DHX Media is feeding its appetite for more kids fare with a whole lot of Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake.
The Canadian media company is shelling out US$345 million to acquire the entertainment division of New York-based Iconix Brand Group, which includes a 100% controlling interest in Strawberry Shortcake and an 80% interest in Peanuts. The remaining 20% of Peanuts will continue to be held by the family of its creator, Charles M. Schulz.
“We’ve got a lot of great characters here at DHX,” says Steven DeNure, president and COO of DHX Media. “I think both Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake are a fantastic extension of what we’re doing, and unlike anything else we have in our portfolio. They’re a great fit for DHX not only the consumer products side, but also in terms of content and distribution.”
The transaction, which is expected to close June 30, adds 340 half-hours of content to DHX’s library. In a release announcing the deal, DHX said the new content could be used to feed potential new productions, including digital content for YouTube, mobile and VOD services. It will also allow the company to distribute the brands in new global territories and on new channels, including its multiplatform kids network WildBrain (launched in 2016).
According to the company, the agreement is expected to increase revenue by 52% to US$324 million.
“The addition of Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake–but especially Peanuts–means that our DHX Brands business is a much more significant part of our total revenue than it has ever been before. We will see how else we can expand the licensing business and focus on the current, excellent partners they have in licensing, and see what more we can do for them. We’ve been committed to growing the DHX Brands part of our business, and with the addition of Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake, it really gives a scope and scale that is more than a tenfold increase,” DeNure says.
He adds that since Peanuts is largely a consumer products-focused property, the goal for DHX is to step into the shoes of Iconix and work very closely with the Schulz family to figure out what new content might look like.
In terms of entertainment content, Peanuts isn’t exactly a stranger. Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios’ The Peanuts Movie grossed close to US$250 million worldwide in 2015. And that same year, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang launched on Turner-owned Boomerang US in a series of 500 Peanuts shorts produced by French studio Normaal and Peanuts Worldwide for France Télévisions.
“The shorts created by Normaal, which are excellent, are part of the overall licensing part of owning the property. In other words, that deal continues as usual, just the way when you license out the right to create new content. Nothing really changes for Normaal and France Télévisions, which distributes them,” DeNure says.
As for Strawberry Shortcake, Iconix and DHX teamed up last year to produce a new animated series based on the brand, which Iconix acquired in February 2015 from American Greetings for US$105 million. The long-term agreement between DHX and Iconix would see the companies co-develop, finance and produce at least 39 new half-hour episodes of Strawberry Shortcake, with the option to produce more. Moving forward, DHX plans to continue its development of the series without partners.
“These characters are known around the world and that’s an amazing legacy,” DeNure says. “We’re thrilled to be the partners and custodians of that.”
The iconic IPs join DHX properties like Teletubbies, Twirlywoos, Yo Gabba Gabba!, In the Night Garden and Caillou.
With files from Regan Reid.