Silvergate Media's SVP commercial, Ron Allen talks to Licensing.biz about the global success of Octonauts.
What makes the Octonauts so popular in the boys’ licensing space?
I think it is thanks to the strong action-hero character line-up, fast-pace, eye-popping special effects and great storytelling.
It’s also full of amazing science facts, super vehicles, fun gadgets and subversive comedy moments. The Octonauts don’t wear capes or have super-human powers, but they have adventures which involve solving problems and rescuing interesting creatures every single day. That’s a strong draw.
Can you talk us through the latest Octonauts news?
We are still expanding globally, after six years. We are established as an evergreen IP in territories like the US, UK and Australia and we have been extremely busy activating TV and merchandise launches in some very important new markets, led by Asia, Southern Europe and Russia.
Alongside this, our broadcast platform has expanded thanks to support from Netflix and other SVOD partners, while over on YouTube, we have clocked up an impressive one billion views globally.
There’s big content news too; Season Five launches in Autumn 2018, bringing another 26 episodes to air. These will feature a new character – a red panda called Mapmaker Min – as well as new creatures, including the endangered giant salamander and an exotic mix of habitats such as the Florida Everglades, the rivers of Africa, the Volcanic Islands of Australia and the Yangtze River.
In merchandising, the new growth markets mean we are seeing first-ever products, six years after UK launch. This includes construction toys, augmented reality publishing and educational toys.
We are also working with our partners on new interactive digital content so fans can drive their own Gup for 2018. Finally, we are going to see the best toy plan ever from Fisher-Price next year with innovative new colour-change toys.
Why do you think the brand has seen such big success in China?
While the brand is growing very fast in Southern Europe, Russia and Asia generally, we’re staggered by its progress in China. Toy sales are showing triple digit growth, four million books have sold in just 18 months and three million people turned out to mall events across the summer.
Broadcast figures continue to soar and web TV views have recently hit ten billion.
Octonauts has proved so successful in the region that for the show’s fifth season, we have CCTV on board as co-producers and this will provide a significant boost for broadcast exposure on the channel.
I think it’s the mix of genuine science and great fun that has made it a big hit with Chinese families and we will continue to tailor activity for the market – for example, we are including a special Salamander adventure based in China in Series Five.
How does this compare to the rest of the Asian market?
Well, we have just launched Octonauts in Taiwan where the show now airs on Eastern Broadcasting’s cable channel YoYo TV and is also airing on EETV. Our master global toy partner Fisher Price will introduce toys into the market this Autumn and will support the launch with nationwide retail events and meet and greets.
We’re also extremely proud of Octonauts’ success in Korea where the brand enjoys excellent ratings and ranks as a top five pre-school toy property. In partnership with our licensing agent, Earlybird, we have assembled a robust merchandise line-up that includes 29 licensees and covers 86 product categories.
In the past year, we have activated a successful nationwide theatrical tour at Lotte cinemas and a live show is currently underway. It really is an exceptional achievement for a foreign IP to experience this level of popularity in Korea.
Are there any new Octonauts deals you can tell us about?
Yes, our master toy partner Fisher Price will launch new vehicles and new colour change toys for Series Five next year. We have also renewed our longstanding partnership with Sea Life Centres in the UK, the US and Australia until 2019.
Above all, the expansion into China and Asia is bringing us new licensing deals with toy companies, mall owners, retailers and attraction developers.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Octonauts remains a solid favourite on CBeebies and is integral to their offering, both on linear broadcast and iPlayer. We are continuing to expand the franchise, a great example being the Octonauts rooms at the new CBeebies Land Hotel.
How does Octonauts tap into the educational market, is it an educational brand?
The show is full of real science, but above all it’s a show which entertains. It’s about travelling the oceans, having adventures and rescuing creatures. But kids do like to learn real facts and Octonauts is jam-packed with them.
It’s creating a generation of young experts in marine conservation issues and we know that this aspect of the show really appeals in new markets like China, Korea and Russia.
When children get to school they find themselves learning about places, creatures and topics they first encountered with Octonaust. That is why it’s an amazing property to work on.