It’s an unavoidable truth that UK kids’ media habits are evolving – particularly among the older cohort – and the most recent internal review conducted by BBC Trust of children’s channels CBBC and CBeebies underscores the impact of these changes on the current TV landscape.
The report, which was announced back in March and follows the Trust’s inaugural review back in 2009, investigated how well the BBC’s children’s services are performing against their service licenses,
Overall, the BBC’s services for children on television and online are performing well – with CBeebies and CBBC remaining the most watched children’s channels in the UK for their respective target audiences. CBeebies had a weekly reach of 48% of its target audience, more than twice as high as its nearest competitor, Disney Junior. Meanwhile, CBBC currently reaches 36% of children aged six to 12, considerably higher than the Disney Channel (22%) and CITV (21%). For both BBC services, these figures do represent a decline in viewing compared with 2011-12 but this was a five-year high for both channels.
However, performance challenges that were highlighted back in 2009 still abound. For instance, BBC Children’s does not perform as strongly in homes where children have more choice over what they watch, as the majority of other children’s TV channels have been growing in popularity alongside CBeebies and CBBC. In satellite and cable homes, where most of the children’s channels are found, the performance of both BBC services is not as strong. CBeebies is still the most popular pre-school channel in these homes but our audience research indicates less audience loyalty for it than in free-to-air homes. And the scale of competition is heightened for CBBC, which has been overtaken by Disney as the most watched children’s channel in satellite and cable homes. CBBC also continues to struggle to inherit younger viewers moving on from CBeebies.
Key performance challenges for CBBC rest in an environment where older children’s consumption of media in particular is increasingly fragmented, and BBC Children’s is developing plans to improve its online and interactive output.
These strategies are a necessary reality based on new data showing how media technology has driven rapid change in audience behaviour and is increasingly re-shaping children’s and parents’ expectations of how they should be able to access content. In 2012, around one in seven children aged five to 15 used a tablet device such as an iPad at home, a threefold increase since 2011. Increasing numbers of children also have access to smartphones. In 2012, 28% of five-to 15-year-olds had such a phone compared to 20% in 2011, with ownership driven by older children.
Children are also increasingly choosing to watch shows at a time that suits them. For isntance, in the first four months of 2013 there was an average of 10.8 million requests for BBC Children’s on-demand content each week via BBC iPlayer, compared with a weekly average of 6.6 million requests in 2012.
Still, Ofcom’s research confirms the important role that television particularly plays in younger children’s lives. Television continues to be the media activity that the most children in all age groups say they do almost every day, and it is the medium that children aged five to seven and eight to 11 say they would miss the most.
The results were gathered through a cross-section of qualititave audience research, public consultations with more than 8,000 kids, performance analyses, interviews and audience council submissions.