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Children’s OTT: Standing Out in a Congested Market
OTT services targeting kids need to keep four things in mind: content, convenience, user experience, and safety.

In August 2017, Disney made a significant announcement that promises to change the future of children's entertainment. As of 2019, the media and entertainment conglomerate will not only have pulled its much-loved content from Netflix but it will have also entered the ring with its own SVOD platform in an attempt to steal a share of the "kidsvid" streaming market. 

Until a few years ago, streaming giants like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu were playing catch up when it came to children's content. Recently, however, we've seen the internet players bolster their kids offerings, investing billions of pounds into commissioning content and developing services aimed at children. Google-owned YouTube, in particular, has emerged as a key player in this space, creating a separate kids' offering. Even HBO began airing the kids' classic Sesame Streetat the end of last year. 

This comes as no surprise when you consider the opportunity children's content presents. Children make up a sizeable audience, and consequently can open up new revenue streams for SVOD players that have previously ignored this demographic. After all, if kids are the future, they are also the future viewers of TV. Whilst the TV set remains present in most homes, many children have been brought up on a diet of streaming services. According to Ofcom, youngsters now spend around 15 hours a week online watching content on demand, with even pre-schoolers watching online services for more than eight hours per week. Half of three- to four-year-olds and more than eight in ten five- to 15-year-olds now prefer YouTube over watching "on the box."

With this shift to digital viewing, we've seen a wave of specialist kids OTT companies launching with the hope of attracting younger audiences by offering unique content and innovative product features. As a result, competition for eyeballs amongst providers is fierce, and it's now more important than ever for rivals to push the limits of the traditional streaming service in order to stand out from the crowd.

Convenience and Content are King for Kids

Children, in particular, care about content and simplicity more than network and service names. Faced with multiple streaming options, they are less brand loyal and will naturally gravitate toward the service that has the most programming that suits their interests and is easiest to use. With this in mind, OTT providers need to ensure they are not only offering content that is exclusive and relevant but that it is presented in an intelligent way and is easy to navigate.

Today's kids are "content conscious." They are experts at finding content that is unique, original, and entertaining, and they will reject anything that isn't in line with what they want to watch. The key to standing out against competition and developing lasting relationships with viewers is to offer something that they can't find anywhere else. Disney is one company that understands this concept well, holding onto the rights of new content releases, and its divorce from Netflix only highlights this further. 

Variety is also important when it comes to attracting the attention of a younger crowd. The sheer amount of content available means kids today have far more diverse tastes. As a result, consumption habits are rapidly changing, and so too is the content. Moving beyond traditional programming to include short-form video, interactive educational content, games, and audiobooks is now fundamental to any stand-out platform. 

Unique UX

Whilst providing an extensive and regularly updated library of material is a major factor, OTT providers need to ensure that the user experience is at the forefront of their platform. Today's digitally literate children present service providers with a more discerning audience than ever, so a fully stocked archive of TV shows is no longer enough. The likes of Netflix have already established a benchmark for kids' TV, offering slick user experience (UX) and functionality, which is unsurprisingly drawing the attention of younger viewers. In order to compete, newer players must find new ways of mixing media—whether it's video, articles, music, or games—in a way that is personal and relevant.

Content needs to be linked logically—for example, presenting a child with a game closely aligned to a TV show they've just finished watching—to maintain longer and more relevant engagement, and to reduce churn. Different types of content should also be targeted to different devices. For example, games more exclusively suited to iOS can be pushed exclusively to those users, further improving the overall user experience. 

To support this, it's important to have a backend system that is flexible and which uses enhanced data management capabilities to give editorial teams the tools to manage how content is discovered and presented to the end user. Such systems need to allow for both automation and editorial input to offer tailored and appropriate recommendations. Broadcasters now have access to an unprecedented volume of data about viewers' habits. With this, there is more opportunity than ever to personalise content across channels to appeal to each viewer based on their individual preferences and create a single engagement hub that keeps kids coming back time and time again.

Streaming Safety 

While it's important to appeal to younger viewers on the one hand, it's as vital for a streaming service to cater to the needs of the parent on the other. YouTube recently learnt relying on algorithmic recommendations and filters to protect children doesn't always work. To address parents' concerns over inappropriate content and ads being shown to their children, OTT players must ensure they offer advanced parental controls, including restrictions on specific types of content and human-reviewed recommendations. Specialised children's OTT services like BAFTA-nominated NSPCC partner Azoomeeand Hopsteroffer a safe environment for children with built-in parental controls, and even a bedtime cutoff option for parents to limit screen time. 

Younger audiences' growing appetite for video content on demand is a huge opportunity for VOD service providers to build long-last relationships. This involves going beyond traditional streaming and offering a standout service. Children's OTT platforms, looking to gain and maintain greater market share, must find new ways of engaging younger viewers, putting the user experience at the forefront of the entertainment and going beyond video to offer new content types. 

[This is a vendor-submitted article from Ostmodern. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers. Image courtesy of Thijs Knapp.]

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