MIPTV: Jim Henson Co. Partners with HIT

HIT Ent. and The Jim Henson Co. have entered into a five-year global rights and production venture. The deal was announced today in Cannes by HIT chairman Peter Orton and Jim Henson Co. co-chairs and co-CEOs Brian Henson and Lisa Henson.

HIT, owner of such popular preschool properties as Bob the Builder, Thomas & Friends and Barney, will distribute Henson’s award-winning classic family properties across various platforms, including television, home entertainment and consumer products. The Henson catalog includes the ACE Award-winning titles Fraggle Rock and Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas; the BAFTA Award-winning Jim Henson’s The Hoobs; the BAFTA-nominated Jim Henson’s Construction Site, Jim Henson’s Mopatop’s Shop; and the Emmy Award-winning Jim Henson’s Mother Goose Stories. The deal does not include titles involving The Muppets or Bear in the Big Blue House, the rights to which were recently acquired by Disney.

In addition to the distribution deal, the arrangement provides for the production of new properties, which will also be distributed by HIT. The first of such projects is Frances, a new animated preschool program based on the best-selling Frances Treasury series of books. This deal is the first formal collaboration between the two companies, although they have a common heritage with HIT’s founder Peter Orton, who previously led Henson’s international TV sales division.

Lisa Henson comments, “HIT’s demonstrated success with many well-known brands makes them an ideal co-production partner for our new preschool properties such as Frances. The show, using Henson’s proprietary CG animation technology, will be one of the most innovative productions ever created for young children. We look forward to developing other imaginative and exciting projects with HIT under this new venture.”