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British broadcaster Sky has launched a new ad-free linear channel for kids, with a programming strategy that’s designed to inspire, energize and educate them as they move through their typical daily routines.
Aimed at the under-seven set, Sky Kids launched in February. It was a move that surprised many in the industry, but the broadcaster’s audience insight data indicated it would be welcome in the market, says Lucy Murphy, Sky’s director of kids content. “Research shows there’s a 50/50 split between on-demand services and linear TV when it comes to kids’ viewing habits.”
Linear TV is still engaging for kids because it exposes them to new shows and content genres; it’s simpler, so it doesn’t overwhelm kids with too many options; and families like linear’s carefully vetted viewing experience. “Parents want fun and educational content in a single format that keeps their kids from stumbling onto things they shouldn’t be watching,” Murphy notes.
The linear format also revives the art of strategic programming for different parts of the day. In the morning, the channel offers classic brand favorites such as Madagascar and LEGO, later folding in more active shows that introduce music, dance and gymnastics, arts & crafts content to keep kids busy after school, and bedtime programming to help them wind down in the evening.
Current series include Trolls: TrollsTopia, Where’s Wally, 123 Number Squad! and Clifford the Big Red Dog, as well as Sky originals MC Grammar: Wonder Raps, Pip and Posy, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates and Morph (pictured).
Going forward, Sky Kids plans to build a library of British content, both new and acquired. “This will complement some of Sky’s services that carry US shows from channel brands such as Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Cartoon Network,” says Murphy.
What is Sky Kids looking for?
On the new channel’s post-launch shopping list are animated and live-action shows (minimum 20 x seven minutes) for kids under age seven based on familiar IPs or featuring recognizable people/characters. Sky is also on the hunt for animated specials, series designed to inspire kids to be active without a sports hook—think dance and fitness content—and music-centric programming.
By 2024, Sky will also be in the market for animated comedies and educational content (both live-action and animated). The channel is not currently seeking any animated preschool shows with songs, or concepts in the superhero, anime or action-adventure genres.
Recent & future premieres
Original series that debuted on Sky Kids this year include Ama’s Story (four and up), about a Black girl’s search for a book that reflects her life experiences, and BooSnoo! (two and up), targeted at kids who have learning disabilities. On the future releases front are Ready, Eddie, Go! (three and up), centering around a character with autism, and My Friend Misty (five to seven), which aims to foster emotional resilience.
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2023 Kidscreen magazine.