We Speak to Kate O’Connor, Director of Brands and Licensing at BBC Studios

The Bugg Report spoke to Kate O’Connor in May last year (2022) to discuss all things relating to the 100th Anniversary of BBC Studios and the iconic brand portfolio including Doctor Who, BBC Earth, Top Gear and Bluey. One year later and we once again had the chance to check in with Kate to see how things are going across the BBC Studios portfolio!

Kate, thanks so much for speaking to us and to start I thought we could talk about Bluey and what has been happening with content and consumer products?

We always like to focus on partnering with best in class brands, that stay true to Bluey’s relatability and humour, so this year’s been no different in that regard.

We have to mention the success of the Series Three episodes in Australia, which are obviously the springboard for our consumer products and events. The episode that premiered over Easter in Australia, Cubby, actually achieved an audience of nearly 1.5 million — the highest by any Bluey episode since the series premiered in 2018. And over in the US we reached the number one spot for an acquired show back in April, beating the likes of Ted Lasso and Succession! So Bluey is bigger than ever, which gives us even more incentive to surprise and delight our fans with new products and experiences.

A major launch recently was the Colgate-Palmolive personal care range. We’ve sold over 1.84 million units within the oral care range, so the natural next step was hair, hand and bodywashes which have just hit shelves.

We also released a new album, “Dance Mode”, on CD, vinyl and streaming platforms, and it went straight to #1 on the ARIA charts. Some real bangers on that one, I’ve been playing it to my two-year-old and it’s definitely his favourite album of the year.

And we know the Bugg Report loves a new toy, so we’re pretty excited about the latest Moose playsets to hit stores. The Hammerbarn playset is a Bluey fan’s dream, standing at nearly 60 centimetres tall, and it features the voice talents of Hamish Blake, who plays a Hammerbarn employee in the show. Plenty of excitement from fans on that one given the cult status of that episode.

So yes, lots happening with Bluey, and lots still to come, with our “Five Years of Bluey” celebrations kicking off in October and new content in the pipeline.

Hey Duggee has been adored by so many fans for almost 10 years now and I believe that Season 4 launched earlier this year in April?

The Squirrels are still going strong! The show’s very funny, with a touch of the surreal, and it really resonates with both little and big kids, as it has a quirky sense of humour that parents love too. Series 4 launched on ABC Kids & ABC iview in April, and we’ve released new books, toys, partyware and puzzles to complement the new episodes. Some of our most popular items are the new Dinosaur and Cooking Take and Play sets, which feature themed accessories.

Lots has been happening with BBC Earth also with the latest series of BBC Earth launching this past April, the Minecraft x Frozen Planet II partnership and the BBC Earth Experience launching in the UK?

We’re really excited about all the BBC Earth activity, it’s a very strong brand globally. Frozen Planet II launched over here in April on Channel Nine and it stunned Australian audiences with its breathtaking visuals and emotional scenes. The Minecraft partnership is an interesting one as it’s opening up a new generation to BBC Earth. We created five free Frozen Planet II worlds, with educational content on a wide range of subjects, accompanied by lesson plans for teachers. And the BBC Earth experience, well that’s next level. The attraction in London features footage from Seven Worlds, One Planet, with bespoke narration by the one and only Sir David Attenborough and projected on to multiple screens. It is a truly spectacular experience for all ages and will be coming to Australia later in the year, which we are very excited about.

Another much-loved brand in the BBC Studios portfolio is Doctor Who which celebrates 60 years in 2023… I am sure you have much to announce as a result?

60 years is huge, and we know how dedicated our fans are so we know we have to deliver some really special moments. We’ve announced three 60-minute specials, which will feature the return of fan-favourites David Tennant and Catherine Tate. We’re excited to have Russell T Davies back in the driver’s seat as showrunner, as he’s credited with propelling the show into a global phenomenon. And we’re also thrilled about the new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, of Netflix’s “Sex Education” fame – he’s been cast as the 15th Doctor for the new series which will air on Disney+ outside of the UK.
Finally, could you provide an update on the Andy Day live tour earlier this year in January?

It had been four years since Andy came to Australia, so fans were understandably fizzing when he came with his “Andy’s Amazing Adventures” live show in January. It toured all over the country and sold over 25,000 tickets. We initially announced 28 shows but added eight due to demand, so it was a great success! We can’t wait to do more with Andy, including some fun products that are in the works.

This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 44