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We Need to Talk About Kids

Will EnnettWith discussion on millennials at fever pitch, writes Talk Talk's head of TV Content Will Ennett, have we overlooked the even younger audience of kids? Is this the space within the television ecosystem which is moving the quickest? Have we utilised new technologies to make the user experience, features and content all more specifically appropriate for the younger age range?

How is their viewing behaviour changing and what can that tell us about the future of TV viewing?

A lot of big questions to answer and I will pull together some of my own recent readings and observations. One area I won’t address below is Youtube. The service is clearly having a big impact on the kids television market, and not just in number of users. The innovation in content creation through traditional players, vloggers and fans is rapid and I would expect it to have a big impact on the overall market, but I will focus on traditional content players for now.  

Firstly in this brave new world, new services offering on demand kids content is growing by over 130%.

New services are proliferating; DisneyLife are launching services over the top (OTT), direct to consumers, but the marketplace has also seen many new entrants such as Hopster and Corora.

These services are not limited to video and offer a range of services that kids (and their parents) find enticing – music, books and in particular games.

In fact a common theme for kids is their comfort in dealing with these multi-purpose apps and could be an indicator for how other genres adapt.

If the new OTT services are booming, there is evidence of linear viewing for kids content in decline more so though than other genres – this is UK specific but has been seen in other markets.

However, traditional distributors of content are creating new environments to capture kids’ viewers. In the UK market BBC iPlayer Kids presents a new way of accessing catch up shows such as In the Night Garden and Show Me Show Me – a new child friendly user interface and with specific features for the parent and child alike.

Again, using UK data it is however interesting to note that kids have not turned their back on the television set – they are, like many other audiences, interested in watching content on the biggest and best viewing experience they have available.

At TalkTalk we used much of this learning to launch our own new kids remote control  designed specifically for preschool kids. What were we trying to solve for?

Parents don’t feel it’s safe to leave their kids alone in front of TV because they might either mess up with the TV settings or watch inappropriate content. Moreover, they said it was a struggle getting kids to switch off the set for bedtime.

 We also wanted to engage the true customers as well! By engaging with hundreds of kids we realised that they want to be independent in front of TV and use the TV remote in the same way their parents do.

We have looked to address these with a remote which gives the kids control, but in an environment locked to appropriate shows. In a round carousel kids can select episodes of Paw Petrol or Peppa Pig from nick jnr, PJ Masks from Disney Jnr and Fireman Sam, to name just a few. We also designed parental areas to set time limits and reports on viewing, as well a bedtime reminder, to help solve problems parents had.

Testing and researching with a school we came up with a remote control that fit into small hands, had a circular navigation that was the preferred way to find the episodes, and a bright colour scheme to suit younger tastes. 

And for those who can get it right and land a kids service that works, the reward is lucrative. Again using the BARB report, households with kids are more likely to have pay TV services and additional OTT subscription services.

So to sum all this up I think there are a few things that the current kids market may tell us about future direction across the television landscape:

  1. Kids want to watch on the biggest screen – and mobile apps work when they offer something unique for that screen size (books and games for kids)
  2. Linear viewing may be in decline but certainly not dead and there is healthy level of new OTT entrants and on demand innovation in the market to keep the sector healthy
  3. If you can create the right product there’s a strong future and a customer base willing to give it a try and not simply substitute but add new services!