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‘You really need to speculate to accumulate’

Jo Killingley from Dot to Dot Productions tells us what she’s learnt on her licensing journey.

Jo Killingley entered the world of kids’ TV in 2004, when she gave up her job as a primary school teacher to found Dot To Dot Productions. She has since devised and produced a host of top-rated programmes for kids, including Big Cook, Little Cook, Get Squiggling, Fun With Claude, Art Ninja, Footy Pups and School of Roars.

Here she tells us about her licensing journey:

I first dipped my toe into licensing waters with Big Cook, Little Cook – a show we did for the BBC from 2004 to 2006. It was very popular on the channel, so there was a lot of interest, BBC Worldwide handled the licensing for us.

It did really well – the DVD was the second highest selling on the market, only topped by Teletubbies, and we also signed deals for books, toys, cookery sets, lunch bags and more. It was a big success.

Then, after such a good experience, came a bad one. We invested a lot of time and energy into developing a licensing programme for a show called Get Squiggling, an art show which was broadcast on CBeebies a decade ago. Just like Big Cook, Little Cook it had great ratings and we had high hopes, but our publicity drive launched just as the financial crash hit in 2008 – and our hopes of a strong programme crashed with it. There just wasn’t the money there and licensees weren’t prepared to invest in a new property.

So, what have I learnt about licensing through all this?

Well – other than trying to avoid global financial meltdowns – I think the biggest lesson is that it’s vital to work collaboratively with licensees. Brand creators must provide as many assets as possible to help ensure the products are true to the series, which is ultimately what the consumer wants.

Also, I think the creator or producer of a property should come to any pitches. When it’s your baby, it gives you so much more passion and knowledge about the brand, which makes you the best person to sell it. Once you get licensees on board it’s important that you listen to them, as they know what works for their particular audience.

Art Ninja airs on CBBC and already has a partner signed up for stationery and craft sets.

Some licensing companies are very pro-active and have come to us, which is refreshing and makes us want to partner with them – as they have shown passion for the property from the outset. But there is also a lot of chasing, which has surprised me. I thought licensing companies would monitor ratings and jump on top shows on TV before anyone else does, but that’s not always the case.

What’s more, I’ve found that you really need to speculate to accumulate and that means going to as many licensing fairs and events as possible and meeting the right people. Drawing up a wish list of those you really want to speak to and making a beeline for them is a good place to start – they can only say no! You need to get as many meetings in your diary as possible, admittedly this isn’t easy – as licensees can be hard to pin down – but the more people you speak to, the more success you’re going to enjoy.

My experience of the licensing sector is now helping us to develop three of our latest properties: Footy Pups, the CBeebies show that introduces youngsters to the beautiful game; Art Ninja on CBBC, which teaches kids how to create their own amazing art at home; and School of Roars, a pre-school animation featuring Kathy Burke and Sarah Lancashire that follows five little monsters starting school.

Jo and her team are in talks with toys, puzzles and apparel partners for School of Roars.

School of Roars is performing particularly well. We already have Hachette on board as our publishing partner and Signature for DVD, while Redan, Immediate and Kennedy are featuring it in their magazines. We’re in talks with more potential partners about toys, puzzles and pyjamas and from there the property will grow further.

We’ve also had success with Art Ninja, which is the top rating art series for 6-11 year olds on CBBC. A partner is signed up for stationery and craft sets that will go on sale in a major shop chain from autumn 2018.

But we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re working with some brilliant consultants who are helping us to connect with the right people and get our brands out there. Everyone is telling us that School of Roars and Art Ninja in particular have huge potential, as they are both top rating in their respective age groups.

So, the future is looking bright for our licensing story!

Jo Killingley is founder of Dot to Dot Productions. She can be contacted on

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