Aussies Wiggle into the States

Barney did it. The Teletubbies conquered it. And now, The Wiggles are trying to crack the toughest market in the world-the U.S....
July 1, 1999

Barney did it. The Teletubbies conquered it. And now, The Wiggles are trying to crack the toughest market in the world-the U.S.

After their phenomenal success on the Seven Network in Australia, The Wiggles, based in Concord, New South Wales, have crossed the ocean, and are developing a strong video sales campaign for the U.S.

Following a successful tour last September in Disneyland and Sea World Florida, Lyrick Studios (the folks who launched thousands of Barney cassettes) picked up the U.S. video and music rights for The Wiggles last December.

Judging by their home market success, The Wiggles are a good bet. Down Under, the troupe’s six ‘classic’ sell-through videotapes and movies have sold 2.1 million cassettes since their release in 1993, eating up 39.1% of the children’s video market in the country.

The company recently produced 26 half-hour shows for GMTV, which are now airing on the U.K. network at 6:30 a.m. The series has also been sold to Fox Family Channel in the U.S., where it began airing weekdays at 11:30 a.m. on May 3. The new series will probably air on the Disney Channel in Australia as well, says executive producer Wayne Covell.

The Wiggles are prepared for a slow assault into Middle America. Lyrick plans to sell the videos only at public appearances this summer in such venues as Sea World and Busch Gardens in Orlando, Tampa and San Diego. In October, Lyrick plans to release the shows in retail. It is a strategy employed by many rock musicians-tour first, and then go for the retail jugular after you’ve built a grassroots following.

Australian video sales abroad have increased by 50% over the last two years, but the bulk of the business has been feature films. Kids fare is still having a tough time, although companies such as Yoram Gross-EM.TV are in ‘discussions’ for video sales.

‘Frankly, with all the U.S. networks, like Disney, Cartoon Network and Nick, who all produce their own product which they distribute through home video, it’s hard to crack this market, unless you get lucky with a fluke like a Barney,’ says Paula Hawes at Beyond Entertainment’s Los Angeles office.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has had enormous success at home with its indigenous product for tots, but it has only taken the American plunge with its biggest star, Bananas in Pyjamas. PolyGram International is the sales agent. One Australian company, Pearson, is doing direct sell-through on products including all of Energee Entertainment’s series. Energee has also sold video rights for Scrooge Koala’s Christmas to Los Angeles- based Artisan Entertainment.

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