Never underestimate the power of choice, especially when it comes to kids. Tablet infiltration and a penchant for binge viewing are driving new viewing patterns among kids and teens. And a number of new subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services are set to give US market leader Netflix (and its Just for Kids brand) a run for its money.
According to The NPD Group, Netflix’s exclusive hold on the US streaming market dropped from 76% in 2012 to 67% in 2013. Meanwhile, in the UK, 10% of three- to four-year-olds are using a tablet while at home, which has content developers excited about the prospects of putting shows into the palms of the littlest of hands.
But there’s a lot kid-specific SVODs have to consider. New York-based No Crusts Interactive CEO Carla Fisher, who develops digital experiences for kids, outlines the vital code of conduct for the best children’s streaming services. It includes providing a walled garden of high-quality content for the child to roam freely, offering personalization, providing basic parental control tools, sporting a kid-friendly interface and carefully collecting user data to continually improve the product.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest—or perhaps the most interesting—players in today’s ever-proliferating kids SVOD market.
Amazon and its UK-based SVOD service LoveFilm—which is now set to be rebranded and combined with the Amazon Prime service—remains the largest competitor to Netflix with more than 41,000 movies and TV episodes in its library. Fueling the rivalry was Amazon’s major coup of scoring content from Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon last June, just a month after Netflix let its long-standing deal with Nick parent company Viacom expire.
Content includes: Amazon has differentiated itself with its popular pilot program approach that it uses to help determine original programming for kids. Last spring’s inaugural pilot season resulted in the production of three children’s series Annesdroids, Creative Galaxy and Tumble Leaf.
Demo: Kids of all ages
Launched by former Nickelodeon vets in November, the New York-based startup is a free online and mobile network that offers short-form content in a safe online environment. It is currently available for streaming across computers, tablets and smartphones. Kids also help determine what types of shows launch on the platform through a voting process.
Content includes: batteryPOP features original (Chew On That, What’s Poppin’), acquired (Totally Random, Cody the Dinosaur), and branded content including cartoons and live-action shows, exclusive celebrity interviews, multi-lingual programming, science and math series, videogame tutorials and music videos. MondoTV animated series ANTS, live-action series This is Daniel Cook and The Amazing Professor Ambrosius from Band Content Distribution will also be available soon.
Demo: 6 to 11
Founded by former Viacom exec Nick Walters and backed by ex-Nickelodeon UK MD Howard Litton and Skype/LoveFilm advisor Peter Read, Hopster launched in the UK late last year as an on-demand TV channel embodied in a single app that delivers preschool shows and accompanying learning games.
Content includes: Babar and the Adventures of Badou, 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 comprised roughly 800 episodes at Hopster’s launch.
The US-based streaming service reached US$1 billion in revenue in 2013, up from US$695 million the year before. The service has been busy building its Hulu Kids hub offering and original first-run TV programming strategy. Hulu’s library currently consists of 2,900 TV series and 68,000 hours of video.
Content includes: The Jim Henson Company recently gave ad-free Hulu Plus the rights to more Jim Henson Family titles than any other service in the US. Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop), Thomas & Friends (HIT Entertainment), and Zodiak Kids’ Horrid Henry and Waybuloo are also available on the service.
Demo: Kids of all ages
Launched back in 2011, the Canadian startup offers a streaming web platform and TV iPad app that aggregates personalized educational video content. Parents organize video playlists that are sorted by category and age group.
Content includes: Recent deals include an exclusive partnership with fellow Canuck Mark Animation for new short-form Mandarin-English preschool series Miaomiao. BRB Internacional entered into a content partnership with Kidobi to make more than 40 hours of its preschool programming available.
Demo: 2 to 6
Launched by Calgary, Canada-based Parent Media Co. last summer, Kidoodle is a kids SVOD service that features many child-safety features, including customizable kid profiles.
Content includes: The OTT platform’s catalogue currently holds more than 5,000 episodes of programming including My Little Pony, Inspector Gadget, Rastamouse and content from National Geographic.
Demo: 12 and under
The American-bred SVOD giant is currently accessible to subscribers in North and South America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe. As of September 2013, Netflix had a global streaming subscription base of roughly 44 million, more than 33 million of whom reside in the US.
Content includes: In December, Netflix launched its first original kids program offering with Turbo: FAST. Licensed newcomers include four original serialized Marvel live-action shows plus a mini-series event, 300 hours of original programming from DreamWorks Animation and a range of Scholastic Media television programs and movies. Netflix members in the UK and Ireland recently got some Cartoon Network and Cartoonito content, too.
Demo: Kids of all ages
From Latin America’s largest mobile content platform Movile comes the SVOD app for iOS and Android devices. The US$9.99 per month service is growing its presence in the Americas to more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. The PlayKids TV interface also features preschool-appropriate navigation instructions and games.
Content includes: DHX Media, PBS and The Jim Henson Company for series such as Animal Mechanicals, Caillou, Super Why!, Sid the Science Kid, Rob the Robot and Care Bears.
Available on web, OTT, mobile and tablet platforms including Samsung Smart TVs in Europe, Roku in the US, Canada, UK and Ireland, as well as the new Polaroid kids tablet, Toon Goggles is a freemium online kids TV channel that offers shows and games. Additionally, animators can publish content on the Toon Goggles site for free.
Content includes: Newcomers include Dukes of Broxstonia and Horace in Slow Motion from distributor The Australian Children’s Television Foundation, as well as Gormiti and Yoohoo & Friends.
Demo: 2 to 12
The video social network, which headed into beta in February, allows pre-YouTubers the ability to watch videos in a COPPA-compliant environment that also encourages them to upload and record their own videos and edit them in Viddiverse’s studio. The service has the most social networking elements than other streaming TV competitors.
Content includes: The New York-based company has so far licensed more than 100 hours of content from partners including Nelvana Enterprises, Shaftesbury, Smoke Bomb Entertainment, Distribution 360, GINX TV and Zodiak Kids.
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Kidscreen