Peppa Pig co-owner to launch US push

Entertainment One to roll out range of branded toys, DVDs and books after striking deal with publishers including Scholastic

The co-owner of Peppa Pig is to embark on the children’s brand’s first major retail push in the US after striking deals with two publishers including Scholastic, which prints the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games books.

Entertainment One, the London-listed company with international distribution rights to film and TV properties including the Twilight franchise and The Walking Dead, is planning to launch its first range of Peppa Pig toys, DVDs and books in the US in August now it has secured the final piece of the retail puzzle with the two publishing deals.

The deal with Scholastic involves initially three titles including a picture book, while a second agreement, with Candlewick Press, covers a series of hardcover and premium books in the runup to Christmas and for spring 2013.

“With strong broadcast, publishing and toy partners now firmly in place we have a solid foundation to build on and we are focusing on a strategy that will ensure long-term growth for the brand in the US,” said the Entertainment One chief executive, Darren Throop.

The publishing agreement is key for Entertainment One, which has been working on a deal for the best part of a year. Peppa Pig is published by Penguin-owned Ladybird in the UK, Random House in Spain and Penguin in Australia.

Entertainment One doubled its pre-tax profits to £23m in the year to the end of March.

This was thanks to a number of factors including the performance of the Twilight Saga, a doubling of digital revenues to £66m thanks to an exclusive content licensing deal with LoveFilm, and the expansion of Peppa Pig internationally.

Total revenues grew 7% to £502.7m, while pre-tax profits grew 102.6% to £23.1m.

Revenue in the film division rose 17% to £272m, fuelled by the first part of the last instalment of Twilight, with earnings up 49.6% to £35m.

In the UK film revenues grew 25%, primarily due to the distribution deal with LoveFilm.

The only problem area for the film division was the US which saw revenues fall 17%, thanks to the impact of the closure of Borders and Blockbuster’s store reduction programme.

Entertainment One said it also distributed 237 hours of television programming including the new small-screen remake of John Grisham’s The Firm and further seasons of Rookie Blue and Haven.

This helped the TV division to increase revenue by 42% year on year to £97m, with earnings up 41% to £15.4m.

Entertainment One also confirmed that it is in talks with Alliance Films, a Canadian company which financed The King’s Speech and put itself up for sale in January, as predicted by MediaGuardian in February.

“The board confirms it has held discussions with the shareholders of Alliance Films but there can be no certainty this will lead to a transaction,” said the company. “The company would only undertake such a transaction on acceptable terms, and on the basis that the directors believe it would be financially and strategically value enhancing for the company and its shareholders.”

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