×

Beano, Revived and Rebranded for Today’s Kids

A fresh new kids TV studio is making waves in the U.K. and is aiming to gain traction in the hyper-competitive global content market including the U.S.

Beano Studios is based on the U.K.’s longest surviving comic, “The Beano,” which in its 1950s heyday sold 2 million copies. The studio may be new — it was launched in 2016 — but the inspiration behind the venture is venerable.

Owned and published by the same Scottish family, D.C. Thomson, since launching in 1938, “The Beano” has delighted generations of British kids who devoured the comic’s cheeky, somewhat subversive rebelliousness that lampooned school teachers and other authority figures. The stories featured such rebellious characters as Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street kids. Today, “The Beano” has undergone a digital makeover. Some veteran characters have been tweaked to make them more inclusive.

One of the most popular new characters from the rebooted “Beano” is Rubi, a gadget-loving girl in a wheelchair. “Her popularity is off the scale because she is a very with-it young girl who is in firm control of what’s going on in the gang,” says Emma Scott, founder and CEO of Beano Studios.

And Dennis still exists, but in his 21st century digital reboot he is a bit of a rascal but not as naughty as he once was. In his American incarnation, to be unveiled later this year, he will even have an American accent.

“Dennis and his friends are mischief makers, but they don’t set out to do any harm, they’re really good to other kids,” Scott says. “They get themselves into scrapes because they like to test the boundaries and take risks. That’s a universal truth about all children.”

Scott stresses that the revamped Beano is a broad digital entertainment platform and has hired digital specialists from a range of backgrounds. They include British pubcasters Channel 4 and BBC News as well as YouTube and Twitter.

Beano.com bowed in fall 2016 and will be given a U.S. launch in the next few months. The site features online games (“Spot ‘The Beano’ characters from their jumpers,” Scott says), videos (“How to draw a pug in 20 seconds”) and listicles (“Explanations for the Bermuda Triangle”) — all fashioned to tempt today’s choice-saturated 6- to 12-year-olds.

Driven by Beano.com, remarkably, the comic’s print sales (around 35,000 a week) have recently grown by 10% in the U.K.

A 52-part animated series, “Dennis and Gnasher Unleashed,” is a hit for U.K. kids’ channel CBBC. The show has been sold across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australasia and a sale in the U.S. is being targeted.

For parents, part of the appeal of Beano.com is that it offers a safe space in a dangerous online world. The site is COPPA (the U.S. Children’s Online Protection Act) compliant.

“We don’t collect data around individuals or use cookies,” Scott says. “That allows us to work with advertisers. The bar is quite high to be COPPA-compliant, but it is important that we are. Choice is a great thing if you know what you’re looking for. But not if you’re relying on happenstance to find something.”

Crucial to the continued success of Beano.com (more than 1 million users have visited the site) is keeping up with kids’ changing tastes. So-called Trendspotters (a panel of 20 9- to 12-year-olds) are sounded out weekly to find out what’s going down in the playground. This research shows that President Trump is a constant source of fascination.

“When we cover him we get disproportionate traffic,” Scott says. “He comes up a lot in their world in school. In the U.K. they’ve got clear ideas about him, irrespective of social class or where they live. It surprised us and it’s not going away. They worry about him. They don’t understand why he doesn’t like Mexicans. To them, he is a bit of a villain.”

Unlike Dennis, the erstwhile Menace.

More TV

  • Maya Hawke'Once Upon a Time in

    Maya Hawke Reflects on Robin's 'Stranger Things' Coming Out Story

    Robin Buckley shocked viewers everywhere when she came out as a lesbian to Steve Harrington on the floor of a bathroom stall, but actress Maya Hawke says the twist wasn’t always set in stone. Hawke tells Variety that it wasn’t until episode four or five that she and the Duffer Brothers came to a final decision [...]

  • Love Island - Pictured: Kyra Green,

    TV Ratings: Is 'Love Island' Deserted?

    Two weeks have passed on “Love Island” and plenty of singles have coupled and uncoupled in their bid for love and a fat $100,000 pay check. However, there’s one couple that doesn’t seem to be hitting it off: CBS and “Love Island.” Ratings for the show have been far from paradisiacal, and with the network [...]

  • Jenny Wall Eryk Casemiro Nickelodeon

    Jenny Wall Named Nickelodeon CMO, Eryk Casemiro Named Senior VP of Nickelodeon Preschool

    Nickelodeon has hired two new executives, tapping Jenny Wall to become chief marketing officer and Eryk Casemiro to become senior vice president of Nickelodeon Preschool. Most recently CMO at Spotify-owned Gimlet Media, Wall will be responsible for all on- and off-air consumer marketing, brand creative and content launches across all of Nickelodeon’s platforms, including Nicktoons, [...]

  • Liz Garbus on Why We May

    Liz Garbus on Why The World May Never Know 'Who Killed Garrett Phillips'

    By the time Liz Garbus’s two-part documentary “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” debuts on HBO, there could be a new public lead in the case of the murdered titular 12-year-old. As least, that’s what many may hope after the new St. Lawrence County district attorney admitted a new tip earlier this spring. Garbus says she would [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content