Firstly, can you give me some brief background information on Horrid Henry?
Horrid Henry was born following a conversation between the author, Francesca Simon and an illustrator friend who claimed to be fed up drawing angelic characters. Francesca’s response was to create Henry, the rather naughty and wilful little boy who is not only a literary star (selling over nine million books in the UK alone), but now a TV star with his own series on CITV. Published by Orion Books, which plans to publish a new Henry title every month from February to October 2008, CPLG is now handling merchandising and licensing rights.
Can you tell me some more about the TV show?
The core audience is six to nine year-olds. It’s on CITV every day and ITV at weekends. It’s a huge success – Horrid Henry ranked as the best performing series in July with an average 7.5 per cent share and has also been the best performing show on the CITV channel in 2007 so far.
To date, how many licensees have been signed up and who are they?
Obviously, publishing is the cornerstone of the licensing and merchandising programme and is where Henry was born, but CPLG is looking to develop Henry beyond this and into other categories such as toys, puzzles and games, stationery and greetings cards, as well as licensed promotions.
Blues Clothing will be developing a nightwear and underwear programme, which they hope to bring to market for late spring/summer 2008; the home entertainment team at Abbey Home Media also issued the first Horrid Henry DVD in April 2007 and has sold over 50,000 units with plans for two more releases this year, Tricks & Treats in September and Underpants in November.
When do you expect the main wave of product to be available?
We hope that the first wave of products will hit stores in late spring/early summer 2008, which is perfect timing and ties in with the Easter holidays. Of course, Henry loves the outdoors (with his super soaker and his tree house) and CPLG hopes to bring to market a range of outdoor/activity products just in time for the summer.
Are there any other categories you’re looking to licence Horrid Henry into?
Toys is one of our main focuses right now and we hope to have a master toy confirmed in the next few months. We are keen to see Henry on product outside of the normal ‘boys’ ranges which tend to dominate licensing programmes. For instance, Henry’s naughty nature lends itself perfectly to a licensed range of jokes and tricks – everything from itching powder to whoopee cushions.
We are also keen to look at extending the apparel range through 2008 and want to target boys stationery for back to school. Traditionally, boys stationery has always been a challenging area, but if anyone can break the mould then it’s Henry.
Have you done any direct to retail deals?
To date this is something on which we haven’t focused as we are keen to build the programme through a solid licensee base. Any direct to retail deal would need to cover off a number of categories, as we would want to ensure a strong range in-store with high visibility.
As a programme – and a brand – what makes Horrid Henry stand out?
From a licensing point of view he’s simply a joy. His solid fanbase is fantastic, but one of the most wonderful things about Henry is his appeal to both boys and girls and to parents.
For boys and girls, Horrid Henry is a real champion on their level as he suffers from the same frustrations as most kids, allowing them to relate to him. Kids can see the consequences of his behaviour – he does the first thing that comes into his head – with the result sometimes ending in his favour, sometimes not.
For parents, Horrid Henry has been the character that compelled their kids to start reading, which is always a great thing. At the heart of his appeal is his naughtiness and the humour of the strong storylines. The book sales also tell a compelling story and with a great broadcast platform, Henry covers the bases that some kids brands can only dream of.
How difficult is it nowadays to launch a new children’s property? Do you think it really needs to have the backing of a book line or TV show before it’s a success now in the licensing world?
From a licensing perspective, a book or TV brand is not guaranteed instant success, so when taking on a new property an agent must look at it from a 360 degree approach.
There is incredible competition, especially in the kid market, with many properties vying for a limited amount of retail shelf space.
Therefore it is important for any new kids property to have the potential to capture a child’s imagination, which Henry clearly has. The challenges, however, are often at retail and as such it has been a key part of our strategy on Henry to fly the flag amongst buyers, maintaining our discussions with them to bring Henry to the market at the optimum time.
In addition, the current retail environment is such that those concepts with the greatest awareness and promotion are easiest to get to market, so with sales of the Horrid Henry books exceeding nine million copies, the licensed merchandise is in a fairly strong position to elicit a similar response from the consumer.