Nursery rhymes sing with big numbers on YouTube, just ask HooplaKidz

This is no ordinary lullabye. The nursery rhyme business on YouTube is a hard-hitting one that's generating millions of dollars and views for content creators. Following its acquisition by MCN BroadbandTV, YoBoHo and its HooplaKidz channel are poised for major growth. CEO Hitendra Merchant lets iKids in on the plan.
August 27, 2015

Considering online video consumption of kids ages two to 11 grew by 87% in 2014, according to Nielsen, it’s no surprise that leading YouTube children’s networks are being scooped up by major MCNs that are looking to address the high demand for kid-friendly programming on the web.

One particular net, India-based kids content producer and publisher YoBoHo, caught the attention of Canadian YouTube MCN BroadbandTV (which is owned by European broadcaster RTL Group) this past April. By acquiring YoBoHo, BroadbandTV got its hands on the company’s one-stop preschool destination, HooplaKidz – a bona fide YouTube success story with more than one billion views per year and 1.5 million subscribers.

Launched in 2010, the channel’s lineup includes original children’s songs and stories starring HooplaKidz’ popular animated characters Annie, Ben and Mango, as well as classic nursery rhymes, original educational toons, and a raft of arts & crafts, science, and cooking how-to videos. HooplaKidz also offers access to partner channels such as Kids Camp, Nursery Rhyme Street, Toys are Fun and Teehee Town. And there’s a growing merch store that sells books, DVDs, keychains, digital songs and apps.

As part of YouTube’s third-largest MCN, and with its newly projected 50 billion yearly views, HooplaKidz now has the opportunity to reach an even larger international audience. Clearly, this is not your ordinary lullabye. The nursery rhyme business is a hard-hitting one that’s generating millions of dollars and views. YoBoHo’s founder and CEO Hitendra Merchant is quite successfully singing for his supper, and he tells iKids his plans for keeping the rhythm alive.


Why has HooplaKidz struck such a chord with kids and parents?
It really comes down to the quality of our original content. We have 35 channels of programming on YouTube, and we have some of the best online writers, producers and creators, globally, to ensure that our content is as entertaining and educational as possible. We’re also specialists in the vertical, making us experts at what we do.


With so much content being produced across YouTube, how do you stay relevant?
HooplaKidz currently sees more than 150 million monthly views across the network, and it is continuously growing. Our recent investment from BroadbandTV has allowed us to further focus in our content production capabilities, and take them even further forward. Hit shows such as The Adventures of Annie and Ben, Derrick and Debbie, and World of Elly are just a handful of shows that are growing immensely, and we have some major plans that we will unveil in the coming months.


Who is your largest competitor?
In the digital original content space, there are four key content categories that serve different purposes. These categories include product-promotional content like that of Mattel or LEGO, teaser content that serves to promote shows on other distribution outlets like that of DreamWorks, repurposed content from players like Disney or Sesame Street in many cases, and original content for digital. Key competitors in the original arena include Mother Goose Club  and Galinha Pintadinha, which are standalone channels. However, I think the massive breadth of content variety and quantity that Hooplakidz has puts us in a unique position as a force in digital-first content.


Tell us about some of your key partnerships.
We usually start with content producers that we believe show a lot of promise in the digital space, and those that are looking to grow their audiences via YouTube. These partners are often specialists in creating preschool content for other screens or formats, such as books and television, in addition to their efforts on the platform. We use our expertise and experience on YouTube to help them build a thriving audience and model in the ecosystem, strengthening their IP in the process as well. We have proven this model for partners such as RaggsTV and BabyFirstTV. We treat them as key partners to scale their IP on the platform, quickly growing their online video audience and reinforcing it as a strong component to their overall strategy.


What global regions are most popular for HooplaKidz?
Hooplakidz wants to reach a wider audience of kids and parents, and our primary language audiences are in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and Russian. But the English-speaking markets are incredibly important for HooplaKidz, underpinned by the success of our Spanish channels. We are seeing a great deal of emerging viewership and key trends, and we pay particular attention to them to ensure that we are providing the most relevant content to key markets. We’re constantly keeping an eye on the worldwide market, and continue to expand into key international markets leveraging BBTV’s global footprint and infrastructure. With BBTV’s significant presence in the Portuguese and Spanish markets, as well as the booming online video ecosystems in the LATAM region, these are key areas of focus for our efforts in the kids content arena. So far, Hooplakidz has worked hard to localize a good portion of its content to reach a bigger audience. Next steps are to go further into content produced specifically for target language markets as well.


What are some of the most popular shows and nursery rhymes on HooplaKidz?
We have worked hard to build strong IP at every stage. We are constantly looking to build on the model that has brought us success, from original animated shows, to family oriented how-tos, crafts and recipes, and the re-imagination of some of the world’s favorite nursery rhymes and songs. Some of our most popular shows and characters include The Adventures of Annie and Ben, Derrick and Debbie, Kids Camp, and our beloved characters under AllBabiesChannel. We’ve compiled a selection of our most popular content here in a HooplaKidz reel.


What about the parents, how are they staying engaged?
Ultimately, parents need reassurance that their kids are watching quality content that keeps them entertained and informed – all in a safe manner. It’s also important that the content constantly evolves and that it takes the viewer on a journey. We create content for the whole preschool to pre-teen age group. We’ve done that to allow children to develop and grow with the brand. We want children to love HooplaKidz as soon as they interact with our characters and imaginative worlds, and we want to make sure that they can continue to find value in them as they mature and grow.


What is your biggest challenge and opportunity?
There is huge growth in the online kids and family entertainment industry, coupled with a steady transition away from traditional formats. Reports show that 83% of generation Z visits YouTube monthly, which is the highest of any category. Where YouTube saw an overall increase in viewership of 50% on its platform, the Kids and Family vertical saw 200% growth. With 57% of kids reportedly preferring to watch on portable devices like smartphones and tablets as opposed to traditional television screens, our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity as we cater to these transitions in viewing habits for kids.


What does BroadbandTV’s acquisition of YoBoHo mean for the HooplaKidz brand and for YouTube creators as a whole?
The fit was right with BBTV – we were looking for a truly international business that could help us broaden our global footprint, scale our business, provide technology and tools while sharing the same vision. They’re one of the longest standing players and as such have a great understanding of the space – they’re pioneers in the online video industry. BBTV’s culture is also one that meshes wholeheartedly with our own. We share the drive to not only build a strong ecosystem in the space, but to bring value and spark positive change in a fast-paced and constantly evolving industry.


In catering to such discerning viewers, why do nursery rhymes have staying power?
Nursery rhymes are a valuable content category for the kids demographic, and it’s growing in popularity. They are truly a developmental staple for kids, and the trends are pointing towards higher quality production with relatable characters that children see in their other interactions with content online. With that in mind, it’s important that we continue to differentiate with high-quality content, and a strong brand that kids and parents can really relate and return to. Nursery rhyme content is a stepping stone for our channels and move towards engaging the audience with our IP on various digital screens.


What’s next for HooplaKidz?
BBTV has provided a multi-million dollar investment to us to further expand our library of originals, broaden our international footprint and further diversify revenue streams including merchandise, subscription models, licensing, apps and more. These are all part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen our overall ecosystem.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.



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