As ViacomCBS consolidates its streaming businesses, Nickelodeon’s standalone edutainment SVOD Noggin is carving out a place for itself as a complementary experience that blends tech and content to give its youngest viewers a unique way to connect with popular brands.
Following the ViacomCBS merger in 2019, the conglom has been concentrating its streaming efforts around Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access), adding the Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. libraries to the platform, and shuttering smaller streamer MTV Hits.
With Paramount+ set to launch this year, other niche direct-to-consumer platforms—including Comedy Central Now and NickHits—may also be on the chopping block.
But Kristen Kane, EVP of Noggin, isn’t worried. She’s confident that the preschool SVOD’s future is secure because it offers a lot to families as a separate product, including interactive content and a kid-friendly, walled-garden experience, which could be lost if it was integrated into Paramount+. She says Noggin’s long-term goal is to be supportive of the broader SVOD, offering educational content that leverages Nickelodeon’s popular brands.
It won’t be an easy task. Not only is Noggin competing in the wider universe of edutainment streamers, it also straddles the SVOD and interactive service worlds, and must meet the needs of families for both an entertainment and learning platform. Balancing those two focuses can be a challenge, as reflected by Noggin’s growth, which has been slow compared to some other family-friendly SVODs. As of Q2 2019, the app (which launched in 2015) had reached 2.5 million subscribers globally. Within the larger kids streaming world, popular brands like SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer set it apart from competitors, like education-focused preschool SVOD Hopster (500,000 subscribers as of August 2020).
But within the ViacomCBS ecosystem, it hasn’t been able to reach the audience size of its sister services, like general entertainment AVOD Pluto TV (26.5 million subscribers as of last August). To help it compete, Noggin has a three- pronged strategy. It will focus on rapidly growing its slate of new shows, including Nickelodeon content and acquisitions; lean on Nick’s well-known characters with new videos that tackle trending topics like mindfulness; and partner with other organizations to draw in a larger co-viewing audience.
But it’s tech that differentiates Noggin from other streamers, and the long-term goal is to integrate more interactivity into the content to make it more engaging, Kane says. She has plans to build out even more ways for children to engage with the app (which already lets kids touch, speak and play along with videos), moving the interactivity beyond just mobile devices and onto every screen. Kane also sees potential in features like voice-enabled functionality, natural language processing and adaptive learning tech so the SVOD can enhance its educational value and better personalize its learning offerings for kids.
“We’ve seen substantial growth in our subscriber base, our engagement levels have doubled during the pandemic, and that has remained steady,” says Kane. “We plan to innovate by integrating our content and tech together to deepen kids’ relationships with these characters, and leverage that for their learning.”