Pocket.watch may hold the key to the next great global kids franchise—and her name is Diana. The LA production company behind kidfluencer brand Ryan’s World is partnering with the six-year-old star of popular YouTube channel Kids Diana Show (53.2 million subscribers).
Under the new brand name Love, Diana–The Princess of Play, Pocket.watch hopes to expand the family-run IP into a girl-skewing empire, complete with an episodic series and consumer products line.
Since launching in 2015, the Ukranian-born YouTuber has grown her network to include 14 channels, which have generated more than 47 billion views and been translated into 10 languages. The original English-language channel features Diana and her family as they partake in fun activities including toy unboxings, vlogs and pretend play scenarios. Kids Diana Show first appeared on Pocket.watch’s radar late last year when the family sent the company an email, says SVP of talent and strategic partnerships Chase Landau.
“They knew we were the company that built the franchise around Ryan [Kaji],” says Landau. “They wanted to expand their brand into new original IP and products in a similar way, so we asked them to meet with us.”
Kids Diana Show already had some key ingredients for franchise growth, including a large existing fan base, a raft of content, and a young star with innate talent, says Pocket.watch CEO Chris Williams. “We were drawn to Diana’s talent, and our values aligned with the family’s in terms of the importance of pretend play for childhood development,” says Williams. “We decided to model the new brand around that theme.”
The franchise targets two- to seven-year-olds and will kick off with Love, Diana, a digital-first, mostly animated series premiering this fall on YouTube and Pocket.watch’s OTT network, which is distributed on platforms including Amazon Prime Video, The Roku Channel and Samsung TV Plus.
The series is currently in production as a 40 x six-minute adventure show, helmed by the studio’s CCO Albie Hecht. In each episode, the live-action Diana transforms into an animated girl known as the Princess of Play, whose mission is to protect her friends and family from a baddie named Boris.
Positive lessons about friendship, leadership, family, imagination and the power of play are featured throughout the series. Meanwhile, a product line will follow in time for the holiday season in the US, UK and Australia. Licensees already on board include Headstart (dolls), Just Play (role play), Jerry Leigh (dress up), Far Out Toys (collectibles) and HiJinx (plush).
The games division of Pocket.watch will also launch a mobile game later this year for iOS and Android devices. Williams says Pocket.watch is also exploring large-screen opportunities (TV, movies and specials) for Diana and kin, but won’t bring any concepts forward to existing partners until it has developed the right pitch for a premium show.
The strategy around Love, Diana mirrors Ryan Kaji’s transformation into a brand beyond YouTube, which included a CP rollout, tour and Nickelodeon TV series (Ryan’s Mystery Playdate).
“ViacomCBS is our company’s biggest investor, so Brian Robbins [ViacomCBS president of kids and family entertainment] is aware of our commitment to Love, Diana. But we won’t bring the project to anyone until it’s ready,” says Williams. As for the uncertainty of launching a new brand in the middle of a pandemic, Williams says the company is confident Diana and her family will do well, despite current world events. “The fact that we’ve been able to get so much interest from licensees, even in this environment, is a very good sign,” he says. “The surge in audience demand for kids content globally will also serve to create more momentum for the launch.”