With children in the UK clocking more than 23 million hours of TV every day, and roughly 10% of British three- to four-year-olds using a tablet at home, it’s not surprising that television and digital media execs would start to think out of the box and about the screen. Among them are former Nickelodeon UK MD Howard Litton and Skype/LoveFilm advisor Peter Read, who are backing Hopster, a new kids on-demand TV channel embodied in a single app that delivers preschool shows and games to touchscreen devices.
The Netflix-like subscription-based service founded by former Viacom exec Nick Walters will launch in the UK App Store this November with episodes of licensed content and interactive learning games that are automatically customized based on the TV shows that kids are watching.
And so far, the ad-free channel will stream Babar, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, Little Bear, Max & Ruby and Maggie & The Ferocious Beast from Nelvana; SuperWhy, Madeline, Paddington Bear and Monster Math Squad from DHX Media; and 64 Zoo Lane, Pablo the Little Red Fox and Louie from Millimages. The non-exclusive licensing deals already inked are nearing 800 episodes, with more to be announced in the coming months.
“Everyone’s trying to figure out what the future of TV-watching for kids looks like. For us, it’s touchscreen devices,” says Walters, former GM of Nickelodeon Russia. “So, we’re bringing together premium TV content into a whole series of activities that are fun and help kids learn. It’s almost like two screens in one screen.” Walters says Hopster is on the lookout for age-appropriate material that’s “at the top end of the market.”
He also explains why the preschool market is best-suited for this kind of ad-free, app-based streaming model. “Preschool is really where you can take shows kids love and seamlessly build experiences that keep them engaged,” says Walters. “That fusing of entertainment and learning really resonates most with preschoolers. Clearly, we think there’s a big opportunity for a product like this or we wouldn’t be here.”
Hopster will launch across the UK exclusively on the iPad before expanding to more countries and touchscreen devices. From a distribution perspective, the company is focused primarily on building its content slate and partnerships before developing games in-house. The gaming element, Walters contends, will make for a seamless transition from viewing to playing, which isn’t readily available in an overcrowded digital media market.
“Parents are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices in the app world,” Walters says. “So a single app that’s trusted is a model that just makes sense.” In fact, that next-generation thinking is what inspired the company name, which is meant to be a playful take on Hipster subculture. The hope, of course, is that Hopster will channel that same sense of modern singularity as its namesake.