Ludorum’s flagship series, Chuggington, has all the elements of a modern pre-school property. Alongside its traditional TV series on CBeebies, Chuggington also has its own website, where kids can not only download books, wallpapers and colouring pages, play flash games, watch clips of the series and sign up to the Chuggington newsletter, but can also ‘become a Chugger in Chuggington and join the virtual world.’
A parents area will also allow adults to monitor their childrens’ progress with the games and the virtual world once it is fully launched.
Not only does the Chuggington brand use up-to-date communication paths, but it also features a contemporary design and the trains, or Chuggers, are all based on modern-day vehicles relevant to children of today. The series exemplifies Ludorum’s forward thinking beliefs as Julian Day, VP of UK licensing, explains: “Ludorum believes the market now demands more than ever that specialist companies create global franchises appropriate for all forms of IPTV [internet protocol television] as well as classic linear TV. These must be properties that benefit from the best creative execution for all platforms and commercial opportunities consistent with the funding requirements of the global market today.”
Experience in creating such brands is present in bucket loads at Ludorum as the founders, Rob Lawes, and Charlie Caminada were previously CEO and COO of Hit Entertainment prior to its buyout, while Dick Rothkopf was the co-founder and former CEO of toy business, Learning Curve International.
During their time at Hit, Lawes and Caminada managed global franchises such as Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder, giving them a unique insight into what it takes to create a successful global children’s brand.
Following Hit’s takeover in May 2005, the trio set up Ludorum in April 2006 and Chuggington is their first IP. The initial series launched in September 2008 on CBeebies. Since then, it has sold to over 140 countries including Germany (Super RTL), France (TF1) and Australia (ABC).
Day continues: “Worldwide response to the property has been very positive and early television ratings in the UK and Germany have been extremely good.”
Licensees already on board include RC2/Learning Curve as master toy. Day explains: “Ludorum had a strong relationship with RC2 through its chairman and also our EVP of concept and development as well as through our previous experience with the Bob and Thomas toy lines. To date, Learning Curve has developed some exceptional toy concepts and we are working closely with them to develop extensive lines for retail launch in spring 2010 worldwide.”
Also on board is Parragon Books as publishing partner in all English speaking markets excluding the US and Canada. An infrastructure of international agents is also lined up to roll the brand out across the world. Ludorum is currently looking for an interactive gaming partner for Chuggington and is in talks with potential companies.
Alongside this IP, the firm also represents all worldwide rights, excluding publishing, for Dennis and Gnasher and Marvo the Wonder Chicken on behalf of Scottish publisher and 20 per cent stakeholder in Ludorum, DC Thompson. The firm will also continue to review several new properties presented from third parties and looks for those who meet the criteria set for its commitment to long-term investment.
The company is planning to remain small and focus on the three properties already in its catalogue. Dennis and Gnasher has a launch on CBBC in the autumn of 2009, rolling out globally with a licensing programme from 2010 onwards.
Following a successful 2008, Ludorum plans to build on the portfolio in 2009 and for the foreseeable future will be sticking with kids properties. Day explains: “The children’s sector is where our experience lies and although it’s a crowded and competitive marketplace, it is still a good place to be. We feel confident that Ludorum’s properties are strong enough propositions to compete with leading kids TV brands.”
This specialism becomes clearer when asking Day what he sees as the ingredients for a successful property or brand: “First class creative execution on a television on a television series that raises the bar in every aspect and stands out in an otherwise highly competitive marketplace and optimum broadcast platforms for whom the reward of acquiring a property is the potential of long-term ratings that help to underpin their schedule.”
Day concludes: “A property must also address powerful play values that meet the expectation of parents across the world and in all cultures and that also offers a wide licensing, publishing and home entertainment opportunities. Above all, a creative premise that, with good execution, can deliver all of the above across several generations.”