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OTT Video Is Kids Play

23 Feb, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With Netflix eyeing a global footprint within two years and Amazon Prime upping membership more than 50% in 2014, over-the-top video is booming. So too are OTT platforms targeting children.

Netflix was the first to target the demo in 2011 with the “Just for Kids” platform featuring Nickelodeon episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dora the Explorer” and “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” among others.

Hulu launched Hulu Kids in 2012 — hiring Andrew Thomas from The Jim Henson Co. to head content acquisition. Last summer, Amazon Prime Instant Video launched two original animated series, “Tumble Leaf” and “Creative Galaxy,” targeting preschoolers. It also released live-action adventure “Annedroids,” aimed at kids through 7 years old.

Next month, Nickelodeon plans to bow a kids OTT video service featuring much of the programming Viacom stopped licensing to Netflix in 2013.

To underscore the importance of OTT video, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman Feb. 19 announced internal restructuring at the media company that upped Cyma Zarghami to head the expanded Viacom Kids and Family Group, which includes all the brands in the Nickelodeon Group.

"We are working hard to adapt to changing audience behavior, to incorporate new forms of distribution and to better integrate technology into everything we do,” Dauman said in an internal memo circulated online.

Connected Households, Connected Kids

Households with kids are shaping both connected hardware ownership and digital content consumption. Households with children under 8 are significantly more likely to be digital video consumers than those without children, according to Futuresource Consulting.

The London-based research company suggests the demo is twice as likely to have canceled (cut the cord) their pay-TV subscription in the past 12 months. Households with children under 12 are also twice as likely to subscribe to Netflix than the households without children.

And where Netflix goes, the competition isn’t far behind.

In France, where Netflix launched service last September, broadcaster TF1 Feb. 5 launched the country’s first kids-centric SVOD service — Tfou Max — targeting children in three age groups: Preschool, 6-8 years old and 9-12 years old.

The service, which boasts upwards of 3,000 animated titles, including exclusive series “Calimero,” “Totally Spies,” “Maya The Bee,” “Lassie” and “Barbapapa,” costs $4.50 monthly.

“Our key asset is the attractive price, but the broader idea is to offer premium videos and propose children things they don’t watch elsewhere. Two-thirds of the lineup is not coming from the TF1 channel,” Olivier Abecassis, managing director with e-TF1, said in a statement.

In the United States, Amazon Studios announced a deal with venerable TV producers Sid and Marty Krofft to develop a reimagined pilot of 1970s children live-action series “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”

Krofft’s live-action fantasy shows were mainstays of Saturday morning TV 40 years ago. They made their TV debut in 1969 with NBC’s “H.R. Pufnstuf,” which centered on the adventures of a boy named Jimmy, a talking flute and a six-foot dragon. The series, which introduced the brothers’ mix of live-action and puppetry, was later made into a Universal Pictures movie.

“Sid and Marty are geniuses and we are honored to be working with them to bring to the world a return of what we believe is TV’s most fabulous and funniest sea creature ever,” Roy Price, VP of Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Cinedigm and Bright Educational Media Feb. 10 announced a partnership to launch “Bright,” an OTT digital channel featuring “edutainment” for kids.

“Bright” is centered on live-action, learning and education-themed content designed to reach preschool and elementary school-aged children, as well as their families. Original series are mixed with exclusive acquired content to provide a unique value-proposition for the children’s television space.

"We believe providing over-the-top viewing options is the wave of the future. The more unique partnerships and channels we can create, the better able Cinedigm is to serve this dramatically expanding market,” said CEO Chris McGurk.

Hulu Kids’ Andrew Thomas said entertaining the whole family, including kids, on demand, on any device, in any environment is a critical motivator for OTT subscriptions. This is especially true for younger families Thomas said are digital natives and find OTT/SVOD to be natural complements to their daily lives. 

“Parents of younger children enjoy the convenience of being able to hand-pick content with an educational mission and a joyful tone,” Thomas said.

Kids Going Mobile

In addition to connecting with consumers directly, OTT video lends itself to parents on the go accompanied with minors. It’s not unusual to see children in supermarket carts holding tablets, phones or related portable devices watching video.

In 2012, Amazon bowed “Free Time Unlimited,” a subscription service targeting kids (and parents) offering a buffet of children’s movies, TV programming, games and ebooks — all accessible exclusively via the Kindle Fire tablet.

“It’s been a perfect storm of factors,” said Mike Lowe, founder of Kidoodle.TV, a SVOD service. “Society has become mobile and kids want their own devices without competition from their parents.”

Indeed, one in three children in the U.K. has their own tablet, which is nearly double since 2013, according to Ofcom research. Among children aged between 5 and 15, 34% have their own tablet, up from 19% in 2013. Six in 10 (62%) children use a tablet at home, which was up from 50% from 2013.
“Kids are tech savvy. They are accessing and learning about tech at earlier ages and [streaming video is] becoming an integral part of their lives and education. It’s not an option to not engage in tech,” Lowe said.

Unique Content

Access to content via OTT has become easier and parents are using the opportunity to both entertain and educate their kids. This has created a sophistication in consumerism and the demand for original programming.

Kids now expect access to information, content and experiences any time, anywhere on any chosen topic, tailored to their lives. They want to discover content that is relevant to them "in the moment," either on their own or as a shared activity.

“OTT has content that networks don’t have so a new kind of discovery is possible, and that’s why you’re seeing the success of content from YouTube,” Lowe said.

Indeed, Kidoodle.TV Feb. 18 announced license deals for programming originating on YouTube. True Blue Media Productions’ “Alex & the Kaleidoscope, “Tea Time With Tayla” (BrightMoon Productions) and “Dinostory” from Rainbow Songs reportedly have a combined viewership of 74 million on YouTube.

“Feedback and data received from our users has made it clear — today’s kids demand diverse content not found on traditional television,” said CCO Jared Dielwart.

In 2013, Amazon inked a license deal with Viacom for “Dora the Explorer,” “Go, Diego Go,” “Blue’s Clues,” “The Backyardigans,” “Team Umizoomi,” “Bubble Guppies,” and “The Legend of Korra,” among others.

Prime Instant Video’s top three licensed kids shows are “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dora the Explorer” and “iCarly.”

“Amazon customers have always had a strong interest in kids’ content, and it’s been central to our offerings from day one. Kids’ content has always been available on Amazon Instant Video for rent and purchase and on Prime Instant Video for subscription, along with DVDs and Blu-ray Discs,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement.

Popcornflix Kids, an ad-supported OTT platform, licensed episodes of “Musti,” a children’s 3D animation series distributed in more than 25 countries. “Musti” has been updated with more than 50 new episodes that follow the antics of an adventurous kitten and his animal friends as they learn to interact with others and the world around them.

In addition, it offers “A Very Wompkee Christmas” and “The Hidden Treasure of Wompkee Wood,” an animated episode and movie that follow the exploits of a band of courageous elfin friends. 

Popcornflix Kids also features “Big Comfy Couch,” animated classics like “Call of the Wild,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Viewers can also watch classic cartoons like “Popeye” and “Betty Boop” as well as animated series “Puppy in My Pocket” and “Sky Dancers.”

“We see OTT services for kids as the wave of the future: a la carte programming, no cable fees, and giving parents the ability to choose wholesome, family-friendly material for their children to watch,” said David Fannon, EVP of Popcornflix.

In addition to animated series “Zou,” and new episodes of original show “Doozers,” Hulu Kids is developing better ways to discover content with special themes, including “Girls Rule,” which features content focusing on uplifting and celebrating strong, smart and confident girls, according to Thomas.

“We believe this kind of programming distinguishes our service and keeps the experience fresh and relevant to our audience,” he said.

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