BBC Studios continues its path of growth and reputation for quality
by bringing the success of Bluey to the United States.
By Staci Davidson, Knighthouse Media
Bluey, a cartoon Blue Heeler puppy, Doctor Who, Jean Valjean of Les Misérables and the contestants in Dancing With the Stars do not usually inhabit the same universes, but they all share a home at BBC Studios, known around the world for producing bold, creative and beloved content. With the introduction of Bluey to markets outside of Australia this fall, BBC Studios aims to continue its hallmark of high-quality content that audiences have come to expect.
BBC Studios is the BBC’s wholly owned commercial subsidiary formed by the 2018 merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios. In its first year, BBC Studios made nearly 2,000 hours of programming, has equity stakes in 16 companies and represents content from more than 200 companies. As a result of these and many other successes, BBC Studios is well on track to meet its target of $1.49 billion of financial returns to the BBC by year five of its charter.
The company strives to continue its success with the expansion of its Bluey series. Bluey premiered in the United States in early September on Disney Junior and DisneyNOW, and airs regularly on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Aimed at preschool-aged children and their parents, the show is produced by the Emmy Award-winning Ludo Studio for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and BBC Studios. Bluey first launched on ABC in Australia last year, enjoying massive success. It was the most-viewed series in the history of ABC iview with more than 100 million plays and it was the most popular children’s show on terrestrial TV in Australia in 2018/2019.
“Bluey harkens back to old Nickelodeon shows because it has a good heart,” says Sergei Kuharsky, BBC Studios executive vice president Franchise and Digital Enterprises, Home Entertainment. “Sixty percent of Australian children were watching the show every day, and so partnering with Disney to launch in September is ideal for us. It will become a destination show when Disney+ is launched.”
Bluey follows the adventures of a lovable and exhaustible puppy who lives with her dad (Bandit), mum (Chilli) and four-year-old little sister, Bingo. In each episode, Bluey takes the everyday events of family life and uses her limitless Blue Heeler energy to invent elaborate games that unfold in unpredictable and hilarious ways, bringing her family and the whole neighborhood into her world of fun. Bluey and Bingo love to roleplay and, whether they are doctors, fancy ladies, butterflies or hotel managers, they always drag mum or dad to take part in their games. Bandit and Chilli are dedicated working parents who, tired as they might be, appreciate the value of time spent playing with the kids.
“One of the unique and contemporary aspects of the show is very much part of its core DNA – that it’s a real simple show in that it celebrates the everyday joys of family life,” says Suzy Raia, BBC Studios vice president Consumer Products and Business Development, Franchise and Digital Enterprises. “Especially in today’s family, kids are so overscheduled and play often is dictated by parents, educators and coaches. Bluey focuses on unstructured play and being creative in your own right. It celebrates the simple joys of everyday life.”
BBC Studios is focused on being a 360-degree media company, Kuharsky says, and it is communicating with a number of retailers about Bluey to develop new opportunities for the property. With Disney as the company’s distribution and broadcast partner, Moose Toys will be the global master toy partner for all territories excluding Asia. The first range of toys will launch in Australia for Christmas 2019 and in the United States and other regions in autumn/winter 2020.
“It is critical for the Bluey show to find its proper audience in the new markets, and we expect to see a big pick up in viewers as quickly as we did in Australia,” Raia explains. “We have interest from Walmart, Target and Amazon, and we are talking to all of the majors as you would expect. We are looking to launch products in the back half of 2020 in the United States, and we will sign on all key driver categories, such as apparel, sleepwear, home, packaged underwear, accessories and seasonal items.”
When looking for licensing partners, BBC Studios wants companies that truly understand the brand and demonstrate that by developing products for the fans. It looks for partners that will remain authentic to the property while also displaying the creativity for which the BBC is known. “We always have had high standards in our commercial practices, and we share those standards in the quality of our products and throughout the supply chain,” Kuharsky states. “They have to reflect the values we have. We are really excited about our partnership with Moose Toys.”
Raia notes coviewing is an important part of Bluey, with only 11 percent of kids watching the show alone in Australia. “Feedback from parents has been phenomenal,” she says, so BBC Studios wants retail and licensing partners that parents will appreciate. This includes companies that work with sustainable, responsible manufacturers, because that is a big part of BBC’s commitment to its audience.
“BBC covers a very large spectrum, but what is standard is the commitment to quality,” Kuharsky says. “The Doctor Who brand is over 55 years in the making, and last season was our 13th doctor, who was our first female. She will be returning next year. BBC Studios also offers Dancing With the Stars, Life Below Zero, and Good Omens, which is a property from authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. We have another series in development based on Pratchett’s Discworld series of books. We have global franchises looking for great partners, and properties include Top Gear, BBC Earth and Planet Earth – the natural history unit is a grand gem of the BBC. We will only be bringing those brands to life with responsibly sourced products. It is a unique point of difference for the BBC and part of our mission to communicate to our audience with the BBC editorial standards.”