Teletubbies, the toddler-sized creatures with antennas on their heads and names such as Dipsy and Laa-Laa, have been sold to DHX Media Ltd. as the Canadian company seeks to cash in on a burgeoning children’s market.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp., and Ragdoll Productions sold their joint venture that owns the rights to the Teletubbies and pre-school shows such as “In the Night Garden” and “The Adventures of Abney & Teal” for 17.4 million pounds ($27.7 million), the companies said in a statement today.
“These globally recognized brands will be highly complementary to the DHX Media library, which is now one of the largest independent libraries of children’s TV content in the world,” said Michael Donovan, chief executive officer of Halifax, Nova Scotia-based DHX Media.
Children’s characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been attracting buyers such as Mattel Inc. and Viacom Inc. which are seeking to tap demand for globally known brands. Kids’ characters are attractive assets because they generate a new audience every few years, can be easily dubbed and provide lucrative ancillary sales from licensing and merchandising.
Lunchboxes, sleeping bags and stuffed animals bearing the characters’ images provide revenue to the owner for years. Mickey Mouse, the cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney, remains one of the most popular children’s characters.
The Teletubbies, four oddball characters known as Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, aired on the BBC in 1997.
DC Advisory Partners, which sold the rights to characters including Peter Rabbit, Mr. Men and Paddington Bear in 2011 for entertainment company Chorion Ltd., handled the sale for the BBC. The BBC is one of largest platforms for kids’ content in the U.K. with its television channel CBeebies targeting pre-school children and its CBBC channel focussing on older ones.
Mattel’s purchase of Hit Entertainment Ltd. in 2012 illustrates the power of a brand’s licensing and merchandising potential, as the world largest toy company paid $680 million to add characters including Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder and Barney.
Viacom acquired a minority stake in Rainbow Group, the creator of the popular “Winx Club” Italian TV franchise in 2011. Last year, DHX Media bought peer Cookie Jar Entertainment, which owns rights including Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and Inspector Gadget, for $111 million to create Canada’s largest children’s entertainment company.