With the recent announcement that Nickelodeon will begin airing HIT Entertainment’s Bob the Builder in the U.S., along with a deal making Hasbro the U.S. master toy licensee, the stage is set to build a full-scale international franchise for the popular preschool show. The model animation series, which has already built up a successful U.K. merch program, will be reformatted from 10-minute eps to half hours and begin airing several times a week in the Nick Jr. block starting in early 2001.
Nick Jr. senior VP Brown Johnson says Bob the Builder will be a nice compliment to Nick’s other preschool programs because it’s paced well for that audience and attracts a good mix of boys and girls. ‘I think the stop-motion animation brings a new texture to Nick Jr.,’ she says. ‘We don’t have any of that type of animation on our channel, and it’s such a beautiful show.’
Bob the Builder debuted as a TV series on BBC 1 in April 1999, launching an eight-book series, one magazine and two videos at the same time (all published by the BBC). Within just a year, the series has been sold to 88 countries worldwide, boasts over US$31 million in merch sales, and signed over 300 U.K. licensees. Notably, Bob has sold over half a million books to date and one million videos. The vids have consistently remained in the children’s top 10 every week since they were launched in the U.K. last April.
The show currently airs Mondays at 3:45 p.m., against ITV’s Rupert, and is number one in its slot among preschoolers, with a 52% share of kids ages two to five. As would be expected, the heavy equipment draws more boys than girls, with 58% of the audience being male.
Tim Collins, director of HIT consumer products U.K., says the initial launch strategy was to go heavy on the promotions (for a British preschool show) with a marketing budget of over US$80,000 spent on in-mall marketing, poster advertising and a PR campaign. ‘In a market of quite aggressive competition, both new and established shows, it was necessary for us to go in with a lot of product so we could build the right framework for the brand,’ Collins adds.
Licensed product in the U.K. includes toys from U.K. master toy Martin Yaffe, jigsaw puzzles by Falcon and apparel by U.K.-based Delta Babygro, TDP/Cherub and others for chains such as Marks & Spencer, Woolworth’s and Mothercare.
Collins says the strategy for 2000 is to build on the product range, producing more merch within some categories, as well as adding new categories like Bob food products. These products will include cakes by Lightbody and Nicholas & Harris, confectionery by Magnus, and fromage frais (a yogurt-like product) by MD Foods. HIT has also signed a deal with BBC Multimedia to produce games in the U.K. for three popular console formats by fourth quarter.
Holly Stein, VP of HIT’s Los Angeles-based U.S. consumer products division, says the U.S. merch program will kick off with mid-tier and specialty product launches in fall 2001, followed by a mass market launch once the property has gained enough exposure, probably in 2002.