For a brand which has only been on air for just over six months, Chuggington has certainly made its mark. A bit like its owner, Ludorum, which was only formed in 2006. But both company and brand are flying at the moment.
Shortly after Ludorum was set up, the creative team started work on developing what it wanted to be a major 21st Century train-based property that had the potential to become a global franchise. Cbeebies came on board in 2007, with Chuggington airing on September 29th 2008 on BBC2 in the UK, followed by a launch onto Cbeebies on January 5th 2009.
“Audience ratings have reached over 550,000 individuals on some days and in February, Chuggington was the number one show on Cbeebies 16 out of 22 days,” Julian Day, Ludorum’s VP of UK licensing tells ToyNews. “The show is the third highest rating series on Cbeebies since the channel began.”
Ludorum is now aiming to repeat this success across the globe. As of April 8th, Chuggington has launched in six countries – Germany, Australia, Canada, France and Ireland (as well as the UK) – however the series has sold to 145 territories worldwide and will arrive in almost all of them throughout the course of the year.
Day continues: “The early ratings demonstrate that the show has been as successful in the three foreign language markets which we are airing in, as it is in English speaking countries. We are looking forward to Chuggington’s launch into Japan following the multi-rights agreement we’ve just signed with Fuji Television Network. Chuggington is the first new western property that Fuji have acquired for over ten years, which is a great achievement and underlines the international appeal of the brand.”
Now it’s established on screen, the next step for Chuggington is, of course, the licensing programme. Ludorum has already got several key partners in place – RC2, Character World, Aykroyd & Sons, Halsall and Gemma International – while it has also been building a strong network of international agents to support and manage the brand globally. Ludorum is now eyeing up the interactive and live events areas.
A good indicator of consumer reaction to Chuggington has been the DVD sales, with the first title notching up week one sales of 13,187 when it was launched at the end of March, making it the highest new entry for that week.
Of course, getting Chuggington established as a property is only half the battle; Ludorum now has the task of keeping its profile high in what is a particularly challenging sector of the market.
“We’re story arching and scripting series two, which will be another 26 x ten-minute episodes for delivery in early 2010,” says Day, “and we’re currently considering how the series can develop through to series three, which is posted for delivery in 2011. New character developments are underway and we will also be building out the Chuggington World.
“2010 through to 2012 will see a significant roll out of product across all categories of toy and licensed rights including a major publishing programme. Crucially, we are committing in excess of $2.5 million to a major online programme which will see the launch of a fully interactive Chuggington virtual world. This will be a very important companion piece to the television series and to the overall enjoyment of the Chuggington experience.”
Plenty to keep the Ludorum team busy going forward, then, but Day is confident that all their hard work will pay off; in five years time he wants Chuggington to be seen as “a major global franchise that has successfully raised the bar in every aspect of the property and to have a show that will continue finding new audiences for a long period of time”.
Day believes that Chuggington can go on to join that elite group of evergreen brands, but he knows there will be hard work on the way and that it needs considerable investment in the best creative people and commercial partners.
“We hope the show can make a very strong connection with its audience and [it can be an evergreen] because it has been created to offer entertainment and social values that are universal, but above all very well executed.
“Competition means we have to continue raising the bar on everything we are offering our audience through this property and our audience and parents must be able to recognise this,” Day concludes.