The Bluey Factory: A Breakdown of All the Money Behind the Popular Children’s TV Series

Bluey is an undisputed hit. Despite its Australian origin, the BBC and Disney+ are getting the juiciest slice of the cake.

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Bluey is one of the most popular TV shows of the moment, and not just among children. The final episode of its third season attracted over two million viewers across different channels, and it was also one of the top ten most-watched streaming shows in the U.S. in 2022.

The show’s intricate plots, filled with clever clues and details that might be overlooked by children, spark discussions and commentary among adult fans. In fact, these adult fans follow the show even more closely than children.

The series features pleasant colors, highly detailed designs, and educational plots of somewhat unusual depth for this type of production. Both the BBC and Disney distribute the show on their respective channels and platforms, bringing the adventures of Bluey and her charming family to audiences worldwide.

In reality, things are a bit more complex than that. Disney is responsible for streaming the show on Disney Junior in the U.S. and on Disney+ internationally. Meanwhile, BBC Studios is in charge of global distribution and holds the show's merchandising rights. The partnership between Disney and BBC doesn’t stop there, with the broadcasters recently joining forces on the new season of Doctor Who on Disney+.

Bluey's Australian Origins

The animated series originates from Australia. Creator Joe Brumm developed the show in the early 2000s while living in London and working on other animated series like Charlie & Lola and Peppa Pig. In 2009, he returned to his native Brisbane, Australia, and toyed with the idea of creating an “Australian Peppa Pig.” Inspired by his own family, he designed the characters, their experiences, and behaviors.

Initially, Brumm portrayed the character of Bandit, Bluey’s father, as a disastrous role model for his children, resembling a dog version of Homer Simpson. However, after studying the psychology of play and observing how his own daughters played, he transformed Bandit into an ideal playmate, almost like another child in the family. His own observations and experiences inspired the storylines of Bluey’s episodes.

In 2016, after abandoning the idea of making Bluey an adult series, the creator made a one-minute demo and started to try to find it a home. Ludo Studios took an interest and expanded the demo to five minutes. By chance, a BBC executive bought the distribution rights before development had even begun. The show premiered on ABC Kids in 2018. When Disney stepped in, in 2020, it was time for global expansion.

Bluey quickly became the most-watched show in ABC’s history and any of its parallel channels. The show’s success has turned it into an icon. Bluey had its own with a giant balloon in the Macy’s Christmas parade in New York City. To date, it's won three Emmys and a Bafta, among many other awards. As if that weren't enough, celebrities like Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have declared their devotion for Bluey, and stars like Natalie Portman have made voice cameos in the series.

Show Me the Money

As is usually the case with animated children’s shows, Bluey’s success has led to a wide range of merchandise and derivative products, which have reaped significant benefits for the BBC. There are over a thousand Bluey-themed items available, including a successful play in the UK and a video game developed by Spanish studio Artax, released in late 2023. However, like many other Bluey products, the video game comes with a high price tag of almost $40, despite only offering gameplay lasting between one to three hours.

Of course, there's also going to be an amusement park. Called "Bluey’s World," the park is set to open north of Brisbane, Australia. According to Australian outlet The Financial Review, officials expect visitors to spend around about $12 million when the park opens. 

The BBC, which holds the series’ exploitation and merchandising rights, has seen a substantial revenue boost. In 2023, the British public broadcaster experienced a significant 28% increase in profits, reaching about $2.5 billion. There was also a 10% rise in consumer product sales (dolls, books, etc.). According to the The Financial Review, part of the broadcaster's impressive growth can be attributed to Bluey.

We’re currently living in a time where children’s products, such as movies based on toys and video games for all audiences, are gaining popularity. This comes after years where blockbusters, including Marvel and Star Wars, were mostly targeted at people in their 30s. The recent success of movies like Barbie and Super Mario Bros., along with several toy-based productions in the pipeline, is a clear indication of this trend.

ABC director David Anderson was asked on ABC Radio why he let the exploitation of Bluey slip from Australian hands. He replied: “Who knew it was a unicorn?”

Image | Disney+

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