Boj's co-creator, David Hodgson, explains why the character is the next big thing in pre-school - Licensing.biz

Boj's co-creator, David Hodgson, explains why the character is the next big thing in pre-school

Firm heading to Brand Licensing Europe to showcase hit Cbeebies show to industry.
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Firstly, can you tell me the story behind Boj?

Our then three year old daughter Poppy was the inspiration when we moved home (to our version of Boj's 'Giggly Park') and all had to make efforts to get out into a new community and forge new friendships with very different families. And now Poppy has gone on to appear as a voice in the show alongside some of her classmates.

What are the current broadcast plans for the show?

The show launched with great impact on CBeebies in May, significantly boosting their audience share - and now they are about confirm the launch of more episodes. It is already airing on RTE Ireland and S4C Wales and has just been launched on ABC Australia. Next month it begins on Fr5 in France and on PBS Sprout in the US - in these two latter territories we can localise the voices to appeal directly to their own young viewers. We have also sold the series to French Canada, Finland, Singapore with further broadcasting deals to be announced in the coming weeks.

You launched on Cbeebies in May – how has the show performed? Do you have any ratings data? How many episodes are there currently? Do you have plans for more?

The series has already achieved great things on CBeebies. In its first month Boj had 1.7m iPlayer views and boosted the BBC's viewing audience for its time slot by an average of 50 per cent. And the show even made it to the Top 10 programmes watched on the channel, an exceptional achievement for a pre-4pm transmission. It is currently airing in a prime before-school slot and with more Boj episodes being rolled out the channel will continue to support it. (We've just delivered our CBeebies online Boj Advent calendar.)

Why do you think that Boj can now make the move into consumer products?

Our strategy has been to start off the Boj consumer products range with a set of three interactive storybook apps. Narrated by Jason Donovan, these have been a great success since launch, reaching number two in the appstore charts and garnering top-rated five star reviews. On the back on this success and the growing social media clamour we know the appetite is there for more Boj consumer products.

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Have you signed any deals to date?

In addition to the 'appbooks' we have signed a deal to create three really engaging mobile games, the first of which has just been launched on the app store with the others to follow later over the autumn.?? We are attending BLE for the first time to look at exploiting the next stage of Boj’s growth and the timing is perfect with our US and French launch new eps appearing on CBeebies. We are booking appointments for the show and are looking to secure a first raft of licensees across key categories. By appointing licensing specialists we intend to strategically manage rollout with a view to Boj becoming an evergreen brand. The next stage of Boj’s growth is focused on brand development in the UK and then eventually growing the licensing programme internationally. Boj may be the new kid but we know it’s all about steady and targeted growth in consumer products. Boj will not burn brightly and fade away, we're here for the long-term.

Which categories are you looking to target first?

We are well underway in our discussions for tie-in publishing deal. In addition to the obvious home entertainment category we'll be looking to secure a solid master toy licence alongside some more innovative partnerships to exploit our unique 'Let's Get Boj-ing call to action.

What has the reaction been like to Boj so far, from retailers, fans, etc?

Our Facebook page has been become a very busy forum for Boj fans, with plenty of inspired 'Boj-ing' from youngsters on show, along with a growing clamour for merchandise! Social media has been a key growth area with direct engagement from fans. We will continue to build this relationship with bloggers over the coming months and be able to link this back to the consumer products strategy as it rolls out in 2015.

Pre-school is probably the most crowded sector in licensing and it's very hard for new properties to break through – what does Boj have that will make it stand out for retailers and consumers? What's its USP?

Boj has many things going for it... Our hero and his family are great make-do-and-menders ("creating stuff from other stuff") and their resourceful upcycling is very zeitgeisty, appealling both to parents who want to embrace positive eco-values and to their kids who love how Boj and his creative 'Boj-a-boom ideas' inspires their free play. Boj is a celebration of back-to-basics childhood and offers an aspirational brand of hands-on childish fun and games.

What are you hoping to achieve from BLE?

We want everyone in the licensing industry to come away left in no doubt that there's a new kid on the block, Boj the bilby in Giggly Park, who can most definitely stand out from the crowd in the pre-school space, with his clear appeal to boys aged three to six, neatly packaged within a carefully balanced, gender-neutral, family-friendly environment.

How important is it to have recognisable names such as Jason Donovan involved with the show?

Jason has been great fun to work with and his interpretation of the great many wonderful songs in the show has been a real highlight. We now intend to exploit this catalogue alongside our music publishing partner EMI/SonyATV.

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How important is it to have a major broadcaster such as Cbeebies on board from the start?

It was essential. CBeebies are the only serious platform for launching a pre-school property in the UK. Equally important was landing Sprout – a pre-buy is very rare in the States and this certainly got people's attention! We know how these broadcasters nurture the loyalty of whole families and we understand the emotional connection parents develop during their time spent co-viewing with their little ones, which is why we are delighted that Boj entertains not just children but their parents too. And the brand can only benefit from the enthusiastic parental buy-in that results.

What would you most like to have achieved with Boj by the end of 2014?

What I'd like is 'I've got a Boj-a-boom idea!' and 'Let's get Boj-ing!' to have become pre-schoolers' favourite catchphrases. And of course thanks to BLE we hope to secure a few key licensees in order that Boj the brand has a good platform for further growth in 2015.

And slightly longer term, say in five years’ time?

Boj's success springs from the ground up, so we look forward to the growing phenomenon of locally organised Boj-ing at children's parties, community events, shopping centres, playgroups and schools, all inspired by a national campaign to win sought after 'Boj's Badges' - a kind of Blue Peter badge for preschoolers - which kids win for sharing their best Boj-a-boom ideas with everyone on Boj social media.

Anything else you would like to add?

I'd also like to mention that Boj is a bilby - an endangered big-eared bandicoot - and he will be the first international licensing character brand based on this cute little-known animal. We have a great interest in promoting the good cause of the Save The Bilby Fund, working to widen their environmental programme and endangered species education into schools outside Australia.

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