If the numerous children’s shows launching with digital-first strategies and onto streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are any indication, traditional kidnets have quickly learned how to face the music and adapt to a changing interactive landscape. And Viacom-owned Nickelodeon has done just that – quite literally – by looking to personalized digital media services like Pandora and popular on-demand TV services for inspiration for its latest and potentially ground-breaking venture, My Nickelodeon Junior.
The interactive TV channel, which will become available in the coming months to US Verizon FiOS customers, offers customization and streaming-like services, as well as access to hundreds of Nickelodeon series such as Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans. The channel is categorized into seven educational themes and allows parents to select a thematic focus of a desired show, episodes of which are then pulled a vast library on-hand.
Kids are also encouraged to interact with the channel’s interface, as they are prompted to rate each show after they’ve watched it and then future content playlists will be based on such preferences.
“It’s a great way for Verizon to be able to offer more interactivity to customers, and for us it’s a new way connect with parents and kids,” says Mark Jafar, VP of corporate communications at Viacom.
He adds that the channel is not meant to compete with on-demand services like Netflix (with which Nickelodeon enjoyed fruitful content relationship before scaling things back last April), but rather it is a way to offer more touch-points for parents in the realm of personalized TV and interactive features.
“A lot of on-demand partners are our partners, too, so we don’t view it as a competitor per se,” Jafar says. “From a business standpoint, it’s a way to monetize our library.”
Of course, it’s about exposure, too. After the on-demand channel model was test-driven in France in 2012 via CanalSat, where more than 600,000 Nickelodeon episodes were viewed per month, Viacom found that ratings on the Nick Jr. France linear channel saw a positive impact. So, for now, the threat of My Nickelodeon Junior cannibalizing the company’s traditional channel appears to be minor.
“Any new ways to engage consumers with content creates a stronger overall connection to the brand,” says Jafar. The goal is to replicate that level of success on US soil and in other countries down the road.
Future plans include expansion to other US pay-TV operators beyond Verizon, so long as they are able to support the tech infrastructure of My Nick Junior.
“This is a new programming model according to preferences, like you would find in Pandora. The focus of Nick Junior programming is educational and it’s easily divided along themes, and parents are always looking for more control, so it’s a perfect fit for that audience.”