By: Maxine Fox
We are undeniably in a moment of rapid societal change—and kids and family viewing is no exception. Prior to COVID-19, we had been moving towards a digital future, with kids watching more and more content on digital rather than linear platforms. The pandemic accelerated this trend, and now we are at the tipping point. But what does this digitalization of viewing actually mean for how brands, broadcasters and content creators distribute content and market to kids?
Europe is on its own trajectory
Our recent “Critical Media Point” study showed that across nine European markets, 56% of kids say they watch content digitally on a regular basis, just 4% less than those who regularly watch content on linear TV. Even in more traditionally linear-dominated markets—such as Poland, Italy and Belgium—the gap between linear and digital viewing is narrowing. It looks like we are fast approaching an era of digital dominance across Europe.
Some European markets are already past the point of no return. The UK has seen SVOD viewing figures rapidly overtake linear, with more than two-thirds of UK children saying they regularly watch SVOD content, compared to fewer than 50% who engage with linear. The Netherlands and Germany are not far behind, with SVOD viewing there nearing 60%, and linear falling to 50%.
So what has tipped so many European markets over the edge? Lockdowns and restrictions have certainly had a significant impact. Across Europe, kids unable to follow their normal weekday routines are spending more time at home. Instead of engaging with scheduled linear TV, they are looking to SVOD and online content to immediately fulfil their needs, working around their new routines rather than against them.
But does increased viewing equal increased impact?
Although digital viewing reigns supreme in select markets, TV shows and advertising are still kids’ main source of purchase/gift inspiration, implying the medium still holds sway over their decision-making habits.
Across Europe, we found that half of kids get their inspiration for gifts from linear content, compared to more traditional sources such as shops (35%) and friends (29%). TV’s influence over gift/purchase inspiration is even more significant when compared with the influence of digital, with just 25% of kids getting inspiration from online searches and one-third from YouTube ads/videos.
Linear TV has the most significant influence in Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, despite some of these markets being well past the digital tipping point when it comes to viewing.
Understanding the balance between viewing and influence is important for companies looking to break through in specific markets. As the findings of the “Critical Media Point” study suggest, identifying the platform that has the most influence might be more fruitful for building IPs than picking the platform that has the most eyeballs.
Prioritizing quality viewing
But what makes linear TV more influential than digital? The answer is time.
On average, kids across all nine markets we surveyed are spending twice as much time watching linear TV each day than watching SVOD content or online videos. Although they are increasingly likely to watch content on SVOD or online—particularly in digital-first markets like the UK, Germany and the Netherlands—when they tune into TV, they sit with it for longer stretches.
Linear TV is a key portal where many kids still start their journeys with favorite shows, and funny cartoons seem particularly prone to linear discovery. According to Giraffe Insights’ “Kids and the Screen” study, hit brands such as The Simpsons, Tom & Jerry and Mr. Bean all tend to be discovered by kids on traditional TV first. Digital viewing seems to fulfill different content needs, with films that have family viewing potential doing well on SVOD platforms, and content targeted to kids’ interests being most successful online.
Looking ahead, it’s likely that the time kids spend watching content online and on SVODs will increase as we move closer and closer to a totally digital future. In the next couple of years, digital may become the primary source of quality viewing time. And with many SVOD platforms currently un-commercialized, this will have a big impact for brands, and could lead to continued AVOD market growth. But for now, it’s vital for content makers, broadcasters and marketers to understand how close many geographic markets are to reaching the digital tipping point, and also the impact of digital viewing on kids’ consumer behavior and decisions.
The “Critical Media Point” study surveyed kids and families across multiple European markets (the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland and Italy) in fall 2020 about their viewing and purchasing behaviors. Additional markets in North and South America will be added this year. To find out more, contact Giraffe Insights at firstname.lastname@example.org.