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The kids are all right: How the Clangers are changing the future of children’s TV consumption

The kids are all right: How the Clangers are changing the future of children’s TV consumption

Since the very first episode of the Clangers in 1969, we have seen a rapid evolution in the way we consume TV. Starting with the introduction of digital in the 1990s before swiftly moving onto HD/UHD, and now the Internet is having a game-changing effect on the way we watch the box. In fact, even ‘the box’ has morphed into numerous shapes, sizes and smart devices.

It’s not surprising, then, that today’s kids are expecting the return of the Clangers to be readily accessible anywhere, on any device. Some say they take such access for granted – but can we blame them? Their expectations of technology and video are based on having always had this quality and variety of content available. Why should they expect anything less?

Such sentiments are something the industry heavyweights have rapidly clocked on to, with the BBC, Sky, Netflix and more finding themselves in a fierce battle to win over these mini-consumers.

So what has sparked the battle?

In regards to traditional viewing on TV sets, numbers are in decline, with audience levels among four- to 15-year-olds down 22% between the first half of 2010 and the first six months of last year. In comparison, numbers for the same audience accessing video on demand (VOD) have soared – take CBeebies as an example, which had 342m programme requests on the BBC’s iPlayer in 2014 alone.

VC… what?

In a recent video by new-media production duo Benny and Rafi Fine – creators of the ‘Kids React’ series – the pair put a clunky black box in front of a group of Gen Z participants and were met with a reaction of complete bewilderment. For us ‘oldies’ the clucky black box was instantly recognisable as a videocassette recorder (VCR). When the kids (eventually) get to grips with the player, complete with VHS tapes and an old TV, their views are candid.

One child sums up the group’s thoughts perfectly – “Why would you want this? You can just stay at home and go on on-demand.”

This experiment is a great illustration of the functionality, availability and accessibility that Gen Z has come to expect and, as such, demands. Responding to this, broadcasters need to be flexible – gone are the days when kids would wait till 4:30pm for their programmes to come on.

Even now, we’re seeing traditional broadcasters expand their on-demand libraries specifically for children. Take Sky, for example, who upped their on-demand library from 700 kids’ episodes to 4,000, making them the biggest children’s broadcaster in the UK.

As these mini-consumers continue to switch off the TVs in their rooms, in favour of smarter devices, broadcasters need to follow in Sky’s footsteps.

Today’s toddlers are tomorrow’s consumers

Our own research (conducted with 2,000 adults globally) echoes many of these trends.

We recently found that the majority (72%) of consumers admit a preference for VOD content instead of linear TV simply because it allows them to watch what they want, when they want. When it comes to what they are using, four in ten (40%) VOD viewers told us that they are most likely to watch Internet video on a smart device, including tablets, games consoles, smartphones and smart TVs (Brightcove global research, 2014). Half of all iPlayer users, for example, now access its content on a tablet or smartphone.

This research reflects perfectly the trend towards consumer engagement through online content only. In reviving the Clangers on-demand, CBeebies are able to match the expectations of our ‘mini-consumers’ by providing them with the content they want, on the platform they prefer, whenever they fancy tuning in.

Although the kids don’t pay the bill, they certainly control a big portion of the homepage on most on-demand services, with sections now completely dedicated to them.

This is a fast growing trend and something all major broadcasters need to recognise if they are to stay ahead of the competition. By this time next year, it would be no surprise to see all children’s TV programmes taking their place on-demand – whether via catch-up services or as an original VOD production. After all, the kids are all right…

Learn how Brightcove can help launch a VOD service