COBA claims EPG changes may derail kids content investment

UK multichannel broadcasters’ association COBA has issued a warning that changes to regulations governing the prominence of channels on electronic programme guides (EPGs) could threaten its members’ willingness to invest in kids programming.

Paw Patrol

COBA said that multichannel broadcasters invested an average of £15.6 million (US$22 million) per year over the last three years in new UK children’s programming, with spend rising from £7 million in 2015 to £23.7 million last year.

However, it said, regulator Ofcom’s proposals to change rules governing the prominence of channels on EPGs, giving greater prominence to BBC children’s channels and less prominence to commercial offerings, would reduce the audience for the commercial services and thus reduce the ability of broadcasters to secure a return on their investment.

COBA said that 74% of the money invested by its members in kids programming came from non-domestic channels related to UK-based broadcasters.

However, it said the investment also supported a range of UK-made programmes aired on pay TV, free-to-air services, on-demand and online.

COBA’s research was provided to support its response to Ofcom’s consultation on children’s content.

“As linear broadcasters, COBA members are already heavily-regulated and provide a safe, much-valued environment for children,” said Adam Minns, COBA’s executive director.

“The debate over the future prominence of public service broadcasters in the online world is an important one, and one where, as heavily-regulated linear channels oursleves, we share many concerns.

“However, that important debate should not be conflated with television broadcasting, and end up inadvertently damaging children’s TV. The real issue facing the BBC is not its place in the linear world, but its relevance in the online space, which is a challenge that all linear broadcasters share.”

The BBC has pledged an extra £34 million in kids TV investment – its largest “in a generation” – to stave off the threat of the unregulated on-demand and SVOD players in the UK market.

COBA represents the likes of Paw Patrol network Nickeldeon, Disney and Sky.

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