eOne Eyes International Upside for ‘Peppa Pig,’ ‘PJ Masks’

Peppa Pig

The company is looking to grow the preschool TV franchises with a measured approach.

Peppa Pig has been a preschool-kids TV hit in the U.K. for more than a decade. Its licensing business also is on track to surpass $1 billion in retail sales in 2015.

The show also launched in China this year, opening up a big new market. No wonder that Entertainment One recently agreed to take a controlling 70 percent stake in Astley Baker Davies, the U.K. producer behind the popular cartoon character, in a $212 million deal. The deal increases eOne’s control of the rights to the franchise to 85 percent.

International growth for Peppa and other kids properties is one key opportunity of upside, according to company executives.

"In China, Peppa Pig just launched this year on CCTV, their national public broadcaster," says Olivier Dumont, managing director of eOne Family. "It's doing very well. On the back of it, we have therefore launched a licensing and merchandising program in China."

And the company has been negotiating deals with digital platforms in China. After all, "digital consumption in China is extremely high, higher than markets like Japan," he explains.

In markets where Peppa is well established, eOne also is carefully and deliberately expanding. "We are going to be diversifying our activities on Peppa in each of the markets," says Dumont. "The aim is to sustain the success that Peppa is experiencing. Peppa is 11 years old now in the U.K. and is still doing extremely well as the No. 1 pre-school brand in the U.K."

That deliberate and measured approach is mirrored in the licensing business. "The element of managed rollouts is really, really important," says Andrew Carley, head of global licensing. "We launch into a marketplace with a very measured rollout, don't saturate the market, let the product meet or exceed expectations, let the market be hungry and grow organically from there." TV launches always lead the charge, with licensing following later. "Growth is organic, and it is led by broadcast," he explains.

Preschool superhero cartoon series PJ Masks is a newer priority for eOne.

Disney Channel picked up the CGI-animated series worldwide. It debuted simultaneously on Disney Channel and Disney Junior in the U.S. on Sept. 18, to be followed in France on TV5 in December. Next year, it will roll out on Disney Junior channels worldwide.

"It was initially an EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] deal, but was transformed into a worldwide deal," says Dumont.

PJ Masks follows three young friends who at night become superhero alter egos Catboy, Owlette and Gekko to solve mysteries and learn life lessons. eOne handles global distribution and licensing.

"PJ Masks is our next focus," says Carley about his team. "It's a true global opportunity." PJ Masks toys are expected to reach more boys, while Peppa is bigger with girls.

And what's next beyond PJ Masks? "Peppa is our mainstay business, and has been for the last 10 years," says Carley. "We also got Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom from the same creators." The show recently sold to Nick Jr. in the U.S. "We launched that licensing program a few years ago in the U.K. and that has also rolled internationally, not as broad as Peppa," explains Carley. "We are looking to complement that offering with new shows, but the philosophy is never to have a multitude of shows. We recognize that the success of Peppa is down to the detail. You can't do that if you have 20, 30 shows."

eOne's TV strategy is in sync with that. "We want to pick up very, very few brands, but do them in-depth and very well," says Dumont. "In order to not be in competition with ourselves, we are developing content more in the girls and boys [age] 6-9 space. We have pre-school quite well cornered."