As digital companies continue to play larger roles in creating, distributing and controlling their original IPs, it’s surprising that the industry has not seen more deal-making opportunities like the one UK-based Hopster recently struck with Shaun the Sheep producer Aardman.
Last month, the preschool SVOD service appointed Aardman to distribute its original content worldwide, including a pair of five x two-minute series—science-themed Clever Brenda and musical show Hopster Jam—as well as the platform’s brand-new one x six-minute animated holiday special, The Little Toymaker.
The move reverses the standard TV-out method of original content distribution, with Aardman now holding distribution rights to Hopster originals covering free- and pay-TV broadcasters, VOD channels and home entertainment. The deal is also timely for Hopster, given that more than half of the platform’s engagement currently comes from its original content.
“If we look at the shows we produce ourselves, these perform as well as or better than a lot of the content that we license,” says Hopster founder and CEO Nick Walters. “It’s no great secret that we have some beautiful and very expensively produced long-form shows on Hopster, but we did not spend long-form budgets on our originals. We were much more focused on spending a smaller amount to try and create something that was really unique to us.”
Walters adds that broadcasters are increasingly moving towards additional digital modes of consumption and distribution. “The fact is there are more and more people in the industry whose first thoughts are not TV. And I think we can include some of the public broadcasters in this camp, as well as a few pay-TV platforms,” he says. “For example, look at what the Sky Kids and Virgin Kids apps are up to. Could some of these be platforms we license content to? Absolutely. Could some of them be companies we co-produce with? Again, absolutely.”
Hopster’s Aardman deal follows a fruitful period for the service, which recently launched a STEM-themed hub and a digital playroom for autistic kids. The company also notched a win at the 2018 Kidscreen Awards in the digital preschool category for Best Streaming Video Platform.