Earlier this year VideoWeek reported how streaming services are yet to truly win over older audiences – or ‘silver streamers’.
At the other end of the age spectrum it’s a very different story. While streaming services might be somewhat ambivalent about drawing in older audiences, they’re keen to win over the very youngest viewers.
Investment in children’s content tends to be lower profile than spending on major new dramas or action series (with Netflix’s acquisition of Roald Dahl’s IP the major exception). And we’re not yet seeing the same sort of fight for exclusivity as we’ve seen with other content. Big names including Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Baby Shark Space Adventure are all available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
But there is plenty of investment happening.
“We’re experiencing an incredible time in terms of content development and production for streaming services,” said David Di Lorenzo, SVP of kids and family at Future Today, a company which owns a number of ad-supported video on-demand apps. “I think we’re really in a heyday, there’s so much demand for content. The bigger players are driving a lot of spend, and that’s opening up opportunities for smaller studios as well as large studios.”
Netflix in particular has invested in original children’s content, including animated feature The Mitchells vs. the Machines and two series based on popular franchise The Boss Baby.
And this investment appears to be driving tangible results. Digital-i, a media insights business, says its data suggests that kids viewing on Netflix has been a key driver of growth of the service’s usage in Europe over the past four years.
Kids profiles on Netflix watched 3.6 times more content on Netflix at the start of 2022 compared with 2018, outpacing the growth in adult viewing. And Netflix-subscribed households with kids now watch an average of 20 more minutes of content per day than households without kids.
Don’t upset the kids
The opportunity with kids is in some ways the same as the opportunity with adults. The pandemic, as well as the general shift towards connected-TV, has given streaming services a chance to take a bigger slice of children’s viewing.
But there’s also been a unique opportunity for streaming services to capitalise on YouTube’s child-safety woes. High profile stories about YouTube’s autoplay feature and recommendations leading children towards disturbing content have made parents more wary about leaving their children alone with YouTube.
“We create a family environment where everything is curated, all the content and all the ads are safe,” said Future Today’s Di Lorenzo. “And I think parents do gravitate towards that a bit more, because they know everything is going to be family friendly.”
It might seem counterintuitive trying to win with younger audiences – while they might contribute significantly to total viewing time, the kids aren’t the ones holding the debit cards.
But Di Lorenzo said that children can be very influential in which services their household subscribes to. “I think that the dynamic within families has changed, I think kids today are really keen to be a part of the decision making process,” said Di Lorenzo. “I think kids have a much larger voice than they’ve had maybe in the past, and families are a lot more collaborative in what they’re doing within the household – what they’re watching and what they’re buying.”
And children’s viewing habits mean that winning with young audiences can help a streaming service reduce churn.
To keep adults engaged, streaming services have to have a constant release cycle of new quality content, particularly now as rising living costs are leading consumers to scrutinise their spending. But children are much more likely to stick with the same few shows.
“Our research shows that long-running series like sitcoms, children’s series and anime are the cornerstones of subscriber retention,” said Ali Vahdati CEO and founder of Digital-i. “For kids content, the retention effect is amplified due to the standard behaviour of younger children to engage in repeat viewing and have higher franchise loyalty.”
So while their parents might want to hop around between different streaming services, kids are more likely to want to stick with whichever one has their favourite shows.
If a streaming service can win over the youngest viewers in a household, it may just earn itself an unmovable position in the household’s streaming stack. After all, how many parents want to tell their kids they can’t watch Boss Baby because they’ve finished Stranger Things and don’t need Netflix anymore.
“Companies like Netflix or Amazon have invested quite a bit of money into kids content, because they know that if they’ve got a child in a household that’s engaged in their platform, then the parents are going to be more likely to keep that service around,” said Future Today’s Di Lorenzo.