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HIT Entertainment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HiT Entertainment Limited
  • Henson International Television (1982[1]–89)
  • Gainbase PLC (1989)
  • HIT Communications PLC (1989–92)
  • HIT Entertainment PLC (1992–2005)[2]
GenreEntertainment, Children’s programming
PredecessorsGullane Entertainment
Lyrick Studios
Founded1982; 40 years ago (1982)
FoundersJim Henson
Peter Orton
Sophie Turner Laing
DefunctMarch 30, 2016; 5 years ago (March 30, 2016)
Number of locations
Key people
Peter Orton
Production output
Television Production, Children's Animation, Production
OwnerJim Henson Productions (1982-1989)
Independent (1989-2005)
Apax Partners (2005-2012)
Mattel (2012-present)
Number of employees
ParentMattel Television (Mattel)
DivisionsHiT Video
HiT Customer Products
Gullane (Thomas) Limited
SubsidiariesLudgate Ltd.
Prism Art & Design Limited

HIT Entertainment Limited (commonly known as “HiT”) was a British-American entertainment company and a label of Mattel Television. The company was founded in 1982 as Henson International Television, the international distribution arm of The Jim Henson Company, but later sold to Peter Orton in 1989. It was co-founded by Jim Henson, Peter Orton, and Sophie Turner Laing.

HIT owned and distributed children's television series such as Barney & Friends, Bob the Builder, Thomas & Friends, Pingu, Fireman Sam and Angelina Ballerina.[3] In February 2012, the company was acquired by Mattel, and in 2016 was absorbed into Mattel Creations.



Henson International Television was founded in 1982 by Jim Henson, Peter Orton and Sophie Turner Laing as a distribution company for children's, teens' and family television.[1] Orton had met Henson when he was at the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), handling distribution of Sesame Street. Henson hired Orton in 1981 to set up the company.[4]

Jim Henson Productions started negotiations with The Walt Disney Company regarding a possible purchase of the company in the late 1980s. Because of these negotiations, Henson International Television head Orton led a management buyout of the Henson International Television division from Henson in 1989, forming a new company named HiT Communications PLC.[5]

HiT continued distributing programming by initially signing popular British series Postman Pat and the long-running Alvin and the Chipmunks series. The company then financed and distributed animated feature films based on the Wind in the Willows and Peter Rabbit books.


In 1990, Flextech took a 23% share in HiT for about £600,000. The HiT Wildlife division was set up to produce nature and wildlife programming which provided the company with 35% of its revenue by the mid-1990s.[5]

HiT also handled international distribution for Barney & Friends, produced by Lyrick Studios. With the success of Barney, HiT began to develop its own programming. In 1996, HiT was listed on the AIM to raise funding; it used the funding to launch HiT Video that produced direct-to-video programming in the UK. HiT purchased the television rights for Keith Chapman’s Bob the Builder and started production on the series.[5]

With another offering in 1997, HiT increased its capitalization and move to the primary London Stock Exchange. HIT used this funding to develop some of its first original series, including Brambly Hedge, Percy the Park Keeper, and Kipper, which became its first hit on ITV.[5]

In 1998, HIT formed its own animation production company, Hot Animation, and its Consumers Product Division. The BBC agreed to broadcast Bob the Builder. HiT signed a series of American broadcasting deals starting with Nickelodeon for Kipper and expanded to Starz/Encore (Brambly Hedge and Percy the Park Keeper series), HBO Family (Anthony Ant cartoon series) and Animal Planet channel (Wylands Ocean World wildlife program). Kipper won the 1998 BAFTA award for Best Children's Animation. At the end of the year, HIT offered another group of shares.[5]

In 1999 HiT had 10 first-run TV series in the United States and started an American subsidiary. In April, Bob the Builder successfully debuted on the BBC, and in July the company made another public offering of stock. An American deal for Bob was signed in December with Nickelodeon to start airing in January 2001. Mattel signed a five-year licensing agreement for the development of the Angelina Ballerina series.[5]


In January 2000, the company split its shares five-for-one. HiT which had been looking for an acquisition, began talks with Thomas the Tank Engine owner, Britt Allcroft. The deal fell apart as they could not agree on a price. Bob the Builder continued its success with the number one record in December.[5]

HiT acquired Lyrick Studios in February 2001 while selling Lyrick's money losing publishing operations and extending its Barney-PBS deal. In May, the first Bob the Builder video was released in the United States, while the company signed a deal with Sears to have "Bob Shops" in their retail stores. The Henson Company's owner EM.TV was in financial trouble over its purchase of 50% share in Formula One racing rights, and HiT joined a number of companies willing to purchase Henson.[5] In October 2001, HiT's bid for Pingu BV was accepted.[6]

In April 2002, HIT Entertainment sold their wildlife division to the newly formed Parthenon Entertainment, which was owned by the former managing director of Hit Wildlife, Carl Hall. 30 hours of programming in production and its 300-hour library was transferred in the Management buyout agreement.[7]

After two years of bids from HiT, Gullane Entertainment's board agreed to be purchased for £139million.[8] The television shows owned by Gullane included, Thomas & Friends, Magic Adventures of Mumfie, and Fireman Sam (brought the rights from Bumper Films, in 2002). August 2002, HIT Entertainment Canada, Inc. official opened its office in Toronto.[9]

In March 2003, CCI Entertainment acquired HiT's stake in CCI (part of the Gullane Purchase) and Gullane library rights in Canada.[10] HiT’s next TV-show Rubbadubbers aired in September.

On April 1, 2004, HiT and The Jim Henson Company agreed to a five-year global distribution and production deal which included distribution of 440 hours of the Henson Company's remaining library, including Fraggle Rock, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Hoobs and Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories. In addition, the agreement also included the production of new properties, including Frances, in which both companies co-produced. Both companies co-owned the copyright to the series.[11] While firing its chief executive Rob Lawes in October 2004, the company announced its launching of PBS Kids Sprout with partners PBS, Comcast and Sesame Workshop.[12]


In 2005, Apax Partners purchased HiT for £489.4 million, taking it private,[13] with former BBC director general Greg Dyke becoming chairman.[14]

In 2006, HiT closed its DVD sales and distribution arm in the US and contracted with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for DVD distribution.[14] HiT continued to sell and distribute its own DVD output in the UK.[citation needed]

In September 2007, the corporation and Chellomedia formed a joint venture to run the JimJam children's channel.[15] HiT Entertainment opened its own toy company called The HiT Toy Company.

In 2008, HiT hired Jeffrey D. Dunn, formerly of Nickelodeon, as chief executive and moved DVD distribution from 20th Century Fox to Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Dunn drove the company to create new characters, including Mike the Knight, and to revitalize existing brands.[14] In February, HiT sold the Guinness World Records brand, acquired with Gullane Entertainment, to Ripley Entertainment.[16] They also sold the rights to the Sooty characters and properties to his current presenter, Richard Cadell. HiT had put the rights to Sooty up for sale in October 2007.[17]

In March 2009, HiT Entertainment started its HiT Movies division based in Los Angeles, with Julia Pistor as division head. Its purpose was to create films based on the company's franchises.[18] The division's first planned film adaptation was a live-action Thomas & Friends film, scheduled for late 2010.[19]

In early 2010, HiT licensed Thomas & Friends to Mattel for toys.[20] By August, the company withdrew from the JimJam joint venture, but agreed to continue providing programming.[21]

In April 2011, Apax put HiT up for sale, with the option to sell the company in two parts: Thomas & Friends franchise and the other HiT characters with its Kids Sprout stake, with either parts or separately. Several bidders came forward, including The Walt Disney Company, Viacom (now known as ViacomCBS), Mattel, Hasbro, Classic Media (now known as DreamWorks Classics), Chorion and Saban Brands.[13] By April 2011, Fireman Sam was a Top 10 UK best-selling character toy according to NPD Group.[14]

Mattel subsidiary

Last logo as HiT Entertainment from 2006 until 2008, and again used in 2009 until 2016.
Last logo as HiT Entertainment from 2006 until 2008, and again used in 2009 until 2016.

Apax Partners agreed to sell HiT Entertainment to Mattel Inc in October 2011 for $680 million. Its share of Sprout was not included in the deal.[20][22] The sale/merger was completed on February 1, 2012, and HIT Entertainment became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel,[23] managed under its Fisher-Price unit.[24] Their next programme Mike the Knight aired on CBeebies later in the year.[14]

HiT announced a DVD distribution deal with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on May 2, 2014.[25] In early summer 2015, the Edaville amusement park opened a licensed Thomas Land theme area based on Thomas & Friends.[24] On October 6, 2015, HiT Entertainment announced a long-term partnership with 9 Story Media Group to relaunch Barney & Friends and Angelina Ballerina.[26]

On March 31, 2016 HiT was absorbed into a newly-created division called Mattel Creations.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Peter Orton: Media entrepreneur who made a global success of Bob the Builder". The Independent. 12 December 2007. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  2. ^ "HIT Entertainment PLC - Overview". Companies House. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Our Brands". Corporate. HiT Entertainment. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  4. ^ Forrest, Simon (12 December 2007). "Obituary: Peter Orton". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "HIT Entertainment PLC History". Company Profiles. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Pingu sold for £16m". Business. BBC News. 2001-10-29. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  7. ^ Winstone, Keely (29 April 2002). "Ex-Hit Wildlife man firms up Parthenon". C21media. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  8. ^ Cassy, John (6 July 2002). "Gullane gives in to Barney bid". Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  9. ^ Godfrey, Leigh (August 22, 2002). "HIT Entertainment Canada Opens Its Doors". AWN. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  10. ^ "CCI takes Gullane titles back from Hit". May 26, 2003. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  11. ^ "The Jim Henson Company and HIT Entertainment Establish Worldwide Distribution And Production Venture" (PDF). The Jim Henson Company and HIT Entertainment. April 1, 2004.
  12. ^ Martinson, Jane (21 October 2004). "HIT fires chief who pulled off US deal". Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  13. ^ a b Garside, Juliette (13 April 2011). "Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder may part company in HIT sale". Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d e Garside, Juliette (April 17, 2011). "How to get Hit Entertainment back on track?". Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  15. ^ Chala, Jean K. (February 28, 2009). Transnational Television in Europe: Reconfiguring Global Communications Networks. I.B.Tauris. pp. 123–124. ISBN 9780857717474.
  16. ^ Allen, Katie (14 February 2008). "Guinness world records brand sold to Ripley's for £60m". Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  17. ^ Langsworthy, Billy (January 14, 2014). "Richard Cadell on saving Sooty, brand longevity and stage shows". NewBay Media. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Afan, Emily Claire (March 4, 2009). "HIT goes to the movies with newly formed film division". Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  19. ^ Hayes, Dade (4 March 2009). "Hit Entertainment gets into movie biz". Variety. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  20. ^ a b Kell, John (October 25, 2011). "Mattel to Buy HIT Entertainment". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  21. ^ "Hit pulls out of JimJam JV". Digital TV Europe. TBIvision. October 22, 2010. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  22. ^ "Barbie maker Mattel to buy Thomas the Tank Engine owner". BBC News. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  23. ^ Szalai, Georg (January 31, 2012). "Mattel's Acquisition of 'Thomas & Friends' Maker HIT Entertainment to Close on Wednesday". Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  24. ^ a b "HIT Lays Tracks for Thomas Land". License! Global Magazine. UBM. June 17, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  25. ^ McLean, Thomas J. (May 2, 2014). "HIT Taps Universal for Home Entertainment Distribution". Animation Magazine. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  26. ^ Vlessing, Etan (October 6, 2015). "MIPCOM: 'Barney & Friends' Set for Relaunch by Mattel, 9 Story". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  27. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (March 31, 2016). "Mattel Creations Formed To Centralize Toy Giant's Theatrical, TV & Digital Content". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Archived from the original on June 5, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.

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This page was last edited on 20 January 2022, at 12:41
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