Lewis Tyler

By Lewis Tyler

May 30th 2012 at 2:04PM

CreaCon?s City of Friends has been a runaway hit in its native Norway and is now making its mark in the UK pre-school sector. But can this success on screen translate into on-shelf sales?

It's one of the most crowded, but also potentially one of the most lucrative areas of the children’s market. But with a raft of mature brands, and a good smattering of newer properties which have carved out success, any new pre-school show – and subsequent merchandising programme – looking to make an impact needs to have something pretty special and unique about it.

Norwegian firm CreaCon Group believes City of Friends has both those qualities in spades.

“Our vision was to create a TV show that was held together by rich stories and characters that children could relate to and staying true to the themes of teamwork, friendship and working together,” explains Carl Christian Hamre, CEO of CreaCon. “We also recognised the uniqueness of creating a show around all three of the emergency services and bringing them to life in a fun way.

“By creating a city of animals and people working side by side, we invited our audience into an imaginative and playful world.”

City of Friends first aired in its native Norway and the rest of the Nordics in 2010, with its popularity steadily climbing; indeed current ratings show that the series is up 14 per cent from autumn (August to December) to January 2012 among two to 11 year olds. In the UK, it debuted on Channel 5’s Milkshake in October 2011 and, according to February ratings, it has seen a 50 per cent increase in reach among children since launch. It is also the fifth most popular show on Milkshake’s VOD across all genres of programming, with more than 1.3 million children tuning-in to episodes. On a wider scale, City of Friends has been sold into more than 150 countries.

Linda Vabo, director of products and licensing at CreaCon, says: “As City of Friends began to grow in popularity in the Nordics, we appointed Plus Licens to build our licensing and merchandising programme for this region initially and then the rest of the world. In the Nordics, the L&M programme is now quite well established, with partners across all categories. We have also recently appointed FWD Licensing as our agent for the Middle East, where there have been growing interest in the series.”

However, says Vabo, the firm’s focus is now firmly on the UK market. One of its key goals is to appoint a master toy partner for the UK, and it is currently having a number of discussions with potential partners, while other categories are also under consideration.

To support the push, Vabo will be backed up by Henrietta Garnett to lead the licensing and merchandising programme for the UK. She has been charged with the appointment and managment of the master toy partner and all other category partners for the territory.

CreaCon will also be hoping to replicate the success enjoyed in Norway in the live entertainment arena. Following a series of stage shows in Norway, the firm is now embarking on a live arena show and is hoping to sell in excess of 20,000 tickets over four days.

Undoubtedly, CreaCon’s ambition now is to develop City of Friends into a worldwide franchise.

Hamre continues: “As we were going through the creative process in developing the TV series, we knew that the stories were resonating strongly among our pre-school audience and saw how children really understood the messages within the show. After the huge success in Norway and the rest of the Nordics, we had always hoped that this could be replicated around the world and we are on the right path to creating a global franchise.”

Vabo concurs, and also adds: “We are aiming to continue our strong growth throughout the year across all lines of business for CreaCon Group.”