One of the downsides to being an independent producer is that a broadcaster’s green light traditionally leads to a red light on retaining distribution and merchandising rights to your series. But several indies are now succeeding in keeping said rights for themselves, with an eye towards including licensing partners earlier in the creative process.
One such outlet is Tell-Tale Productions, the hotshop behind BBC preschool hit Tweenies. ‘It’s pretty obvious now that a decent licensing program is absolutely integral to ensuring that a show will be funded and put on air,’ says Tell-Tale managing director Karl Woolley. ‘With that in mind, we’re really keen that the licensees that come on-board are with us from the concept stage up.’
The prodco will test its distribution/merchandising mettle with Sprogs, a 13 x half-hour, 2-D animated series for seven- to 12-year-olds that’s slated for broadcast on BBC1 early next year.
And although Tell-Tale has the broadcast contacts it needs to handle distribution in-house, the studio is safety-padding its first foray into merchandising by leaning on the expertise of U.K. licensing agency LMI.
Music will be key to the development of Sprogs, which follows the madcap adventures of twins Lucy and Louis, who wrongly assume that their baby brother is an alien whose arrival means the start of a worldwide extraterrestrial invasion. Tell-Tale has inked a deal with BBC Music, which will commission bands to write music for both the show itself and a series of stand-alone CD compilations. Woolley describes the property’s music style as teen rock/grunge in the vein of groups like Wheatus and 741.
To foster seamless synergy between the show and the all-important electronic gaming category, Tell-Tale has signed U.K.-based game developer Warthog as its licensee for the British program. Magazine publishing and video/DVD distribution deals were on the table at press time, rounding out the initial scope of the Sprogs merch program, which Tell-Tale anticipates launching in conjunction with the series’ BBC debut.
Looking forward, Woolley believes that the property – with its edgy, oddball comedic qualities – would resonate in the U.K. gift market. But for now, Tell-Tale is focused on production (slated to begin this month) and racking up international broadcast sales.