Following a challenge from UK media regulator Ofcom to improve their children’s output for TV and online amid growing competition from SVODs like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, public service broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are upping their investment in homegrown programs including live-action, news and factual series.
First up, Channel 5 is set to double the content spend for its preschool block Milkshake! and will raise its UK originated program to 50 hours, from 29, each year by 2021 to accommodate for more than 300 new episodes. ITV, meanwhile, will increase the budget of its British children’s channel CiTV by nearly 10% to support a higher number of original commissions for six-to 12-year-olds. It also plans to create an online news and current affairs hub for 12-to 15-year-olds. Finally, Channel 4 will commission original teen content for a new digital-first service and YouTube channel for 13-to 16-year-olds.
The changes come after Ofcom’s annual report on children’s media usage in the UK found that one-third of kids three to four (32%) and half of all youth five to 15 (49%) say they use OTT television services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV. Meanwhile, time spent watching television content on a TV set (whether broadcast or on demand) in a typical week has dropped by about one hour for three- to four-year-olds, eight- to 11-year-olds and 12-to 15-year-olds, despite TV sets being used by nearly all children.
To help PSBs compete in the shifting landscape, Ofcom has also implemented a new set of measures that include a recommendation to government that would ensure PSB content is “clearly visible on internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.”
Ofcom also introducing Small Screen: Big Debate, a nationwide forum that will bring together broadcasters, industry and viewers’ groups, parliament and regulators to review the future of PSB sustainability. Ofcom expects to publish its assessment of PSB performance between 2014 and 2018 by the end of the year.
Pictured: Milkshake!’s UK-produced series Floogals