A lot is riding on Fetch the Vet, Cosgrove Hall’s preschool model animation series that was co-developed with Flextech and ITEL, presold to the U.K.’s biggest private network ITV, and distributed into 14 other territories. Cosgrove and Granada are keeping their fingers crossed that the 26-part series created by husband-and-wife team Gail Penstone and Stephen Thraves will give them a much needed licensing and merchandising boost.
With more than 50 licensed products destined for the marketplace, including a publishing line from Scholastic Books, Fetch may well turn into that sought after money-spinner. ‘We haven’t had a really big hit for a while,’ admits Cosgrove Hall managing director Iain Pelling. ‘We’ve made shows for other people (Noddy, Rotten Ralph and Bill & Ben, all BBC commissions) that have turned into merch successes for them. But in the past four years, none of our own shows have done well enough to be big earners in terms of licensing and merchandising.’
He adds: ‘It is a problem for us-the world is changing and it takes a long time to get the deals in place and to receive payback. For example, Fantomcat (made for ITV and co-funded by ITEL) has just recouped its advance from program sales after five years, having sold to around 90 countries.’ Cosgrove Hall had high hopes for animated preschool series The Animal Shelf, but the show was axed after two seasons on CiTV.
Nevertheless, there is optimism that with Granada’s expertise, Fetch the Vet can do the business. ‘We’ve got off to a great start with Fetch,’ says Charlie Donaldson, head of licensing (commercial ventures) at Granada Enterprises. ‘Since we launched the video (distributed by Buena Vista) in April, we’ve sold just under 10,000 copies.’
The real test will come in the run-up to Christmas, when Fetch airs on CiTV and the full range of toys, stationery, apparel and greetings cards rolls out in U.K. stores. Licensees who’ve signed on for the initial merch push include Heinz for shaped pasta and Martin Yaffe for soft toys and vehicles.
Waiting in the wings is Albie, but it’s a challenging show to develop products for because it is aimed at an older age group. However, Donaldson expects to start signing deals soon, aiming to have the first phase of product out by the end of 2002.
Ironically, licensing deals set up when the studio was owned by Thames (for shows like Danger Mouse, Count Duckula and the studio’s first series, Chorlton and The Wheelies), are still generating revenue for Pearson, which owns the Thames catalog.