Five years ago, everyone predicted that OTT and podcasts would take over the entertainment industry and behold they did. Every major production house in the world now is either busy becoming a streamer themselves or auctioning their content to the best bidder. The chalice is full. However, there is a smaller goblet on the side that wasn’t quite the priority of the content world and that is where all the innovation and competition will flow for the next two years. A glimpse at four statistics before we jump to the why.
- More than 40% of total new internet users globally are children (2018).
- 66 Mn of Indian Internet users are children aged 5-11 (2019)
- 80% of U.S. parents say their child aged 5 to 11 uses or interacts with a tablet computer (2020)
- 90% of English children aged 5-15 watch video on-demand content (2021)
And now the four raison d’etre for it:
Almost all kids in school today are parented by millennials and some by GenZ. Having been spoilt for choice with niche offerings in extraordinary budgets, they won’t expect anything less while deciding on what to give their kids, who are as it is, the most tech-savvy generation yet. The biggest difference between a boomer and a millennial parent is while the former advocated controlled media at all cost, the latter sitting on Zoom calls for hours in the morning, listening to news podcasts in the evening and binging TV series at night, understands it’s a necessary evil. A lot of below 40 parents gleefully watch their Netflix kids’ profile to share some quality time with their pre-teens at home.
Of course, another imperative thing to consider here is how the pandemic hit the playground time of school kids and less green time inadvertently gave rise to more screen time. Even guardians who weren’t involved in children’s content started to actively look for them online to keep them engaged, giving a clear message to all streaming networks where they need to plan their next expansion. The little miss and misters deserve their own big-budget universes and with Netflix buying rights of all Roald Dahl classics and already getting people like Taika Waititi to direct Charlie and the Chocolate factory, you know the plan is on and running!
The children of this generation hear stories about mythical creatures and folktales from podcasts and audiobooks more than their grandparents and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Now parents can choose over thousands of audio helping their offspring to sleep and swim in mystical worlds with voices from all around the world. Especially loved by hands-on parents who want their children to engage with screen-free content.
Spotify Kids opened its doors last year. The Calm Kids lineup for 2022 is a testament to its success with audio narrations by Pink, Maya Rudolph to Diane Keaton and bedtime sleep stories with Peppa Pig, Kung Fu Panda, and Minions. Especially while traveling with smaller children, this can be a great experience for families to bond over. In the next two years, a lot of long-lost regional tales in vernacular will be revived through this new movement of preserving great children’s content for all our future generations. Thanks in advance for the same. And dear production houses, if you still aren’t sure about it, between us, almost all folk tales worth any salt have run out their copyright cycle, so you can save culture and money in the same stride.
Void In The Playground
Honestly, with Apple+ doing Macbeth with Denzel and MacDonald, Netflix doing Red Notice with the trio Dwayne, Ryan and Gal, Amazon busy with the adaptation of Lord of The Rings and Disney+ with their big bag of Marvel and Star Wars lineup, there is only so much you can do to up the ante for 16+ content. Kids however is a different subject altogether — the ball has just started to roll in big scale original content. While TV cartoon shows are still relevant with younger kids, appointment viewing will most definitely see a decline for middle schoolers and above. For a twenty minutes animated show, that’s a very small window to hold and once a child knows they can watch the same show at 4, 6 or 7, there is no going back. It is a pleasure experience, not a discipline class. From BBC, Discovery to Marvel everyone is creating state of the art exclusive content for their kids’ divisions. Netflix has even gone as far as starting a handsomely invested gaming division with Oculus and EA veteran Mike Verdu.
You would have seen a lot of OTT channels in the last two years working on the educational aspect of kid’s content – science, maths to quizzes but that’s the lowest hanging fruit and not even of the same tree. There is already a ferociously growing standalone kids education category in the digital market, teaching exclusively coding, mathematics to art. The expectations from the popular content industry, be it audio or visual, is creating engaging, breathtaking entertainment; the rest follows. Earlier especially with regional companies, big-budget animations were not preferred as the domestic finished product couldn’t meet the expectations set by the Disney’s of the world. Also original IPs bring profits in due time. But things have changed for good now, as this untapped market is where everyone is headed, including advertisers. The total digital ad spend on kids has grown from $600 Mn in 2016 to over $1,685 Mn in 2021.
The Family Subscription
In any major country today there are a dozen admirable players in the digital entertainment category, both local and international. But is it viable for the majority of parents to sign up for so many subscriptions? A big resounding no. Like any other field from e-commerce to cab aggregators, it will eventually come down to the survival of the fittest. At best the top 4, the rest will either be bought over or gradually phase out. Realistically speaking the prices right now are at their best, it is the financial burden internally absorbed to change habits but when addicted and prices are tweaked to profitable standards, it will be twice as difficult for families to afford even two monthly subscriptions. In a country like India the average family cable TV plan starts from INR 250 ($3.4), in contrast just the basic plan of Netflix starts at exactly twice the price at INR 499 ($6.7). Now add four international and four domestic OTTs to it, that’s the average monthly cost saved for that family’s electricity and phone bills. Do remember we haven’t even considered audiobooks and podcasts in this monthly budgeting yet. It cuts the other way too, most cable TV corporations are partnering with popular OTTs to give the best bundle deals for their own survival. In Italy, the Sky + Netflix package costs 19.90 euros per month instead of the regular 30 euros. Bottom line: sooner than later the subscription will now be accessed as the best one-stop family solution. Be ferociously ready for both their kids and their budget.
In 2022, if you are working in any category remotely associated with entertainment, start planning your engagement equations with the little ones. That’s where the big money is.