UK- and LA-based pre-school entertainment company Moonbug Entertainment is to launch a dedicated channel on the MultiChoice’s DStv pay-TV platform in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Moonbug Kids channel will launch in October and will include content from across the Moonbug portfolio. The pre-school service will be available to all 21.7 million DStv subscribers across 45 African countries and will air in English, with content including CoComelon, Blippi, Gecko’s Garage, Morphle, Arpo and recent acquisitions such as Little Angel and Oddbods.
In an interview with TBI sister title DTVE, Moonbug EMEA and APAC managing director Nicolas Eglau said that the company sees a significant opportunity to launch premium advertising-free linear channels with pay-TV operators, particularly given that Hollywood studios such as Disney have shut down channels in the interests of focusing on their own streaming platforms.
“It has opened up the market because pay-TV operators are now hungry for unique content that we can provide,” he said, citing the example of Asia, where the rapid withdrawal of kids channels opened up an opportunity for Moonbug to launch its first two linear channels in the Phlippines and Malaysia.
Eglau believes that the European market will follow close behind APAC, creating space for new channel providers to fill demand from pay-TV providers.
He said that Moonbug is now planning to launch a channel in Turkey in partnership with a couple of operators later this year. The Turkish channel will, for the first time, be fully localised.
“We are very keen to do this. Turkey is a significant market with a very young demographic, and we can do this in other markets,” said Eglau.
He added that the company is open to further linear channel launches in EMEA, including in western European markets.
Moonbug earlier this year hired former Discovery exec – and former Digitürk chief content officer and CMO – Dilek Doyran as director, distribution and content partnerships, EMEA, to help take its business forward in the region.
Eglau said that Moonbug’s strategy of continuing to acquire more content that can be distributed in multiple ways also means it is now in sight of launching a second channel.
“We have so much content that I believe we would be able to launch a second channel in some markets,” he said, citing the model of Discovery in building a portfolio of brands.
The second channel would, he said, be targeted, like Moonbug Kids, at the pre-school audience but with a different mix of content and “a selection of brands that would follow a certain logic”.
No direct-to-consumer play
Candle Media-owned Moonbug is building a digital-first kids programming business by launching original productions alongside acquiring existing children’s content that it can then build into global franchises, distributed across multiple channels, including YouTube.
However, Eglau said that Moonbug is emphatically not focused on building its own direct-to-consumer app.
“We don’t want to create a direct-to-consumer proposition. We see ourselves as partners for platforms. We don’t want to compete with them and I think that makes us stand out in the perception of platforms,” he said.
“They believe that we are there for the long term. Part of the appeal of our channel is the operators are not worried about us changing our strategy and going to consumers.”
Eglau said that the company also sees challenges with the burgeoning FAST (Free Advertising Supported Streaming Television) market, particularly with regards to monetisation.
“I see a lot of companies including production companies are launching FAST channels at the moment but I’m curious about whether those FAST channels really deliver the financial benefits that those companies want,” he said.
“I like the traditional model, especially when you work with a partner such as MultiChoice, because they are very selective about the kind of channel that gets on the platform, so for us being on MultiChoice is almost like a quality stamp of approval,” he said.
In a press statement to accompany the launch, Georginah Machiridza, executive head content strategy and third party channels at MultiChoice Group, said that the pay-TV operator “constantly reviews its channel offering to ensure we continue to bring our customers the best quality local and international content, and we believe that Moonbug Kids is exactly what our customers have been asking for.”
In addition to launches of linear channels on pay TV, Moonbug also distributes content to SVOD players such as Netflix and public broadcaster’s digital platforms such as BBC iPlayer. Eglau says that YouTube will also remain central to the company’s distribution.
“We’ve really benefited from a shift in mindset,” said Eglau. “Five years ago it would probably be impossible to launch a linear channel with purely YouTube content, but there has definitely been a shift in perception of the quality of YouTube content.”