TV Kids: 2016 Year in Review

Kristin Brzoznowski looks back on last year’s kids’ programming trends, including the launch of several new streaming services and apps dedicated to children’s content.

Children’s shifting media-consumption habits have been a hot topic in the kids’ programming business for a few years now, but 2016 solidified the fact that the changes the industry had been anticipating are well underway. A survey from DHX Media and Ipsos found that children are embracing mobile on-demand viewing in a big way and tablets are now their preferred screen for consuming content. A report from Ofcom revealed that online has overtaken television as the top media pastime for children in the U.K.—internet use is higher than ever, with U.K. kids aged 5 to 15 spending around 15 hours each week online (compared to 13 hours 36 minutes weekly with the TV set).

Responding to the trend, many linear broadcasters have been ramping up their digital offerings. Sky, for example, made the move into original children’s programming last year, and alongside this effort released a Sky Kids app for preschoolers up to 9-year-olds that is available at no extra cost. MTG also created its first original kids’ series, which it launched on its video streaming service Viaplay.

Several new streaming services and apps dedicated to children’s programming popped up throughout the year. Sweden’s Svensk Filmindustri, for one, released SF Kids Play, a new SVOD platform featuring a variety of classic and new children’s TV series and movies from around the world. Kidoodle.TV, a streaming entertainment service for children from A Parent Media Co., became available in 145 countries through Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Amazon Prime Video also announced that it is going global, and original kids’ shows have been a staple of its slate from early on. The service has been putting up more children’s programs for its pilot process, through which it is bringing to series a reimagining of Sid and Marty Krofft’s classic 1970s Saturday morning series Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Netflix, too, stocked up on kids’ originals last year, while Hulu opted to bolster its slate by signing a deal that sees full previous seasons of Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD series being made available on the streaming platform.

Digital extensions continued to flourish, as content creators embraced everything from games to apps to e-books in order to further immerse young ones in the worlds from their favorite shows. CAKE entered into a joint venture with digital content producer and distributor Diagonal View to produce and distribute children’s programming for the digital space. Mattel struck up a partnership with mobile technologies company StartApp to develop digital experiences for a number of Mattel’s iconic brands, including Barbie and Hot Wheels.

The toy giant also made headlines in 2016 with the launch of Mattel Creations, a new division encompassing theatrical, television and digital content. With the launch came a slate of series and specials based on well-known, classic properties. Hasbro continued to find success with programming inspired by its beloved toy brands, revealing the return of the hit animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. The toy and consumer-products manufacturer JAKKS Pacific has now established Studio JP, a division dedicated to creating and developing original, multiplatform computer-generated animated content.

While kids’ programs based on toys indeed continued to flourish, so did those inspired by the literary world. Kids’ CBC in Canada greenlit the new animated series Wandering Wenda, based on legendary author Margaret Atwood’s The Wide World of Wandering Wenda. 9 Story Media Group inked a deal with Little Critter, LLC to produce a new animated show based on Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter children’s book characters. Keep an eye out for more to spring up in 2017 as the trend has just started gaining momentum.

Other big news out of the kids’ content business in 2016 involved NBCU buying DreamWorks Animation (DWA), which rolled out its DreamWorks channel in several new markets and saw big gains with its YouTube channel DreamWorksTV. The iconic, long-running series Sesame Street officially debuted on its new home, HBO; it’s the first time in the show’s history that new episodes are not shown first on public television in the U.S.

What changes will come in the children’s programming business in 2017? Be sure to sign up for a free subscription to TV Kids Weekly here and check back to daily for the latest news as it breaks.