Streaming video content has become a standard feature of kidcaster websites the world over, but UK-based virtual world BinWeevils is putting a new spin on online VOD. It’s so novel, in fact, that Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon UK have handed over a whack of content to the service, along with several indie distributors like Cake Entertainment.
The UK-based 3D online entertainment platform’s social VOD service, which launched last October, now allows its subscribers to choose from more than 200 hours of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network TV content on-demand while simultaneously communicating with other users through their avatars. In the true nature of on-demand, the site’s target of seven- to-12-year-olds can view content at their own pace within a cinema screening room but can also interact with and make comments to others who happen to be in the virtual theater .
‘We see this as a launch of a whole new category, a fusion of two very popular forms of kids entertainment, which is social gaming and VOD. We think in bringing them together they can each bolster one another,’ says BinWeevils non-executive director and investor Rod Henwood. (His experience is steeped in VOD, as he launched UK-based Channel 4′s 4OD service and led the now-defunct Project Kangaroo.)
In creating this virtual world/social gaming/VOD hybrid, Henwood and his team pulled together the concept out of what he deems are current voids within the social gaming worlds – lack of user engagement and visitor retention. At the time of the social VOD launch, individual BinWeevils users, which number roughly 580,000 a month, were spending 30 minutes on the site per visit. While roughly 80% of BinWeevils’ gaming content is offered for free, the new service has so far fulfilled the goals of lengthening visit times and converting more users into full-fledged subscribers.
‘We see this as a next step to ensuring we stay ahead in terms of immersiveness,’ says Henwood. Apart from the monthly subscription component, which is US$7.80, or US$4.65 with a 12-month commitment, Henwood cares most about the total number of minutes consumed on the site, which exceeds 60 million monthly.
It seems Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were also interested in the minutes kids spend on BinWeevils and, in an effort to capitalize on their engagement, are each providing hours of branded VOD content in exchange for a percentage of the subscription price as well as rewards on a platform-to-channel basis.
‘We have collaborated with BinWeevils in the past on marketing activity, but this ticks both boxes in that it offers premium content to those who may not already have multichannel offerings,’ says Joe Braman, commercial director at Cartoon Network’s parent company Turner Broadcasting.
Braman’s team provides BinWeevils with regularly refreshed Cartoon Network content from a range of shows including Ben 10, Chowder and The Secret Saturdays. BinWeevils also links to the channel’s website, which has its own offerings of games and programming information and averages one million unique users a month.
‘We are going to place our content where there’s an audience for it,’ says Braman. ‘BinWeevils is the first kid-specific VOD service [in the UK] and it makes absolute sense for us to be on this platform. ‘
While the audience is currently heavily UK-based, the website hosts users from 120 territories and is looking to expand in other countries, including the US, where it rolled out advertising initiatives last month. Naturally, the two broadcasters currently on-board are involved in these efforts and will help in the push for expansion into more English-speaking territories throughout the year.
And global distribution isn’t the only area earmarked for growth. BinWeevils is in the process of securing more broadcasting partnerships in order to bolster its VOD content offerings and is looking to acquire more third-party programming to join shows coming in from global distributors like Target Entertainment, DHX Media, Millimages and Cake.