Are digital platforms driving the future of children’s content?
- A panel hosted by this year’s edition of Cartoon Digital explored the latest consumption trends
For obvious reasons, children don’t care about programme schedules or specific formats. Instead, we see them interacting more and more often with multiple screens, while their attention threshold is dropping dramatically. How are these emerging trends and the impact of new platforms affecting children’s content consumption? While the question itself may be too broad to answer in just 40 minutes, a presentation hosted by this year’s Cartoon Digital (26-28 May) gave Kids Industries creative director Raj Pathmanathan the opportunity to offer some interesting insights on the subject. The talk, entitled “Digital Platforms – Driving Content of the Future?”, was introduced by Kickback Media founder John Lomas-Bullivant.
First of all, Pathmanathan spoke about Kids Industries’ mission to “make family brands stronger” and its work with multiple brands and broadcasters (such as Marvel, Lego, Sony, Viacom, Disney, Universal, Cartoon Network and the BBC) as well as on many iconic animation characters. Kids Industries is a “full-service agency” finding global market-sized opportunities for its clients and implementing an “audience-centric design”. Interestingly, it doesn’t use ages to profile its young target audiences; instead, it focuses on “stages”, taking into account the fact that every child has different interests and develops a different type of personality.
Next, Pathmanathan tried to analyse how this young audience is transforming. Firstly, children’s lives are spent using multiple platforms and doing various activities, and their access to TV, tablets and phones has been growing consistently over the past three years, resulting in their expectation to find content “available everywhere”. SVoD is obviously on the rise, and in the UK, over 50% of households have access to at least one service (14 million homes), resulting in a decline in TV’s reach and influence. In particular, a piece of research from 2020 demonstrated that parents of almost all 5- to 15-year-olds said that their children watch any type of VoD content (96%), compared to 56% saying they watched live-broadcast TV. However, children will sit and watch for longer on a TV, more so than on a device, where they can easily tap on the next exciting thumbnail.
In terms of preferred devices, in 2020, 58% of children aged 5-15 watched TV programmes on a tablet, 50% on a mobile phone and over one-third on a laptop, desktop computer or gaming console. YouTube gained a dominant role owing to the large variety of easily accessible content (spanning cartoons, “how-to” guides, music videos, unboxing videos and so on), largely driven by pre-school consumers. Moreover, the formats that have proven to be effective for long-term viewership include playlists, livestreams and the autoplay function, especially among “parents who do not want kids jumping around and trust YouTube”.
In the last part of his presentation, Pathmanathan talked through several successful cases of cross-platform animation content – namely, those of Arpo – The Robot for All Kids (characterised by a high frequency of videos accompanied by a moderate but loyal viewership), Super Sema (pitched for children aged 4+, packing condensed narratives into five- or six-minute videos), Oddbods (each seven-minute episode of which is standalone, and on Amazon Prime, these are shown in a longer, 22-minute format, which is in fact a combination of three episodes), My Magic Pet Morphle (here, the 50-minute episodes are written and edited so that they can easily be deconstructed “into smaller chunks of narratives” to distribute across YouTube, Netflix and Prime Video), and the 10x24 series Gabby’s Dollhouse (providing content for both Netflix and its own Gabby & Friends channel, including 24/7 live streams and crafts videos).
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