Kids - Television looking to growth of new media

With the internet, mobiles and gaming all vying for the attention of the children's market, kids' television channels are having to evolve.

More kids than ever before have access to the internet, prompting dire predictions that children will be switching off their televisions in order to spend more time surfing MySpace and YouTube, or even watching TV via their mobile phones.

Even if there were no internet, there are almost 30 television stations running kids' programming, along with 200 regular magazine titles for kids aged between three and 12 years old. And then there are DVDs, gaming and mobile downloads, all fighting for a slice of kids' time and their parents' money.

So how are the famous media brands keeping up in a digital world? TURNER BROADCASTING

Kids' channels: Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Toonami, Cartoon Network Too

Audience ratings: 0.2% (for Cartoon Network. Source: Barb)

Media agency: MediaCom

Sky EPG listing: 601-603 and 622

Popular shows: Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, My Gym Partner is a Monkey (Cartoon Network); Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo, Dangermouse (Boomerang); Batman, Pokemon, Justice League (Toonami)

Core audience: pre-school to 12-year-olds and family entertainment

Turner, owner of the Cartoon Network and Toonami channels, is investing heavily in its new-media properties. Dee Forbes, senior vice-president and general manager of Turner Broadcasting System UK and Ireland, says: "Now is a time of much change within the children's media landscape, and we face similar challenges to all kids' TV broadcasters."

Turner's cartoonnetwork.co.uk website receives 30 million page impressions a month and now the network has launched a broadband service, supercartoonnetwork.co.uk. It has also moved into video-on-demand, with a relaunched service on HomeChoice and more VOD deals in the pipeline.

Turner is also starting to see strong advertiser support for its eTV and iTV games. It recently signed a deal with Lego to promote the Lego Batman range of toys. This included an ad that featured a free-to-play game, The Lego Batman Maze, which could be accessed via the red button.

Finally, it has invested in Cartoon Network Mobile TV, a 24-hour mobile TV channel available on Vodafone, Sky by Mobile, Orange, 3 and ROK TV. Turner is also going back to basics with its decision to set up a studio in London dedicated to creating content for Europe.

JETIX

Kids' channels: Fox Kids, Fox Kids+1, Jetix, Jetix+1

Audience ratings: 0.1% (Source: Barb)

Media agency: Carat

Sky EPG listing: 609 and 610

Popular shows: Power Rangers Mystic Force, Galactik Football, Shaman King

Core audience: four to 12-year-olds

Boel Ferguson, managing director of Jetix UK and Nordic, says that although kids' TV is still about the programming, and children still surf channels for the shows they want to watch rather than showing loyalty to a particular brand, cross-platform media is key.

Jetix is investing in new media by introducing a free-to-play games service that lets kids play games on a quarter-screen while viewing Jetix channels through Sky, using their remote control. It is also trialling promotions for programming on its website, jetix.co.uk, which has 500,000 unique users a month and receives 14 million page impressions.

But Ferguson argues that television is still the best way for brands to reach a broad audience. "Especially at this time of year [for Christmas advertisers], television is still the way to reach the biggest possible number of kids," says Ferguson.

"There is all this talk about digital platforms, but they're still not delivering a similar audience level, although this might change in the next 10 years."

ITV

Kids' channels: CITV

Audience ratings: 0.3% (Source: Barb)

Media agency: MindShare

Sky EPG listing: 624

Popular shows: My Parents are Aliens, Jungle Run

Core audience: four to 15-year-olds

ITV's dedicated children's channel CITV went live on Freeview in March this year and was available on Sky in May. As of October, it ranked as the top-performing ad-funded children's channel and the fourth best-performing dedicated children's channel for the third month running, within its broadcasting time of 6am to 6pm.

During its first six months on air, it averaged 19,000 viewers, adding up to a 3% share of children aged four to nine. CITV has shown 57 individual programmes that have achieved more than 100,000 viewers, including Jungle Run and My Parents are Aliens.

Jungle Run is its highest rating series ranked on share, with an average share of 4.7%, and the best individual performer with 11.1% and 165,000 viewers.

The New Worst Witch ranks first in volume, with an average of 65,000 children; Bratz is second with an average of 47,000 children per series since launch. Despite its success with audiences, Estelle Hughes, head of CITV, stepped down from the channel in August, amid speculation that ITV was looking to cut output for kids on ITV1.

The Disney Channel

Kids' channels: Disney Channel, Disney Channel+1, Playhouse Disney, Disney Cinemagic, Disney Cinemagic+1

Audience ratings: 0.6% (Source: Barb)

Media agency: Carat

Sky EPG listing: 611-614 and 625

Popular shows: Hannah Montana, That's So Raven, original movies such as High School Musical and Cheetah Girls (Disney Channel); Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Playhouse Disney); classic Disney films (Disney Cinemagic)

Core audience: from pre-school to teenage, plus family films

At the Disney Channel, which does not air advertising, there is a feeling that there are more demands on kids' time than there have ever been. Rob Gilby, managing director of Disney Channel, UK, Middle East and Emerging Markets, says: "As everyone knows, kids are getting harder to reach as their choice of media platforms multiplies and they become more demanding in their consumption.

"TV remains a top choice entertainment destination for kids. It is also one of the few media they still share with their parents - which means it is possible to target families."

Disney has had enormous success this year with its original programming, particularly High School Musical, which fully embraced the idea of cross-platform, incorporating elements including iTunes, a viral game, interactive six-sheet posters and mobile content. Meanwhile, Disney's moves into new media are set to continue.

"Giving kids the choice of when and what to watch is key, and we've recently signed subscriber video-on-demand and mobile content deals," says Gilby. "This is something you will see more of from the Disney Channel in the future."

NICKELODEON

Kids' channels: Nickelodeon, Nick Replay, Nicktoons, Nick Jr, Nick Jr 2

Audience ratings: 0.3% (Source: Barb)

Media agency: Zed Media, Meridian Outdoor, Media Junction

Sky EPG listing: 604-606, 618 and 623

Popular shows: Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Nickelodeon), Spongebob Squarepants (Nicktoons)

Core audience: four to 15-year-olds

Nickelodeon has embraced new media in a big way in 2006, unveiling a new broadband video player in October, which carries programming from its Nick Jr channel.

The player is hosted at the channel's nickjr.co.uk website, which has about 500,000 unique users a month and has seen growth of 70% in the past year. It kicked off the year with another broadband video service, TurboNick, which runs programming from Nickelodeon, and has already provided more than 1.4 million streamed videos.

David Lynn, managing director of Nickelodeon UK, says: "Kids now increasingly expect to access content through other media as well as seeing their favourite shows on our TV channels. New media is a key area of growth for us and our ambition is to be everywhere kids are and want to be entertained.

"We are already seeing success with web streaming via TurboNick and Nick Jr Video, our broadband VOD services that generate over 300,000 streams per month. Our websites attract 1.5 million unique users and we also have a presence on Nickelodeon Mobile and Interactive TV Paid Gaming on Sky Gamestar."

Nickelodeon also saw its family of channels expand to five, with the launch of Nick Jr 2 and its first Freeview distribution, with the Noggin block of programming on TMF.

CHART SHOW CHANNELS

Kids' channels: Pop and Tiny Pop

Audience ratings: 0.1% (for Pop. Source: Barb)

Media agency: Guerillascope

Sky EPG listing: 619 and 620

Popular shows: Sonic the Hedgehog, Inspector Gadget (Pop); Babar, Paddington Bear (Tiny Pop)

Core audience: four to nine-year-olds (Pop); three to seven-year-olds (Tiny Pop)

Keith MacMillan, chairman of Chart Show Channels, says he is still looking for proof that the internet is cutting the number of hours people spend watching TV. "We have six music channels and I have seen no discernible evidence of a drop in the amount of viewing time," he says.

Accordingly, MacMillan is waiting to see how he can monetise new-media properties before investing heavily in them to back kids' stations Pop and Tiny Pop. Ultimately, MacMillan believes they are "screen agnostics".

"We don't care what type of screen people use to watch us on - television, computer, mobile phone," he says. "We have plans to enable people to watch whatever, whenever and wherever they want - and we're obtaining the rights to be able to do that."

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