For a series that launched in the UK on Nick Jr. at the beginning of last month, it’s too early to relay ratings news on Poppy Cat. However, the 52 x 11-minute preschool show produced by UK-based Coolabi and King Rollo Films had already fast-tracked its way to a raft of licensing agreements and international sales well before its debut. Notably it landed a spot on 24-hour preschool channel PBS Kids Sprout, which airs in more than 50 million US households. Based on a book series created by Brit author Lara Jones that sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide, the show is about the imaginative tales a young girl spins for her cat, Poppy. Over the course of each ep, she imagines fantastical animal characters that embark on extraordinary adventures to magical destinations such as the marshmallow mines and the trumpet tree forest.
“I’ve never known a UK show like this one to sell to a US platform before airing in its own territory,” says Coolabi director of content Michael Dee. He explains the series was created to appeal to both sides of the pond right from the start. The company hired show runners based in L.A., an educational advisor from New York and used writers and production studios in the UK. “After Nick Jr. UK picked it up, we wanted to give ourselves the best chance at narrative, and it was important for us to have US storytelling talent,” says Dee. Initial roundtable brainstorming sessions in London resulted in a collaborative exchange in which the writers became conscious of incorporating both North American and British sensibilities and nuances. The cross-continental writing process also zipped along at a fast clip, with the UK writing team sending scripts to L.A. to be edited overnight and sent back.
Brought on-board as global TV distribution partner, Cake Entertainment MD Ed Galton admits that daily conversations with the Coolabi team take a step beyond the traditional producer/distributor relationship, and it has helped build a brand that can transcend multiple territories.
At press time, Galton was gearing up for a discussion with the brand’s UK licensees and yet-to-be-announced home entertainment partner. He explains the back-and-forth conversations have allowed Coolabi to share information about product lines and rollout plans with merchandising partners. And for its part, Cake keeps the prodco up to speed on upcoming territory launches. The two companies are also keen to tap into each other’s key relationships that span broadcasters and licensing partners. “It keeps us all informed and helps us better inform our potential clients for pitches,” says Galton.
Pre-MIPTV Coolabi had already signed a book publishing tie-in with pubco MacMillan that will hit UK stores this fall. Most recently, the company announced toy manufacturer Golden Bear as the master toy partner for the UK and Ireland, covering plush, plastics and arts & crafts to launch in fall 2012. Other deals include a spring 2012 preschool nightwear and underwear line from Aykroyd and TDP, an outerwear deal with Silver-Knit, and a series of games and puzzles from Jumbo Games, also to launch in 2012.
To create hype for the new series, Coolabi has worked with Nick Jr.’s PR team to launch a consumer campaign across TV, radio, magazines and pop-culture websites that appeals to preschoolers as well as their parents. The broadcaster also allocated major media real estate to launch with promos on-air and online, as well as streaming the first ep on its website. The pair also worked in tandem to create both the official website (poppycat.com) and the microsite at Nickjr.co.uk, and plan to further the digital strategy with a parents page on Facebook. Discussions are underway with Sprout for similar initiatives to support the launch both on-air, off-air and online.