With the public library in its corner, Kanopy Kids is ready to compete

Kanopy CEO Olivia Humphrey talks about taking her educational streaming service to the children's market, and how it plans to compete with SVODs like Netflix.
May 16, 2018

With Netflix and Amazon continuing to dominate the SVOD market with throngs of commissions and acquisitions, what, exactly, would it take for a smaller service to compete? US streaming platform Kanopy, with its recently launched Kanopy Kids service, believes it has a card up its sleeve—a library card, that is.

San Francisco-based Kanopy teams up with public libraries and universities to offer patrons free access to thousands of film and TV titles. Its all-new Kanopy Kids offering provides a catalog of child-friendly content with an emphasis on educational and inspirational material, which often can’t be found on other SVODs.

“We’re careful about how we curate our content collection to ensure it is providing entertainment that’s enriching,” says Kanopy CEO Olivia Humphrey. “Our advantage is that we’ve been streaming to educational faculties for years, providing curriculum-aligned content from kindergarten age onward, so migrating that content over to a dedicated kids platform has been a nice transition.”

Currently, 500 children’s titles are available on Kanopy Kids, with more than 100 set to be added each month. The service is divided into a number of categories, such as Literary Classics and Learning Languages, and it already features key titles like Arthur, BabarFranklin & Friends, Maya the Bee, Wild Kratts, Between the Lions, Little Pim and Bino & Fino. It also includes classic films from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, along with Oscar-nominated ones including A Cat in Paris and The Secret of Kells, and family-friendly documentaries like Girls Rock and The Endless Summer.

“Our literary classics are already being heavily viewed,” says Humphrey. “What’s also interesting is that we have a whole shelf on the homepage dedicated to health and nutrition, which I believe is very relevant to a lot of our young users.”

Founded in 2008, Kanopy has so far teamed up with municipal libraries collectively serving a population of more than 68 million, and further partnerships are being added in Canada, Australia and the US. With five million users signed up worldwide, extending Kanopy to the kids market was an obvious next step. Kanopy was able to stock its children’s section with existing partners’ catalogs through previous relationships with independent distributors and producers. The company also looks to film festivals to discover new offerings.

Of course, the market for young eyeballs is highly competitive in the streaming space. Netflix, which swept the Daytime Emmy nominations in kids and preschool categories, is experiencing massive success with its original series, with six new ones rolling out with DreamWorks this year alone (that deal was recently expanded to include several Universal properties). Amazon is holding its own in the space, and with Disney set to enter the marketplace, things are heating up. But even with the vast amount of choice available to young viewers, Humphrey says Kanopy tends to go after films and videos other companies overlook.

“I felt there was a gap in the market,” she says. “Kanopy Kids has an advantage because not only is it educational and entertaining, it’s also safe with our parental controls and embedded Common Sense Media ratings.”

To help choosy parents be aware of what their kids are watching, Kanopy partnered with Common Sense Media to integrate its age-based ratings directly into the platform. For each title that Common Sense Media reviews, information such as age category, specific content and overall developmental guidelines is provided. Humphrey says the information was added at the request of librarians across North America to make it easier for parents to pick out age-appropriate material.

Also setting Kanopy Kids apart, of course, is the fact that it’s free. Because libraries pay for the service through their operating budgets, there are no commercials or fees for its users, although most public libraries have a monthly limit on the number of plays per patron. Users can sign in to their account with their library card number and access videos from their computer, TV or mobile device, with apps available for Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, iOS and Android.

With the service launched, Humphrey says she plans to further expand Kanopy Kids’ offerings and add more categories, and she’s looking for the right content to help it grow. In particular, she would like to add more international titles. “We’re looking at the content gaps that libraries, schools and parents are mentioning,” she says. “We have a big focus on diversity, so that Kanopy Kids reflects the nature of our audience.”

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