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama, Tamagotchi's Spiritual Successor, is also this, with it selling more merchandise than fellow Bandai property Go! Princess Pretty Cure in its first year of toy sales.
  • Cocotama is not even the biggest Tamagotchi off-shoot, an honour which goes to Digimon which as both a power-house late 90s/early 00s children's anime and the last super-massive franchise born from the Tamagotchi / Game & Watch school of portable gaming has once had a level of rivalry with its genre-cousin and the first super-massive franchise of modern handheld consoles, Pokémon!
  • Gogo's Crazy Bones is one of the most popular toy property created by Magic Box International, and has become their most well-known series as a result.

    Visual Novels 

  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Facebook has turned social networking into big business. Before Facebook, it was all about MySpace.
  • Google. They have not only the world's most popular search engine and video sharing website, but also an email service, a social media service (which has shut down since due to unpopularity), a data storage service, and a mobile operating system that rivals iOS in popularity.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd. His videos tend to get thousands, if not millions of views and there is more AVGN merchandise than you can launch an Atomic F-Bomb at.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. And he knows it. And his honest preview (where he self-deprecated most things about himself) made fun of Channel Awesome for flogging him harder as a cash cow than Disney do with Frozen and The Lion King.
  • Rooster Teeth eventually quit their jobs to get supported by Red vs. Blue, selling T-shirts, posters and DVDs, along with allowing viewers to help by becoming Sponsors (now known as Rooster Teeth FIRST). And after they had branched out with things such as Achievement Hunter, came RT's biggest cash cow, RWBY. Being an Animesque Magical Girl show, it appealed to previously untapped demographics and markets - it was the first anime localized for Japan, instead of the other way around - and with the advantage of being fully owned by RT (Red vs. Blue is done with Halo assets), they made all sorts of merchandise, including a videogame and a board game that gathered nearly $800,000 on Kickstarter.
  • Ryan ToysReview. What started out as a simple humble home-video YouTube channel became one of the top channels in the world, racking up billions of views and making millions each year. Not only that, thanks to, he and his Spin-Off chanels boast a loaded-out franchise already, complete with a toy line, two video games, and even a Nick Jr. show. No wonder Ryan's seen as the eye of envy in many young children.
  • Critical Role started out on Geek & Sundry as "a group of nerdy-ass voice actors [sitting] around and [playing] Dungeons & Dragons". The cast had little hope that it would be enthusiastically received; Matthew Mercer gave it six episodes before they would go back to playing at his house. It took off like a rocket. Even in the early days, when they first announced a run of T-shirts, the shirts sold out even before they finished announcing it on stream. As of 2021, the show has moved out into its own production company, successfully raised $11 million for an animated series (with Prime Video being the final backer, raising the stakes from "a single animated special" to "two seasons of The Legend of Vox Machina"), published multiple graphic novels and a prequel novel, and formed a charitable foundation. The world of Exandria also became an official setting for Dungeons and Dragons, and Canon Immigrant Arkhan's acquisition of the Hand of Vecna was acknowledged in D&D official material. In addition to original cast members having their turn in the DM chair, the story of Exandria is also expanded in a limited series, Exandria Unlimited, with Aabria Iyengar at the helm, and featuring a wider cross-section of cast members from under-represented groups (compared to the all-white original cast).
  • Cocomelon started off as a simple children's YouTube channel with nursery rhymes and colorful animations. But slowly overtime it's become an absolute sensation with many a child. It's become the second most subscribed channel on the site, ranking in billions of views a day and creating a million dollar enterprise. Upon being acquired by the company Moonbug, it's spawned countless pieces of merchandise, multiple soundtrack albums, and even airplay on two different children's cable networks.
  • Another Moonbug franchise that became a cash cow is Blippi, which got many merchandise tie-ins ranging from toys to books to toothbrushes as well as a live show.

  • Boeing and Airbus practically run a Duopoly of Large 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. Bombardier and Embraernote  run much the same thing for small regional jet airliners.
  • 5% of Harley-Davidson's net revenue is licensing their brand name to other products. Just for selling their name.
  • In a similar vain, Playboy Enterprises has lost money almost every quarter on the magazine and internet divisions since the 1990s. However, the thousands of licensed products have kept the business profitable since the early 2000s.
  • The vast unpopularity of Donald Trump and his presidential campaign and following presidency that debuted to the worst approval ratings for a US president ever recorded in history led to many comedians finding a goldmine in lampooning his policies and behavior as seen in post-2015 seasons of South Park where Mr. Garrison is revised as a stand-in for Trump, NBC's Saturday Night Live, The President Show (a sketch comedy entirely dedicated to mocking Trump) and Our Cartoon President. Jimmy Kimmel also dedicated a lot of his screen time on his ABC talk show lampooning Trump (at least when he was still president).
  • Snuggies became an instant cultural icon of the late-2000s, with millions sold worldwide, even extending to Snuggies for pets.

Alternative Title(s): It Prints Money, Flagship Franchise