'Peppa Pig' Popularity Drives eOne's Global Growth

Courtesy Everett Collection
Entertainment One’s Peppa Pig franchise is broadcast in more than 180 territories.

Since the Toronto-based company turned down a $1.3 billion takeover offer in 2016, the indie studio has seen its stock boosted by the franchise based on the cartoon swine.

On Feb. 5, the Chinese New Year, Alibaba Pictures and STX Entertainment will unveil the Chinese-language Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year in 65 theaters in the U.S. after a wave of interest in China garnered 1.63 billion social media views on a hashtag related to the movie.

For Entertainment One, the Toronto-based film and TV producer with more than 1,000 employees, the project is just the latest iteration of a franchise that the company says generates $1.2 billion in sales of merchandise related to the show annually. And eOne, which owns the Peppa Pig kids property and has Mark Gordon running its production business in Los Angeles, has seen its shares rise sharply of late on sale chatter.

While sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that eOne has not received a formal proposal, the domino effect of recent industry mergers and acquisitions has the indie studio considered a target company to watch in 2019. (The company declined comment on sale speculation.) eOne has been accelerating its broadcast and licensing drives for its Peppa Pig property in Asia, which has helped push its library rights value from $1.7 billion to $2 billion, according to the company. The franchise is said to have 117 new episodes in production, with content planned through 2023. (Peppa airs on Nick Jr. in the U.S.

The studio is shifting from film distribution via individual territories and more toward production of its own movie titles. eOne recently announced Universal Pictures International is taking over its theatrical film distribution duties in Australia and New Zealand, and more such regional output deals are expected in the near future, say sources. As eOne's fortunes have risen, CEO Darren Throop sold 1.5 million eOne shares for 385 pence each for roughly $5.2 million after their value spiked in January. (He still owns 7.2 million shares in his company.)

EOne is said to be prioritizing around several parts of its business: Designated Survivor producer Mark Gordon and eOne Television; the family unit, driven by its Peppa Pig and PJ Masks franchises; international sales and production operation Sierra/Affinity; partnership in Amblin Partners with Steven Spielberg, Participant Media and Reliance Entertainment; and Brad Weston's film and TV producer Makeready.

U.K. broadcaster ITV in 2016 dropped a $1.3 billion bid to buy the Canadian company to expand its TV production business after eOne turned the offer down. Still, notes one market observer, "The share price of eOne has gone up dramatically since their previous approach, so they are off the table, although you can never rule it out."

A version of this story also appears in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.