Bear in the Big Blue House (39 x 30 minutes) launched on Disney Channel US in October 1997. Two years on, the show has clinched sales in more than a dozen territories, including the U.K., Holland, Canada, Germany, Australia, Italy and Scandinavia. Licensing and merchandising campaigns are set to follow during 2000/2001.
Senior VP of international TV Angus Fletcher admits: ‘I didn’t think it would travel. It didn’t seem to have the hallmarks of being a huge international show, but it is very satisfying to be proved wrong. I now think we will make deals in every major territory.’
A major boost for Bear was a deal with Disney’s non-U.S. business to acquire the show for all its international networks. Not only did the series perform well for Disney, but Henson secured a series of ‘high-quality language dubs for France, Italy and Germany,’ says Fletcher. ‘We also had the terrestrial rights for those territories.’
The major TV exposure for Bear outside the U.S. is just beginning. Channel 5 U.K. has started airing the series, while Kinderkanal and ZDF in Germany and RAI in Italy will shortly debut it. ABC Australia has also acquired the show after a strong showing on the country’s Disney Channel.
Throughout the rollout of the property, Fletcher is working closely with the licensing team in New York. ‘We always discuss the best way of positioning our shows with licensing, publishing and publicity,’ says Fletcher. ‘It is more sophisticated than just selling shows.’
This marketing effort isn’t only a way of generating more revenue from the property, it can also be decisive during the commissioning process. ‘Broadcasters are increasingly looking for shows that come with a good level of promotional support.’