Its videos have been watched more than 3.6bn times since it was launched in 2011 by a UK-based couple, and is currently one of the top five channels on Google’s online videos service.
Now Little Baby Bum has signed a licensing deal to launch a range of plush-toys based on its animated characters, including nursery-rhyme staples like Incy Wincy Spider and Baa Baa Black Sheep.
The toys will be made by Commonwealth Toy, which also made the popular Angry Birds plush-toys, as well as products for brands including Care Bears and SpongeBob SquarePants.
“We’ve got some prototypes being made at the moment, and we’ll concentrate on between five and eight characters initially,” Little Baby Bum co-founder Derek Holder told the Guardian.
“We will probably do a soft launch first on Amazon and our own website to see how they fare and understand which characters are most popular, which will give us a bigger story to take to retailers.”
Angry Birds and Talking Friends have made the transition from children’s apps brands to physical toys, but Little Baby Bum’s deal is the first time a children’s YouTube channel has made such a move.
“It’s big news for us, and for YouTube as well: this hasn’t really been done before,” said Holder. “This is hopefully the first of many licensing deals, and a really important one as it’s the first domino to fall. We’ll hopefully be getting [book] publishing deals as well.”
Little Baby Bum continues to be one of the most popular YouTube channels, with 393m video views in the last month alone.
These kinds of numbers are what attracted licensing firm Surge Licensing, which brokered Little Baby Bum’s toy deal, having previously turned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from an indie comic-book into a global entertainment brand.
“I noticed the view numbers and I had to blink several times. In fact the numbers seemed so huge that I thought I was mis-reading them,” said Surge president Mark Freedman, adding that Little Baby Bum’s production values also made it stand out from the YouTube crowd.
“I felt that Little Baby Bum was destined for greatness beyond the digital landscape. I had the same feeling 29 years ago when I discovered a fledgling independently-published comic-book series entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Holder said that Little Baby Bum will flesh out some of its characters to make them more appealing as toys. “We’re toying with the idea that Baa Baa Black Sheep might be an explorer of some kind, as we’ve always got him flying around in spaceships,” he said.
“Maybe Incy Wincy Spider is a scientist. These are public-domain characters that have been around for hundreds of years, but we want to give them a bit more personality that children can latch on to.”
Holder added that Little Baby Bum’s growth on YouTube shows no signs of tailing off, with the channel’s Wheels On The Bus compilation now the service’s 20th most popular video of all-time.
“We’re rubbing shoulders with the big guns. It’s Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, videos by Eminem, Shakira, Rihanna... and Little Baby Bum!” said Holder. “We’re also the fourth biggest channel of all-time in the UK: a few months ago we jumped over Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, the BBC and Ed Sheeran.”
Little Baby Bum is now setting its sights on overtaking the second and third most popular British YouTube channels, Minecraft gamers Stampy and The Diamond Minecart, as well as top-ranked One Direction.
“If things carry on as they have been, maybe by Christmas we’ll be number one,” said Holder. “This is a train that doesn’t seem to stop running. It just gets faster and faster, and more exciting.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Monday 10th August 2015 07.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010