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European Business DHX gains rights to Teletubbies with purchase of U.K.’s Ragdoll

Canada's DHX Media has acquired In the Night Garden, Teletubbies and 10 other children's series with the purchase of the U.K.'s Ragdoll Worldwide Ltd. for approximately $28.4-million.

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A four-year-old Canadian boy hoping to make friends around the world is about to get some help from a colourful quartet of babytalking aliens.

DHX Media Ltd., the Halifax-based production and distribution company that owns the children's TV show Caillou, is buying Ragdoll Worldwide Ltd. an award-winning British outfit whose properties includes the global hit Teletubbies. The acquisition announced this week, for about $28.4-million from BBC Worldwide and a group that includes Anne Wood, the founder of Ragdoll, gives DHX all international rights to 12 shows. In the Night Garden, another popular kids' show, is also included in the deal.

DHX says the acquisition, which adds 1,353 half-hour episodes to the company's holdings, makes its library of now about 9,800 half-hours one of the largest collections of children's television shows in the Western world.

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The company expects the large library will give it more leverage in its negotiations with so-called over-the-top TV services such as Netflix.

"We're able to be now the leading suppliers of children's programming to the streaming videos in general, and Netflix specifically," said Michael Donovan, DHX's chief operating officer, in an interview. Children's programming is one of Netflix's pillars, but the streaming service suffered a black eye in the spring when Viacom pulled its shows such as Dora the Explorer from Netflix and sold them instead to Amazon's Prime Instant Video.

Mr. Donovan added the acquisition might also help DHX in its effort to sell programming directly to consumers. Last May, the company became one of the first content suppliers to open its own paid subscription channels on YouTube: DHX Kids, DHX Junior, and DHX Retro. But while consumers are familiar with the company's shows, such as Inspector Gadget and The Doodlebops, they are not as aware of DHX itself.

Teletubbies, which according to DHX has amassed more than 286-milllion views on YouTube for its five most popular episodes, may help bring attention to DHX's other offerings such as Caillou.

"We see Teletubbies as being an important part of that going forward," said Mr. Donovan. "We've launched (the three YouTube channels) under fairly generic brands. We are in the process of reimagining that branding, and perhaps branding them around iconic titles."

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