Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang will soon make friends with the Teletubbies, Inspector Gadget and other kids’ characters.
Canada-based DHX Media Ltd. announced Wednesday it signed an agreement to buy the entertainment division of Iconix Brand Group Inc. in a $345 million deal that would include Iconix’s majority stake in the Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake brands.
“Peanuts is one of the world’s greatest entertainment brands, with a tremendous global legacy of comics, animated content and consumer products reaching back almost 70 years,” said Dana Landry, chief executive of DHX Media, in a statement.
It’s also a beloved local brand, created by Charles M. Schulz, who grew up in St. Paul and brought the characters to life almost 70 years ago. The agreement gives DHX 80 percent of the controlling interest in Peanuts, with 20 percent to still be held by the Schulz family.
“DHX Media feels like a perfect fit for Peanuts,” said Jean Schulz, widow of Charles Schulz, in a statement. “We respect their innovative and rich history with developing children’s shows and brands, and we look forward to working with Dana and his team to steward Peanuts in the future.”
DHX will have 100 percent of the interest of Strawberry Shortcake. DHX already controls several youth-oriented brands including Teletubbies, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Inspector Gadget and the Degrassi franchise. DHX expects Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake to expand its consumer products business from 19 percent to 44 percent of the company’s total annual revenue.
Peanuts is a powerhouse brand even decades after its comic strips first appeared. In 2015, Peanuts generated $1.3 billion in retail sales in the United States. Peanuts’ licensees include Hallmark, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Its animated television broadcasts such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continue to be top-ranked television specials.
Iconix has had a controlling stake in the company since 2010.
In 2015, “The Peanuts Movie” debuted in 3-D and grossed about $45 million in its opening weekend. Last year, Peanuts also made a splash on the small screen in the United States with a new animated series that premiered on Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
The idea behind Peanuts, which among other themes shows the relationship between a boy and his dog, is still relatable, said Lori Yeager Davis, president of Minneapolis marketing firm Martin Williams.
“It’s this beloved brand because of the timeless characters and stories,” Davis said. “I think it really transcends generations and culture.”
The challenge with an iconic brand is to make sure it stays authentic while exploring new themes that reflect modern times, she said.
Despite how classic of a brand Peanuts has grown to be, it still faces tough competition to appeal to today’s children who access a lot of their cartoons on YouTube as opposed to in a newspaper. Last year, life insurer MetLife decided to discontinue the use of Snoopy and other Peanuts characters in its marketing after more than 30 years.
In a Wednesday webcast, DHX said it had several different plans to re-energize the Peanuts brand including introducing new products, pursuing new licensing opportunities and creating regularly updated digital content.
The deal is expected to close near the end of June.