What does the future hold for television? Will linear die and be replaced solely with SVODs? Could podcasting reign supreme as audiences moves further down the second-screen funnel? Will kids tune in to TikTok for their daily show fix? Is there a new, yet-unknown, player on the horizon?
Sarah Haasz and Keith Dawkins—ex-broadcast execs for Disney and Nickelodeon, respectively—don’t believe we’ll see an end to linear broadcast, but the kids space will undergo significant changes in audience targeting to best compete in an increasingly SVOD-driven landscape.
Although streamers, especially Netflix, continue to disrupt kids’ and parents’ conventional viewing behaviors with exclusive original content, niche programming and 24/7 access across multiple devices, linear broadcasters—including Disney, WarnerMedia-owned Cartoon Network and ViacomCBS’ kidsnet Nickelodeon (aka the big three)—still provide significant value.
To put it in perspective, in Netflix’s letter to its shareholders for Q3 2019, co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said the SVOD is less than 10% of TV screen time in the US (its most mature market), and much less in mobile screen time. He also stated that, “Many are focused on the streaming wars, but we’ve been competing with streamers (Amazon, YouTube, Hulu) as well as linear TV for over a decade. The upcoming arrival of services like Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock is increased competition, but we are all small compared to linear TV.”
The SVOD impact
“I don’t think 26 x half-hour series will be the norm in the future,” says Haasz. “Formats will continue to evolve and we’re already moving away from that with Netflix making six- and 10-episode series with varying lengths per episode.”
As a former broadcast exec who held positions at Canadian kidsnets including Family Channel, Corus’ YTV and Treehouse, CBC Kids, Disney XD and Disney Jr., Haasz also predicts changes in how broadcasters target audiences, in terms of demographic and type of content.
“For the terms we use to compartmentalize what people should be viewing, the line might be completely blurred in the future,” she says. “There is still going to be a lot more family programming, which is kind of the trend now, but it could evolve into something like families and adults because for a show like Netflix’s Stranger Things (pictured), you have seven-year-olds to 70-year-olds watching.”
In addition, Haasz forecasts more niche programming for broadcasters as a point of differentiation.
“It might be as niche as ‘I’m going to make a show about a candy cane that comes to life,’” she says. “There are going to be thousands and thousands of channels online, so how can you stand out in that crowd? You can either go broad or go niche.”
What about IP, brand loyalty?
Moving into the 2020s, big franchises like Nick’s SpongeBob and eOne’s Peppa Pig are heading into their 13th and 8th seasons, respectively, but can they maintain their standing for another decade? Dawkins, founder and CEO of Rock Hill Media Ventures and a former EVP at Nickelodeon believes there will still be a place for big brands.
“IP still reigns supreme,” Dawkins says. “What’s important is finding a variety of ways to connect to the audience and new ways to monetize.”
Haasz, though, predicts that brand loyalty may wane in the future due to how fast content is being created and consumed. “You might not see series going for multiple seasons,” she says. “People will move on to the next best thing. I hope shows like Peppa Pig and Adventure Time continue for another 10 years because they are great, with huge followings. But even with shows that I’ve worked on that had seven seasons, like The Next Step, the audience changes.”
Whether you are lucky enough to create the next Harry Potter or not, Dawkins says one of the most important things kidsnets and production companies need to act upon for sustainability is diversity and inclusion.
“Inside the big buildings where many of us have worked, we’ll talk about diversity and inclusion as a nice ‘to have,’ but in the US, of 50 million kids under the age of 11, half of them are of color and it’s the largest cohort of kids (roughly 15% of the population) we’ve ever had in our nation’s history,” he says. “If you aren’t addressing diversity I would argue that you are already on life support. If you aren’t contemplating that in terms of who you hire or how you are addressing the audience, you will not be around in 10 years.”
Check back the rest of the week to see what the future of tech, consumer products and movies will look like in the kids space. To keep up, check out the 2020s landing page where all of the stories will be all week.