In an effort to bolster its creative development, consumer products and US business, Toronto, Canada’s 9 Story Media Group has acquired children’s media company Out of the Blue Enterprises, the successful New York-based studio co-founded by Blue’s Clues co-creator Angela Santomero and Samantha Freeman.
With the deal, Out of the Blue will become a wholly owned subsidiary of 9 Story Media Group with Freeman remaining at the helm, and Santomero staying on as creator and executive producer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Santomero and former Nickelodeon exec Freeman formed Out of the Blue in 2005 to produce multiplatform, educational entertainment for television, video, mobile apps and consumer products. The shop is well known for its Emmy-nominated literacy series Super WHY! and owns the classic toy brand Colorforms, handling all licensing and merchandising for that property, Super WHY! and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
It also holds an ongoing relationship with 9 Story. The companies previously partnered on the aforementioned Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which 9 Story also co-produces and distributes internationally with The Fred Rogers Company. And they’ve collaborated on Creative Galaxy, an Amazon Studios interactive art show produced by Out of the Blue with 9 Story as animation partner. New seasons for each series are currently in production.
9 Story president and CEO Vince Commisso says the acquisition will help strengthen the company’s US footprint and its consumer products business.”We saw this as an opportunity to integrate backwards, if you will,” Commisso says. “We have a presence in Europe and in Canada, and we needed one in the US, which we now have. Out of the Blue also saw an opportunity to get some scale and extended distribution for content they’ve developed.”
“In addition to the obvious synergies, the two things that we also thought would be beneficial would be, one, access to the US talent pool that’s created so many great preschool shows that have originated from New York. Secondly, when we have something on US television, we want to be able to deal with the licensees early in the game,” he adds. “A presence in the market is important. As we know, Out of the Blue did a deal with Jakks Pacific on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that was very lucrative. We have some shows and opportunities coming up and having access to those toy partners would be very important.”
Commisso also says there may be plans to expand Out of the Blue’s New York office, which focuses on IP development, as well as writing and research around that development.
“We might expand the New York office, if we think there are opportunities that can turn into some greater content or new original IPs for us. What’s really good about how Out of the Blue works is they have a tried and true method of testing and researching the content that they make, so that when we bring it to potential broadcasting and distribution partners, we can say we’ve tested this and here’s why we know it will resonate. It takes some of the risk away,” he says.
The Out of the Blue purchase marks the latest move in 9 Story’s expansion strategy. In 2015, the company purchased Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films. The following year, it added an international distribution arm based in Brown Bag’s Dublin office. In late 2017, 9 Story officially brought its Toronto animation studio under the Brown Bag banner. Across its offices, 9 Story employs nearly 600 people.
With files from Playback’s Regan Reid.