When a show gets axed by its commissioning network after only one season, it usually disappears just as quickly from memory as it does from TV screens. And the list of one-season wonders is long.
Just this year, Netflix unceremoniously cancelled Midnight Radio’s fledgling teen dramedy Everything Sucks! And back in 2002, Nelvana’s family sitcom Beware of Dog only aired two back-to-back episodes before it was dropped by Animal Planet. These nipped-in-the-bud shows didn’t develop devoted cult fanbases begging for more episodes, despite how hard the creative teams worked on them. Sometimes a series just disappears from the public consciousness.
UK prodco Hoho Entertainment is now trying to fight against that slide with a set of new deals that have given its cancelled animated series Cloudbabies a second life. When the show wasn’t renewed by commissioning broadcaster CBeebies in 2016, the studio turned its attention to YouTube, translating episodes into different languages in order to build a global audience. This caught the attention of Chinese media group Wow Dadi Technology, which is now on board to co-produce a second season.
“We all put so much effort, time, creativity—and money—into getting this brand and TV series off the ground that it just seemed unacceptable to me that because of one setback, it should die,” says Oliver Ellis, Hoho’s joint managing director (alongside Helen Howells).
Created by Bridget Appleby with Dave Ingham (Clangers, Boj) attached as head writer, the 52 x 10-minute series originally debuted on CBeebies in 2012. Targeting two- to five-year-olds, Cloudbabies stars four childlike characters who are responsible for looking after the sun, clouds, stars, moon and rainbow.
“We’re so thankful to CBeebies for giving us such a great launch pad and establishing the property,” says Howells, adding that when the partnership ended, it forced the prodco to think outside the box.
After launching Cloudbabies as a clip series in the US on YouTube Kids in 2014, there was a constant demand from parents on social media for fresh content from the IP. Hoho leveraged this vocal online fanbase to sign an official YouTube Partner Program agreement and launch English and German channels to host full-length episodes. The English channel now boasts more than 100,000 subscribers and has exceeded 100 million views.
But the real silver living came in October 2017, when Hoho struck a licensing and co-production deal with Wow Dadi to launch Cloudbabies in mainland China. The agreement covers distribution and merchandising rights for season one, as well as the co-production of a second season, which will get underway as soon as funding is finalized.
“The level of investment [from Wow Dadi] was a bit of a head-turner,” says Howells. “It really got us off the block.”
Building on its deal with the Chinese company, Hoho is now concentrating on expansion into additional markets. Season one recently launched on Tencent and iQIYI (China), English Gem (Korea), VOD network Kabillion (US), and its agreement with SVOD app Hopster was renewed just a few days ago. It also airs on KiKA (Germany), RTP (Portugal), ABC4Kids (Australia), TVNZ (New Zealand), S4C (Wales), TG4 (Ireland), MiniMini and Jim Jam (Poland), HOP! (Israel), Al Jazeera (Middle East), ETC and CBeebies (Africa), True Vision (Thailand), PTS (Taiwan), TVB Pearl (Hong Kong), Mediacorp (Singapore) and X-Media Digital (Russia).
Now the prodco is in discussions with international and UK broadcasters (excluding CBeebies) for season two.
Hoho is also looking to establish new licensing partnerships—particularly in toys, publishing and apparel—in order to help grow brand awareness in China and internationally. In the past, the company has worked with UK licensees including Penguin Children’s Books (storybooks and picture books), Aykroyds and TDP (nightwear, underwear), Tigerprint (greeting cards), Vivid (toys), Wildcard (apparel and sleepwear) and Century Books (annual).
In terms of other business, it certainly is a new dawn for Hoho, which signed an agreement with Welsh pubcaster S4C to co-produce and distribute its new preschool series Chickpea & Friends, and scored a commission for its other preschool series Shane the Chef from Channel 5′s Milkshake!
For other prodcos recovering from the blow of a series cancellation, Howells and Ellis say that with determination and creativity, there’s every reason for a brand to thrive.
“It’s all about a refusal to give up and a belief in the brand,” says Ellis. “We want it to have a continued life, and we’re very determined to see that happen.”