Forty-year-old Morph is staying true to its name. The stop-motion clay character from Aardman Animations represents a transformative time for European pay-TV giant Sky, which is reviving the property as a series of shorts for its all-new Sky Kids tablet app.
Marking Sky’s foray into original kids content, Morph will live on Sky Kids alongside a range of popular third-party shows─including Nick Jr.’s Paw Patrol, Boomerang’s Scooby Doo, CBeebies’ Octonauts and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time–as well as other original commissions aimed at an audience of tablet-toting three- to nine-year-olds.
Sky will premiere new episodes of Morph beginning in September, along with new Aardman short features that encourage kids to create their own characters and films at home. Discussions are also underway with other indie producers about future original projects, and given that roughly 25% of Sky households in the UK have kids, the broadcaster also has plans to produce child-friendly versions of some of its most popular shows for the app.
Sky Kids and its slate of upcoming original content are part of Sky’s nearly year-long effort to ramp up its children’s offerings.
The process moved into high gear in November 2015 with the hire of Lucy Murphy as the company’s first dedicated head of kids content. With the production and development vet─who most recently executive-produced the BBC show Bing and set up the editorial strategy for kids SVOD platform Azoomee─in the driver’s seat, Sky stayed true to its plans to grow its children’s on-demand library from 700 to 4,000 titles─marking a 600% increase in acquisitions.
That move represents Sky’s sizable push into kids programming, as on-demand giants like Netflix and Amazon continue to pick up speed in the kids VOD space. And the tablet world presents the next logical step.
“Kids want choice. They want their favorite shows, and they want them quickly. Parents want simplicity, and something to keep their kids engaged and safe,” says Murphy. “Eighty-percent of UK kids now have access to tablets at home, so it’s time we start making kids shows exclusive to our app and on-demand section.”
Launching tomorrow for Android and iOS tablets, Sky Kids, which was created by Sky’s in-house team together with London-based digital studio ustwo, allows multiple age-appropriate profiles to be created and personalized using avatars.
“A three-year-old girl is going to experience the app very differently than an eight-year-old boy. Personalization is a key part of the app,” says Murphy. Also of importance for Sky Kids are parental safety tools, live channel-viewing and offline-viewing features that are expected to be added in the coming months.
Sky’s linear kids offering is currently available in 12 million homes in the UK through channels like Cartoon Network, CBBC, Boomerang and Nickelodeon. Murphy says the new Sky Kids app opens the door for more customized television-viewing, and she says the move to commission exclusive series for the app represents an exciting time for the company.
“Some shows that don’t work well in the linear world perform well in on-demand. Short-form series are an example, so we are looking at other shows and formats that appeal to kids,” says Murphy, who will also be looking to make third-party acquisitions for the new Sky Kids app. “We want a real balance of shows that come from partner channels, acquisitions and original productions. We will absolutely still be acquiring content for it.”