For years, creators and distributors of digital content for kids have been looking over their shoulders, worried that yet another major change in consumer technology will upend the marketplace before they can finish developing their offerings for the platforms du jour.
But David Kleeman, senior vice president of global trends at Dubit, a strategy and research consultancy and digital studio based in Leeds, England, says these companies can worry a little less about tech disruption — at least for the next few years.
“I think we’re in a fairly calm technology period,” Kleeman says. “Smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and no other device is likely to rise and permeate households in the same way anytime soon.”
While he acknowledges that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are looming on the horizon — AR, more so — he says companies should not feel pressure to develop content for kids for those platforms just yet. “Although, if you see something ideal for those platforms, explore it,” he adds.
So what should companies be focusing on most during this technological calm? Getting their creative on. “When you’re rushing to deliver content to fit an evolving platform, there’s no time for creativity,” Kleeman says. “Now companies have time not only to create great content, but also figure out how to better use the platforms that are already a part of kids’ lives.”
As they do this, Kleeman says they should focus on the following four dynamics that will impact the future of streaming media for kids:
1. Kids need better search tools
A recent survey for DHX Media by global market marketing research and consulting firm Ipsos found that 6 in 10 kids under 12 years of age in the United States, Great Britain and Canada spend 72 percent of their content-watching time each day viewing content from a streaming source.
But the question is, are they watching programming that they really want to watch? Kleeman says maybe not.
“There is so much content out there, kids actually have trouble finding what they want,” he explains. “Current content search mechanisms are generally not kid-friendly.”
Kleeman adds that companies should be experimenting with tools like voice recognition and artificial intelligence to improve the content search experience for kids, so they can quickly locate exactly what they want — and discover new content, too.
2. “Emotional scheduling” guides kids’ content choices
Like adults, today’s kids have jam-packed schedules. With limited time during the day to consume content, they need to be selective.
“Kids are very savvy about figuring out what content, device and platform will fill their needs at a particular moment,” Kleeman explains. “They engage in what we call ’emotional scheduling.’ They are choosing content based on how they feel at the time.”
Emotional scheduling is one reason why brands like Lego are a “first stop” for kids when they’re looking for content online. “These brands are seen as reliable,” says Kleeman. “Kids can also consume and use their content in different ways. Depending on how much time they have, they can dig deep or just skim the surface.”
3. Kids like consistency
Because kids are often pressed for time when consuming and exploring content, creators and distributors should consider releasing new offerings at specific times.
“YouTube, as an example, tells its content creators to do this,” says Kleeman. “Some of the biggest influencers on the platform will consistently put out new videos at a certain time of day. And kids like that. They know when to tune in to get new content from their favorites, instead of having to search for it.”
4. Subscription overload is imminent
This last dynamic involves parents, too — namely their wallets. With more and more streaming services becoming subscription-based, Kleeman predicts that “subscription fatigue” will soon affect many households. So, too, will sticker shock. Even though monthly subscriptions to services like Netflix are nominal compared to traditional cable subscriptions, they can quickly add up, he says.
According to Ipsos’ survey, more than half of kids under 12 are using subscription video on-demand services like Amazon Prime. Meanwhile, only 25 percent are consuming content from services like YouTube and free streaming sites.
However, Kleeman does not expect to see most parents in subscription-cutting mode letting go of the most expensive services, or even those that offer the least (or least compelling) content. “They’ll drop services that their kids don’t care about,” he says. “The ones that won’t make their kids scream if they disappear.”
And that, he says, is why makers of streaming media for kids need to take advantage of this calm period in technological change and develop content experiences that will help them make a deep, emotional connection with young audiences. Otherwise, they risk not only being able to attract young viewers, but also keep them.
While not having to worry so much about the next technological leap, content owners can employ a couple of techniques to improve the adoption of their content. This includes making assets more easily discoverable and being consistent with distribution timing, acting as a reliable source for kids to depend on.
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