Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Battle for switched-on kids

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

Share |

For Broadcast November 05, 2015

Competition for young eyeballs is hotting up

Who are the most fickle viewers of TV and online content? Which demographic is hardest to pin down when it comes to their likes and dislikes? Likely it’s the kids, from pre-schoolers to young teens.

The range of choice for this group is absolutely massive and the young ’uns are smarter than most at finding what they want, when and where they want it.

Ofcom tells us that one in three youngsters aged between five and 15 has his or her own tablet, while BSkyB says that 30% of 8 to 11 year-olds have one.

HBO chief executive Richard Pepler has said this generation needs to be addressed through new services, such as its SVoD launch HBO Now, which he describes as a “Millennial missile”.

The scramble for young eyeballs is getting more frantic.

In September, the BBC announced it will launch a version of iPlayer just for children, putting everything from Wolf Blood to The Clangers onto an easy-to-operate app platform. The service, with the working title iPlay, will also offer blogs, podcasts, live events and educational tools.

But director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb is playing catch-up when it comes to on-demand, given that downloads of children’s content on iPlayer in the first half of 2015 nearly doubled compared with the same period in 2014, hitting 500 million.

Meanwhile, BSkyB hired its first head of kids’ content, Lucy Murphy, in September to create an on-demand mobile service, while its dedicated kids’ app is expected next year.

Sky’s volume of children’s on-demand programming will explode from 700 episodes today to a whop- ping 4,000. “It doesn’t mean TVs are being kicked out,” Murphy told an audience at the IHS PEVE Entertainment Business Futures conference last week, “but this service will be a new access point.”

Other companies in the space are growing. Hopster is a UK-based pre-school SVoD app that encourages kids to both play and learn. It offers a catalogue of cartoons and shows, many of which are paired with learning games that use the touch screens of tablets and smart phones.

Chief executive and founder Nick Walters thinks now is the time for Hopster to start commissioning original content. He believes there are a lot of great ideas that are not “a natural fit” for broadcasters and that Hopster can offer kids’ producers a faster route to getting something made.

And then there is gaming, which can probably teach us all a thing or two about the kids of today and what they want. King Digital Entertainment, the British company behind Candy Crush, was sold this week to Activision Blizzard for $5.9bn (£3.8bn), a 25% premium on its valuation before the deal. The majority of Activision’s revenues come from console games, so a spend of that size on a mobile gamer is an indication of where it thinks the industry is going.

We might laughingly call our kids ‘cost centres’ (with a nod to the FT’s business agony aunt Mrs Moneypenny, who coined the phrase), but this industry needs to see them as profit generators and future adults. Don’t underestimate the battle to get their attention.

Columns Menu