WILL MR. BLOBBY HAVE LEGS OUTSIDE U.K.?

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LONDON-Mr. Blobby, the television character whose popularity in Britain has generated more than 250 products and $13.6 million in sales, has passport in hand.

But so far no one is racing to roll out the red carpet as fast as might be expected given his wild success here.

British Broadcasting System Enterprises, responsible for marketing and licensing the pink character, is trying to get Mr. Blobby novelty merchandise into stores and Mr. Blobby himself on TV in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and throughout most of Europe.

The popular seven-foot-tall character is played by an actor in a latex costume who speaks through an amplified voice synthesizer. The resulting voice sounds something like Darth Vader on amphetamines, except that Mr. Blobby says only one word: "blobby."

Although the affable Mr. Blobby has captured the imagination of this country, there is some question about how well he will travel.

Since his introduction in the fall of 1992 on "Noel's House Party," a zany variety show for adults and kids which does everything from celebrity interviews to practical jokes, the bumbling-yet-lovable Blobby has been licensed for plush toys, balloons, books, a video and audiotapes. A hit single, "Blobby, Blobby, Blobby," topped the British charts for three consecutive weeks around Christmas 1993.

In the last 12 months, Mr. Blobby has been BBC Enterprises' biggest money-earner, at $1.02 million. "We have never seen anything like it in our lives," said Angela Strettle, sales development director for Orchard Crown, a Preston, England-based licensee that sells Mr. Blobby balloons and inflatable figures. "Mr. Blobby has been bigger than Jurassic Park, even bigger than the Ninja Turtles."

John Howson, head of licensing at BBC Enterprises, the BBC's marketing arm, said the international push makes sense because 60 licensees already sell hundreds of Blobby-branded products in Britain.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful," said Mr. Howson, "if we got Mr. Blobby a spot on the David Letterman show?"

Before that, however, BBC will have to sort out whether he has overseas potential or whether he is destined simply to remain a fat British clown in a pink rubber suit.

Television viewing research, however, indicates that although Mr. Blobby is popular, he may attract a lower-income audience, one that spans many age groups and possibly limits his advertiser appeal.

But attract he does. Aided by regular appearances from Mr. Blobby, "Noel's House Party" was able to attract an average of 48% of the total British viewing audience during the show's 21-program run which ended March 26, according to BARB/David Graham & Associates, an audience analysis company.

The BBC doesn't sell ads, so it's unknown what advertisers would be attracted to Mr. Blobby. Research has shown that the biggest single demographic group watching the show during the period came from the "unemployed or unskilled" category, with 31% of viewers falling into this group. Viewers from the high-income "management and professional" group accounted for only 13.8% of viewers, according to BARB/David Graham. The research also shows no single age group accounts for more than 16.8% of viewers.

But Michael Gury, VP-product marketing for BBC Lionheart Television, the New York-based subsidiary of BBC Enterprises, says the mushy demographics have more to do with the nature of the "House Party" show and its Saturday early evening time slot than with Mr. Blobby himself.

"We are focusing on Blobby very much as a stand-alone character, as a kid's character," he said.

For Lionheart, Mr. Gury's effort to establish BBC children's television as a brand represents a significant departure from the unit's traditional business of distributing and co-producing shows for American television.

In Europe, the merchandising potential of Mr. Blobby will depend upon whether he is first accepted as a character. Stations in the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have bought options to create their own versions of "House Party," which may or may not include Mr. Blobby. Stations in Germany and France are also interested in the show, but not necessarily Blobby.

Just how far Mr. Blobby can go is anybody's guess, as Mr. Howson happily admits. "Honestly," he said, "we didn't think this would get as big as it has."

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