It seems fair to throw this question to the people running digital services first. Hopster’s Nick Walters selects his own service as the one with most potential, but also sees promise elsewhere. “I think PopJam is really interesting and a promising take on doing social for kids in a way that’s cool, doesn’t condescend, but still ticks the ‘safety’ boxes,” he says. “I’ll be interested to see where the new owners take it.”
Andrew Cole-Bulgin, cofounder of Komixx Entertainment, is a fan of the platform Walters runs. “Hopster is a fantastic digital platform because it creates a safe environment for children to view a vast array of content that has a global appeal,” he says.
Among most execs, however, the question about the most promising digital platform boils down to Netflix (and to a lesser extent Amazon Prime Instant Video) versus YouTube.
“For pure video, it has to be YouTube, especially the kids version for the under-sixes,” says Jetpack’s Dominic Gardiner. “All broadcasters and content creators will develop a YouTube partnership strategy if they want to access the next generation of kids. The ultimate killer platform will be the one that combines the scale of YouTube’s content with the play patterns of Minecraft.”
Discovery Kids is one of the biggest linear pay channels in Latin America, and its director of programming and acquisitions, Flavio Medeiros (left), says Google-owned YouTube’s reach means it is the platform with the most potential. “It would be YouTube because they have global reach and can aggregate shortform content in a kid-friendly way,” he says.
Fayez Weiss Al Sabbagh (right), president of Middle East-based kids entertainment conglomerate SpaceToon, is another supporter. “As a free VOD platform, YouTube is the king in kids content,” he says. “The only concern is the non-kids content that children may end up watching without their parents’ approval. Now, with the YouTube Kids App, things could work much better for YouTube.”
Not everyone is convinced YouTube has done enough to monitor its kids content. The CMC’s Greg Childs opts for Netflix as the platform with the most potential, on the basis the YouTube kids app is not yet “safe and seamless”. “If YouTube were to really focus on kids, as opposed to giving them lip service in half-hearted approaches to their search functionality, then it could be very powerful,” he says.
“Amongst older children [9+] it is already predominant, but the money is in preschool.”
Reducing the question to ‘which platform?’ is only part of the issue for Ben Butterworth, boss of Q Pootle 5 prodco Snapper Productions. “All TV will soon be on a digital platform, so for me it’s still about the quality of the content,” he says. “YouTube Kids is exciting, it is truly global, and with no subscription has real potential if it can be harnessed – though it’s a big if.”
Children’s TV veteran and Tricon Kids, Family & Animation EVP Frank Saperstein (right) says Netflix already has a competitive advantage. “It has built the biggest moat around its business and has changed the way both kids and adults consume content and talk about TV,” he says.
Andrew Berman, senior VP, global sales and distribution for Genius Brands International, takes up the point. “Netflix has already proven its potential in terms of kids content,” he says. “In a very short period of time, it has transformed itself into a global kids content service with a plethora of original content being produced exclusively for its platform. It has also managed to reinvigorate the animation industry.”
Look a little deeper, however, and the Netflix offering starts to appear thin compared to that of the traditional kids channels, says YFE’s Paul Robinson. “Netflix has done a lot to provide a reasonable kid’s service to help it sustain and grow its business model, but it’s far from comprehensive in terms of depth or range of kids shows,” he says. “The brand awareness of Netflix amongst kids is almost as high as the [major] channels’, but the content offering is still underpowered.”
Arguably, if the kids networks more fully embrace digital with speed, they could continue to dominate due to their audience focus
Henrietta Hurford-Jones, BBC Worldwide
On-demand is about more than just Netflix, though, with regional and genre specialists also in with a shout. “Regionally, we believe that Sky will do very well in Europe and Hulu in the US,” says 41 Entertainment’s Allen Bohbot. “Amazon has carved out its space and will own it, but it is more limited. Look for dedicated players like Toon Goggles to do well, but they face an uphill fight.”
Disney XD’s Marc Buhaj won’t put his money on any one platform as the one to win out. “There is no one single platform,” he says. “The platforms best positioned to continue to grow are those that are intuitive, simple and consumer-focused.”
Richard Goldsmith, executive VP, global distribution at The Jim Henson Company, agrees it will be a mixed ecology, with Netflix, Amazon and local players all having a role to play. “In the last year, Amazon and Netflix have shown that their original programming is not only working, but they have some of the most exciting original series that are being produced in the world,” he says. “I believe that they will continue to have success, as they have made a huge investment in kids content, much more than most other platforms.”
“I also believe platforms such as YouTube, as they increase their amount of original content, will also continue their very fast trajectory to being significant platforms worldwide.”
Henrietta Hurford-Jones (left) is director of CBeebies investment at BBC Worldwide Channels and says the existing nets, if they are smart, are best placed to leverage their brands and create leading digital platforms. “Arguably, if the kids networks more fully embrace digital with speed, they could continue to dominate due to their audience focus,” she says.